I witnessed something pretty uncomfortable, yet profound this week in a grief counseling workshop.
Allow me to set the scene:
One of the therapists in the room presented a current case study, one that he was clearly very passionate about. He seemed to be puzzled and overwhelmed with the enormity of his client’s grief. I would imagine, he felt that he had exhausted all avenues of treatment.
In retrospect, I believe he was sharing this case in hopes that we would recognize the predicament he was in, and not to have us collaborate on a new course of action.
Well, the problem is, when you present a hopeless situation to a group of mental health professionals, (psychologists, therapists, social workers, and nurses), you are going to receive feedback, we are annoying in that way.
As he listened to our suggestions, his growing frustration was palatable. Seriously, I was sitting behind him and I could have sliced his fuming anger with a knife.
All of the suggestions were well thought out and useful, such as:
“Has she been put into contact with a job fair for ex-convicts?”
“How are her remaining familial relationships? Is she supported?”
“Has she applied for disability?”
“Is she on antidepressants?”
Needless to say, this was not the reaction he had hoped for. He let us know that he was very unhappy with our need to “fix” her situation, in ways that he had already tried, and tried again. The temperature in the room seemed to be rising very quickly. Thankfully, our instructor is an amazing therapist, who knows the value of “working in the moment” and examining our own countertransference (how we are affected by our clients). All was not lost, it became a great learning experience.
However, what I am struck by this morning, while reading Matthew 14:14-21, is the parallel between Jesus’ instructions to the disciples, and our reaction to this woman’s desperate situation.
14 When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick. 15 Now when it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” 16 But Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” 17 They said to him, “We have only five loaves here and two fish.” 18 And he said, “Bring them here to me.” 19 Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 20 And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over. 21 And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children
“This is a desolate place.”