Lessons in Loss
January 28, 2011
The pretty much new blog has been kind of quiet. That’s to be expected, considering I’m a grad student who has a penchant for biting off more than I can chew 😀
It’s also been a rough month for me, both personally and professionally. My placement has to be one of the most difficult internships imaginable (besides perhaps working in a hospice). I’m placed in a domestic violence shelter. It’s a short term, emergency shelter. Clients have about 135 days to stay there before they’re sent back to the homeless processing center in NYC to be placed in yet another shelter. My first batch of clients are beginning to terminate right now, and I’m feeling all kinds of conflicted about that.
There’s one client in particular that is difficult. She’s in her early-40s, with an adorable daughter. She’s relentlessly positive when most others would be breaking down, and she’s a devoted mother, always putting her precocious 3 year old above all else. She’s discharging today. And she’s not really sure where she’s going. She’s undocumented. That means she can’t get documented employment, and thus is not qualified for the only housing program worth pursing. She gets something like $18 in public assistance. She’s in the middle of a custody battle with a man who threw her down two flights of stairs, with a man who brought her here from her home country where she had a rewarding career, with a degree that is no good here, when she didn’t speak a word of English (oh, did I mention she’s amazingly intelligent? Taught herself English in only a few years, and she speaks beautifully).
To say there’s a lot of counter-transference going on in this case would be a gross understatement. During my time as her counselor, she has transformed into a mother figure. For someone like her, I think this was very beneficial because she is a nurturer and her self-esteem is rooted in feeling like she is a good nurturer. Her daughter also reminds me a lot of myself at that age. The dynamic of our relationship, however, brings up a lot of my issues with my mother. She reminds me of what could have been if x, y and z didn’t happen. It’s shown me that I haven’t grieved over the loss of my mother-daughter relationship. My mother isn’t dead, or anything. I don’t mean to give that impression. She’s just unable to provide guidance and comfort for me, because she can’t even provide it for herself. I haven’t come to terms with this, and I think this client made me feel comforted.