My Therapist Passed Away and I’m Stunned and I’m Processing it by Writing This
Yesterday, I found out my therapist passed away, unexpectedly. Today was going to be our next appointment. I last saw her on December 29.
I’m not even sure how to process it. I’m stumped. I’m stunned. I’m gutted.
Who helps you process the sudden death of the person who helps you process life?
I went to therapy yesterday and my therapist GOT ME TOGETHER. She said something to me that clarified my whole life and patterns I've been seeing. My therapist is a Black woman who is so chill and then she DROPS THESE GEMS on me and my mind be blown. God bless good therapists.
— Luvvie is the #ProfessionalTroublemaker (@Luvvie) April 12, 2019
One of the first things I thought was “Shit. She didn’t get to see that she’s in my book.”
Why was that my first thought? Because she’s quoted throughout my new book, which is what it is, with all the insight it has, because of the work her and I have done. Over the last four years, she has helped me grow into the woman I am. She’s even in my acknowledgments because she has gifted me with countless moments of clarity that have shifted my perspective. I thank her loudly and publicly, often, even though she was not really on social media. I was proud to tell people I had a therapist who was helping me work through all my shit bit by bit.
I was so excited to tell her in a few weeks, and give her a copy, with the parts of it where I quote her highlighted.
She’s the reason I speak so openly about the value of therapy. For the last 4 years, Dr. P has been there for moments of crisis, and helped me see my way out the fog. She’s given me more A-HA moments than I can count. She’s led me to answers I didn’t even ask questions to.
She was so kind, even if she was dragging me for filth. That laugh of hers was so easy and disarming. She made big problems feel small, not because she didn’t take them seriously, but because she would always calmly say “we’ll work on that” or “let’s unpack that.” She was so reassuring and affirming.
She wasn’t on social media. She didn’t have nobody’s IG presence, and she was so removed from the world of digital, which I loved. One day I went in her office, on edge, and she offered this up:
I walked into my therapist's office on Tuesday stressed TF out because of the world at large. Y'all know what she told me? "I want you to be on the internet less."
LMAOOOOOO. Duly noted.
— Luvvie is the #ProfessionalTroublemaker (@Luvvie) June 28, 2018
She wasn’t a therapist with a brand and I wasn’t sitting in her office as someone with a platform. I don’t know if she ever read anything I wrote and I think I preferred that because I’d go in there talking about how many people said what about me and she’d tilt her head in a way that told me “ok so?” It always calmed me down because in her office and in her sessions, the world got quiet. No one could reach me.
In one session, I was deeply stressed and she could tell I wasn’t focused at all on our work. Without judgment, she told me we’ll try again next time.
In our last session, she saw my book advance copy over my shoulder and said “OH I SEE THE COMPLETED BOOK!” And I said YES! Because in March 2020, as my deadline was looming, she’d check in on my progress during our sessions. When I’d tell her I hadn’t done much writing, she’d push me to figure out what was standing in my way. We talked about how my procrastination was a form of self sabotage. What did I not believe about myself that caused me to delay this thing? What was I AFRAID of about my possibilities that made me afraid to complete this manual on fear?
Dr. P got me together countless times! She was my life accountability partner. So when she saw the finished book, her excitement was real. And we talked about if I felt prepared for it. I didn’t tell her that she’s mentioned a few times through it and that I thank her at the end of it. I was going to surprise her with a final copy in the beginning of February and tell her “Look! You’re all up through it.”
That session was two weeks ago.
She helped me make some sense of my habits and patterns, and helped me name my traumas. When the world shut down because of COVID and I found myself pouring all my anxieties into my work, she checked me in the best way, and I shared that insight.
She wasn’t family. She wasn’t my friend. She wasn’t my colleague. But she was absolutely someone whose loss has shaken me. I didn’t know HER but she knew me better than anyone else because there is an intimacy you forge with the person whose purpose it is to see under what is surface. It’s a different type of loss, because she served as a true safe space. Our relationship was one-sided. I went in, told her my problems, and she’d guide me to realizations. I paid her for her time. Yet and still, the person she was, the training she had, the kindness of her smile and her voice. She was whole. She was here. Now she isn’t here. And I feel that loss.
This is different. I’m still stunned.
My love to her friends and family. I hope they know that she was a life changer.
I wonder what she would say right now to me. What question would she ask? She knew how to ask me questions that didn’t allow me to give bullshit answers. This is what I imagine:
Dr. P: So how are you feeling today?
Me: I guess I’m okay
Her: *silence as she looks at me intently*
Me: I’m not okay. Your death has thrown me for a major loop. I don’t know how to handle it so I’m just working and writing through it.
Her: What are you avoiding by working through it?
Me: The realization that I’m feeling a loss that feels really big, really personal, and I’m feeling selfish about it because I don’t know if I’m mourning you or mourning what you not being here means for me.
Her: Is there a difference?
Me: I don’t know.
Then this is the point where she’d ask me a question that would have me going “WOWWW!!!”
How are you supposed to feel if your therapist passes away, and it’s unexpected? She’d probably tell me “there is no one way you’re SUPPOSED to feel. Tell me how do you actually feel?”
Two sessions ago, I had finally opened up to her about something that was on my mind for the past year, that I hadn’t brought up in our sessions. I realized I was still keeping secrets from HER. I am truly a work in progress.
At our last session, I told her that in 2021, I was going to start bringing a notebook to our sessions so I won’t miss any of the goodness she drops on me. She smiled and told me that would be really good. I ordered that notebook the next week and it is on my desk, waiting for our session today.
Dr. P’s gone. This is so weird and wild.
I thank her for helping me grow up. I have more of that to do and the legacy work she leaves behind will live loudly in me as I show up as the most vulnerable and true version of me.
While I’m here, lemme say thank you to therapists. You might not ever hear how much you change the lives of your clients. But please know, you are doing world shifting work as you do your job.
Dr. P has changed my life and I won’t ever forget her. Sending so much love and light to her family and friends. I hope she rests with all the peace in the world.
So. I had my therapy session today. Turns out my therapist is also a big #GameofThrones fan. And she said SHE might need therapy on Monday. 😭😂
All she offered me in terms of coping was "give yourself time to grieve."
At least we're in this together. https://t.co/5thBgSiKCr
— Luvvie is the #ProfessionalTroublemaker (@Luvvie) April 25, 2019