Ending Painful Chapters


Ending painful chapters of one’s life.

People often refer to personal experiences or stories, both as happy or painful “chapters” of one’s life. It helps to think about the past when friends, school associates, work life, or romantic partners were different. It is also helps to mine these memories for both happy and painful times, and to see what made this difference. Who or what helped you feel well or unwell for example.

The view that a chapter of one’s life may come to an end is very helpful to people undergoing significant changes in their own lives. An end to a marriage, longstanding romantic relationship, a professional career, or voluntary or community position are all very stressful each in their own way. People often seek the support of a clinical social worker, psychotherapist, or counsellor to help mitigate normative emotional disturbances caused when one chapter of life comes to an end. What or who played a disruptive or agitating role in your life? Are you able to identify a repetitive pattern or trend?

To me these transitional times between chapters where one chapter is closing and another begins is a nanometric space of personal change. Tasks of identity are dynamic and constantly growing over time from childhood to senior living. The idea that people grow and change over a lifetime is widely accepted, and perhaps even expected more now than ever. It used to be common to remain in the same profession, marriage, house, parish, community or country for years and years.

Using this literary metaphor in clinical counselling sessions creates a conceptual framework in which to contain, and process otherwise overwhelming, and at times, debilitating emotions. This is especially true when events occur beyond one’s control or in unexpected ways. Most people experience symptoms of depression and/or anxiety when marriages end due to infidelity or sudden death.

Knowing that everyone shares similar vulnerabilities is in and of itself healing. Knowing that there is a temporality or timeline for emotional disruptions caused by life is also healing. Believing that people are able to move on, grow from, and flourish after devastating events or unexpected change is a fundamental underpinning to all approaches of clinical social work and psychotherapy.

Processes of healing are not possible without the view that painful chapters come to end. Processes of healing begin when the human heart opens up to the unfolding of life in a new chapter. This new chapter of life usually involves some of the people, roles, places and interests from the past, and sometimes not. You will know who or what you wish to remain in your life by the way you feel, and only you know that. Be confident in your personal feelings and embrace what your own heart and intuition reveals to you.

What are some of the ways you help your clients identify health and wellbeing following devastating news or events? How do you confidently and deliberately support your clients to recognize their own growth and support them in cultivating and growing health in new and exciting ways? How do you validate insights into harmful people or messages from the past? What approaches do you use to empower clients to move through and beyond this pain? Do you fundamentally believe that your therapeutic interventions work? If not, what are you doing to improve your own conceptual and practical knowledge base and skills to ensure therapy people deserve?

#healing #wellness #growth #change #personal

Published by Lisa Romano-Dwyer PhD, RSW

I am a registered social worker in the province of Ontario. I am currently creating professional resources for clinical practitioners.

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