“If there ever comes a day when we can’t be together, keep me in your heart, I’ll stay there forever.” – Winnie the Pooh
When COVID-19 struck, I could barely wrap my brain around what was happening in the world before nearly everyone was self-quarantining in their homes with no ending in sight.
Some of the clients I work with chose to wait a few weeks before transitioning to telehealth in the hopes that the pandemic would blow over within a week or two. Other clients refused to do telehealth sessions altogether, either because they are teenagers who do not have privacy in their own homes, or because they do not have the technology at home to support telehealth. Either way, I never really got to have a proper “goodbye/see you soon” with them or a chance to process all the changes that would be happening.
It has been months since I have seen some of my clients who chose not to do virtual counseling at all. I remember the last time I sat with some of these people, I was shivering beneath a blanket in my office chair because it was early March and it was rainy and cold. Since then, winter has turned to spring, and now spring is preparing to turn to summer, and I still have not seen some of my clients.
Last night, I was feeling heartbroken over everything going on in the world. I miss my clients, even the ones I still see virtually because sometimes online therapy just doesn’t cut it. I miss being able to leave the house without wearing a mask. I miss not having to live in fear of a deadly virus. In the middle of ruminating, my phone buzzed. I looked down to see a text from one of my adolescent clients whom I have not seen since early March.
It was a photo of a puppy he had just rescued. Of all the people I’m sure he sent pictures to, this teenager wanted to send a picture to me, his therapist, who he had not seen in months.
It’s not just the photo itself that helped me shift out of my grief and sadness, although, don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing I enjoy more than puppies! It was the realization that, just because you do not see somebody for a while, does not mean the connection disappears.
Personally, I have a hard time with this concept. I think most of us with histories of abuse and/or abandonment have a difficult time realizing this. We tend to feel lonely when physically alone. We forget that connections survive even without being in regular contact.
This client and I shared a few exchanges back and forth about the puppy, and I was so happy for him. My mood shifted instantly. I remembered the connection that I have with this person and how much I care for him and how happy I am that he is moving forward with his life. He has come so far thanks to all of the hard work he has done with me in therapy.
In the midst of a quarantine, it is easy for us to feel disconnected from the world. This is why is it so important to tell ourselves time and time again that just because we cannot physically see someone, whether it be a friend, a client, or a family member, does not mean that the relationship does not exist. These people carry us with them as they go about their days, and it is important that we do the same.
I am combatting the feelings of isolation and loneliness by holding onto moments like the one with my client, knowing that my clients bring me with them throughout their lives, and I bring them with me as well. I work hard every day to remind myself of my connections with the people I have helped, the people who have helped me, the family and friends that I cannot see right now, and my own therapist. Being physically isolated does not mean our supports have vanished, and I am grateful for a simple puppy photo to spark this realization in me.
What moments or memories will help you to hold on to your connections right now?