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The Move |by Linda Sherby, Ph.D, ABPP

06/28/2018 9:00 PM | Anonymous

This blog, The Move, focuses on how a patient's prospective move re-stimulates old issues which result in her returning to therapy to continue the process of mourning and working through.

“Thank you for seeing me again on such short notice,” Joslyn begins hurriedly. Then she pauses and looks at me. “It’s good to see you again after so long. You haven’t changed at all. It must be 10 years.”

“It’s good to see you too, Joselyn. I’m pleased to be able to catch up on your life.”

"Yeah, well lots has happened since I've seen you - I have two sons, I'm a pretty successful elder care attorney - but the funny thing is I'm kind of coming back for the same reason I did before, except in reverse." Then I was miserable about having to leave Wisconsin to move to Boca Raton and now I’m miserable about having to leave Boca to move to Boston. Both times for my husband’s jobs! But I understand. I do. Then he was lucky to get a job teaching history at Florida Atlantic University, but he’s been languishing here and Harvard has offered him a tenure track position. It’s a great opportunity for him.” Pause. “But then there’s me. What about my practice? I’m doing so well here. And somehow I think there’s more of a demand for elder law here than there will be in Boston. And the cold! Brrr. I left the cold when I left Madison. I don’t want to go back to it!”

“So you’re feeling …?”

“Angry. And scared.” Pause. “And sad too. I have a life here. My kids have a life here. There’s a lot to lose.”

“You’re angry at…?”

“My husband. I don’t know why we always have to do what he wants to do. I mean, I shouldn’t say it that way. It’s not like we didn’t talk about it. As I said, I do understand. It’s such a great opportunity for him.”

Listening to Joslyn brings me back to the time I moved from Ann Arbor to Boca Raton 25 years ago, to all the pains of leaving – my friends, my practice and the house I so cherished. I try to shake my feelings and return to Joslyn who continues.

“I try to remind myself that the move to Boca turned out well. So why can’t I assume the same will be true of moving to Boston?”

“Are your parents still alive Joselyn?”

She sighs. “My father died three years ago. He had pancreatic cancer.”

“I’m sorry. And he was the good parent.”

“Yeah. My mother and I have continued to struggle. She needs me more now, so she’s been a little warmer. We were even talking about her moving down here. Obviously that isn’t going to happen.”

“And you feel how about that not happening?”

“Good question.” Pause. “Part of me is relieved, but part is … I don’t know. I guess I’m sad about it.”

“And what exactly are you sad about?”

“I don’t know. I guess it’s like maybe the move would give us another chance. Like maybe it could be different this time. Maybe since she needs me more she’ll be warmer.”

“I notice, Joslyn, that you’re talking a lot about warm and cold. Wisconsin and Boston are cold. Florida is warm. Maybe your mother will be warmer when she’s in Florida. If I remember correctly a lot of your conflict about leaving Wisconsin was leaving your parents, your father because of his ‘warmth’ and your mother because you were afraid if you moved away you’d never, ever get the chance to somehow fix her and finally get the mother you wanted.”

“That’s right! Hmm. So you’re saying maybe that’s still true, maybe I don’t want to give up what will be my last chance to get the mother I want.”

“Yes. It’s like moving from the ‘warmth’ will mean you’ll have to give up forever the hope of getting the mother you never had. It’s again having to give up hope.”

Joslyn eyes fill with tears. “I thought I had already done that.”

“You certainly moved away from that hope when we worked together, but when confronted with lots of new losses, those feelings can resurface. And I’m not saying that all the feelings you’re having are about your mother. Obviously you’re facing real, present day losses – your practice, your friends, lots of things. But I suspect that the relationship with your mother is heightening all these other feelings.”

“I think I’d like to come back and see you for a while. Is that all right?”

“Of course. I imagine you want to say good-bye to me as well.”

“Oh!” Joslyn exclaims. “I hadn’t thought of that. You were my good mother. And yes, I’ll have to say good-bye to you too. That makes me very sad.”


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