In the classic and wonderful book I never promised you a rose garden the young girl about to be released from the mental hospital is telling her beloved therapist (in real life the eminent psychoanalyst Frieda Fromm Reichman): “the worse thing about getting better is having to say goodbye”
As therapists we have to say good bye to so many people we came to know deeply and love and care for sincerely. As spiritual guides we watch people freeing themselves from the shackles of misguided notions and atavistic beliefs to find their own path and discover their own unique talents. And when their wings are wide and strong and beautiful we have to let them fly away with a mix of wonder and pride and nostalgia.
How do you do it? my patient asks me with tears welling up in her eyes. I imagine you at the end of your long day going to a mystical cave and seating around a healing fire with other healers and a golden dust rains down on you all and you get renewed and ready to come back and do it all over again the next day. She is right of course, but this magical cave is no other than the sacred space created between patient and her therapist. My own mentor said that “if you allow them, your patients will heal you”. I tell my patient that in the journey that we took together we both learned from each other. Both our consciousness were raised a few feet higher.
When I am settled in my new place, she tells me, I will continue to rescue and shelter stray and abandoned animals. Every time I write a check to take care of another cat I will do it in your name. Yes, she has learned to love herself and follow her passions and out of this new place she extended a loving hand to touch my own most sacred core in a most tender way. She just sprinkled a good amount of the magical, healing dust on me.
You saved my life, she continues with the tears streaming down her face now, and I will probably never see you in my life again. Oh, but she is not right there. You see she may not have realized it yet, but I have taken permanent residence in her prefrontal cortex, somewhere above her left eye. From there I will be able to remind her (whenever I have to) not to be so harsh on herself. I have set a camping site deep in her brain, somewhere between the hippocampus and the Amygdala. From there I will remind her not to be afraid of her feelings and when she feels alone or disconnected I will remind her that somewhere a few thousand miles away there is someone who knows her deeply and cares for her sincerely.
So, no goodbyes are necessary, I’ll be seeing you around…