Why I’m not in therapy

By on Apr 11, 2018 in Autumn, Blog Posts, Cancer | 12 comments

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Over the years I’ve recommended therapy to any number of clients. But that I face days when getting out of bed can feel like an achievement, I’ve decided against it.

I could tell you that my resistance is philosophical. Surely feeling devastated after the death of a child is normal? In which case why use a remedial intervention, like therapy, for something that is healthy? We do, undoubtedly, live in a world where “happy” has become the new success and where negative emotions are deemed a pathology. But I don’t buy into sadness as an illness.

Philosophy isn’t the real reason though. I’ve submitted, to pharmaceutical help to make things easier.

My problem is, that after practising as an executive coach for a decade, I know just enough about the therapy models and thinking commonly used in grief counselling to know that I don’t want it. I can hear the collective voices of my therapist colleagues remind me that I’m not a trained therapist so I don’t know enough to make this call.

But I know me and I know that I don’t really want to sit opposite a dispassionate professional and be “diagnosed” using their process. No model can begin to describe the scope and intensity of my emotions or how quickly I cycle between them. A model doesn’t account for the unfairness of people sharing how they dreamt of Josh when I ache to be able to recall his face.

Even if there were a model that could explain me, what good would it do? We could talk and talk. A therapist could offer me insights and new ways to think about things but what would have changed?

Josh will still be dead.

I would still have moments when I’m fine. I’d still be a pretty good actress and be able to interact (to some extent) without embarrassing people with my tears.

But Josh will still be dead.

At night when the lights go out and everyone is sleeping I will still feel my soul crack open. I will still lie in bed begging for one more second with my son. I will still wake up, heart pounding, in the small hours – desperate for some way of knowing that he wasn’t scared in those final moments.

And Josh will still be dead.

So what good could talking do? To save me from sadness? From panic? From despair?

So what?

Josh will still be dead. Therapy can’t change it.


  1. Nancy Ur

    12th April 2018

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    There are few people who can totally understand your thoughts. I do. I get you. I wish I didn’t.

  2. Cheryl Hammill

    12th April 2018

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    Penny I absolutely know first hand exactly how you are feeling. I so wish I didn’t. These are exactly my feelings

  3. Linda

    12th April 2018

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    Therapy helped me acknowledge feelings I was trying to bury. Might be useful if at some later stage you sense behemoths lurking beneath the waves. It totally doesn’t change what is real, but helped me in my relationship with that reality (well, on a good day).

  4. Deanna Soldner

    12th April 2018

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    Wow Penny, I completely understand & agree! My daughter has been gone 7 months now & most people think I’m.doing well. They don’t know about the many nights I cry myself to sleep thinking of her or the Times I cry in the shower missing her! My oldest daughter thinks I should be in therapy but what for? How could it help me to sit & talk to someone about my child because that’s what I’d want to do. Not talk about me or my feelings but her & hoe much I miss her! I can get thru the days so for the time being I’ll keep doing my thing & no therapy. I can still see her face & hear her voice, right now that’s all the therapy I need.

    • Penny Castle

      12th April 2018

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      Oh Deanna, how I wish I had a wand that could magic all this pain away.

  5. Lisa

    12th April 2018

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    Penny, I can’t say I know how you feel because I don’t, but the ache I get in my gut and my heart at just even the thought of losing my child is enough that I cry for your pain. Nothing I can say or anyone else can say will help that pain….. Hugs.

  6. Anne

    17th April 2018

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    Wow Penny when the pain of loosing someone special is so big it becomes tangible. You have an amazing ability to put into words exactly how you are feeling that even the reader feels it to some extent. Perhaps that in itself is therapy enough for you? And if not, you go on to inspire people who are working through similar experiences and have found strength in someone who knows and feels their pain. I admire your strength, your courage and the very fact that you had an amazing son who was snatched away from you too young. It must be awful to find yourself sucked so deep into the abyss of raw grief that there is no where for you to hide from it. I pray that as each day passes, so too does a little of the agony. I further admire that even where you are now, you still manage to convert the pain into something so positive where you reach out to help others. God bless!

  7. Dan Edgar

    17th April 2018

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    Well, I hate to be disagreeable Penny, but it seems to me that you really are in therapy, and you have company. I am in Nova Scotia, Canada, some distance from you, and even from here, I sense your connection with your experience. Josh was clearly an exceptional young man, as is Chris. If you have made me laugh and cry, I can only imagine the richness of life in your home. Thank you for your writing and sharing. Your loss is tragic and almost unbearable. This is your journey and no one can tell you how to navigate your way to your healing.

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