Bereavement therapy. I am a counsellor providing specialist treatment for children and young people, adults, couples and families who experience painful losses. I help people recover from childhood trauma and I strengthen families and couples who are interested in finding another way of being with each other. I help people understand the true meaning behind their behaviour thereby replacing unhelpful judgements and speculation that may have existed in the past with authentic knowledge that brings compassionate understanding and harmony to all lives.
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I was recently asked my opinion about a particular young person’s anger, “How much is justified and how much is put on?” my colleague asked me. To put this question into context, the young person in question’s father is dying of cancer. To say this young person is heart broken is an understatement. To make matters worse, if that is possible, his father has a difficult relationship with this young person and his sibling.
Ever since he received the news of his father’s cancer, this young person has been fearful, confused and anxious and this has presented itself in his behaviour at school that has seen him impulsively call out in class, misbehave in the school corridors and generally get under the feet of the senior leadership team. This behaviour has been met with sanctions at school and these sanctions have been met with concern, anxiety and anger by his parents, “how could you be so selfish, can’t you see what is happening to your family, how can you allow this to be your last memories of your father with him being cross with you?”
My view is that if he could change he would but now there is a perfect storm of disapproval around him and on top of this, his father is dying. The last few weeks his father of his father’s life will be spent by his father trying to coerce good behaviour from this him using punishment and threats. I believe I understand his father’s position. He knows he will not be present for much longer in his son’s life and this worry is making him insistent, anxious and angry, angry that his son could be so selfish, in his eyes.
Let us return to my colleague’s question regarding this young person’s anger, “how much is justified and how much is put on?” An extraordinary question, I must admit, particularly as I am aware that this member of staff knows exactly what is happening for this young person. I replied that in this case, it is not for me to judge or decide what is real and what is not. I work with what this boy shows me without criticism, I know he is suffering with a pain that it would be preposterous to suppose he could switch off and on and I know he feels, lonely, sad and angry.
Anyway, the criteria I use to make the kind of judgement that my colleague is asking me to make is based on my life experience, not this young person’s. My judgements would not be useful here because I have not walked in his shoes, nor seen and felt his life through his eyes and his heart.
As his counsellor, I am hear to hold him though this time in his life, which includes hearing him, understanding what’s causing his pain, helping him stay in education and, on the days when he is not coping in the classroom and corridors, finding a place for him to find some safety and peace. He is already loosing the relationship he had with his father. He has already started to grieve. He has already had a taste of what is to come. He needs compassionate consistency with fair boundaries and rules that respect his suffering and respect the fact that he has to face a world that cuts you no slack once his father has died.