Daniel was a complete mess the day after his mother’s funeral. Jenny tried to help, but he just shut himself away in his home office and asked to be left alone. She knew everyone dealt differently with grief, so she let her husband have his time to grieve.
Two days later, Jenny could see no change in Daniel. He ate very little and tossed and turned all night. Each time she took him tea he seemed to be pouring over patient notes, but the blank look on his face convinced her that he was not really concentrating on the task. By the end of the week she was desperate she did what she thought she would never do, she called one of his colleagues and told him of Daniel’s condition.
“Harold, I know I shouldn’t be calling you about this, but I am so worried about Dan, I just don’t know what else to do. I think he needs professional help, but if I suggest it he’ll just say he’s fine and knows how to deal with it. But, clearly he’s not coping at all.”
“Jennifer, grief is difficult for many of us to deal with and time usually helps. Don’t forget he’s a trained professional and should be able to recognise his symptoms and know how to deal with it.”
“Harold, I don’t believe Daniel’s just dealing with grief, in fact I know he’s dealing with unresolved issues with his mother.”
“I know I shouldn’t ask, but what happened between them.”
“Remember Harold, I called you, which means I want help for Dan, so you can ask anything your think is necessary.”
“Thank you Jennifer.”
“Dan and his mother had a big falling out about a month before she became ill. I don’t want to go into the details of the disagreement, but suffice to say that it was serious between them. Given time I’m sure they would have worked through it or at least agreed to disagree. However, her sudden illness put her in hospital before Dan could speak to her and because of the highly contagious nature of this virus, he could not visit her in hospital. Then she died without him being able to make peace with her. I think that is playing on his mind more than normal grief.”
“Jennifer, I really can’t give you any advice as to what you should do other than support him, which I’ve no doubt you are doing, and give him some time.”
“Time’s not helping Harold, he needs help now, can’t you help in some way?”
Harold was quiet for a few moments then said “Would you like me to give him a call, just as a colleague offering condolences on his loss. I won’t say we have spoken and I’ll see if I can get some feeling about his condition and maybe he’ll agree come see me for a chat, not a consultation. Would you be happy with that approach Jennifer?”
“Oh Harold I knew you’d help. Thank you so much, that will be great and makes me feel a bit better already.”
“Also Jennifer, if you think you need some personal help, I can recommend a very good woman you can speak to. She is a past colleague, although we don’t see much of each other now. She is easy to speak to and very supportive.”
“Thanks Harold, but I’ll be Ok, once Dan gets some help.”
“As you wish Jennifer. I’ll call Daniel later today, when I finish my last consultation.”
Harold put down his phone and thought ‘Why do people always think someone else needs help and yet they don’t?’
That evening Daniel said to Jenny “I had a call from Harold today.”
“Is that your colleague from the health centre?”
“Yes, he heard about Mum’s passing and wanted to pass on his condolences.”
“That was thoughtful of him, he’s a nice man. Did you talk about anything else?”
“Not much but we are having lunch tomorrow. I’ll meet him at the centre first. I’ll go in a bit early so I can set a date to return to work. I can’t expect my colleagues to carry the load for me for too long.”
“That’s good Dan, I’m glad you feel like going back to work. You need to be busy. And it’s good you are going to have lunch with Harold; a good opportunity to talk to someone outside of the family. You need that sometimes.”
“Maybe...” Daniel said in a questioning manner.
Daniel’s lunch with Harold went well in many ways. The two colleagues had a good time catching up outside of work. Daniel did admit to Harold that he was not coping well, although he said he would feel better once back at work. Their lunch went on well into the afternoon. Harold cancelled his afternoon appointments so he could spend as much time as possible with Daniel. Whether it was Harold’s management or the amount of wine consumed, Harold was not certain, but he did get Daniel to agree to seek help from a friend of his in practice on the other side of town. Daniel had not met Walter Savage, but knew him by reputation and trusted Harold’s recommendation.
During the consultation Daniel spoke of his mother. “She was a determined woman, had her own views, made sure everyone knew of her views and could not be persuaded to change them. We fell out just before her death and she could not see my side of the argument at all. I feel guilty that I did not make up with her and now don’t have the chance to do so. That is going to be with me for the rest of my life. I have to deal with that Walter, but it’s not easy.”
He spoke of his children “They are all doing well in their employment or study. I am very proud of them all. They each have partners now, even the youngest, Kevin. You know, he came out not long before my mother’s death. It just occurred to me that he didn’t get around to telling her. I wonder how that would have gone. He really is a good kid, knows what he wants and his long term school friends is now his boyfriend. I’m happy for him. My oldest Jason, just proposed to his partner Colleen, she’s a nurse, and a damn good one as far as I’m concerned. They haven’t set a date yet, but it will happen. He’s working as a bar manager and studying hospitality part-time. I know he will do well.”
Daniel paused and Walter let him have some time to reflect. Normally Walter would take the lead and encourage his clients to speak about their problems, by asking questions that would have them interrogate themselves and open up to him, thereby dealing with their issues. But Daniel was a professional too and knew all the tricks of counselling.
Finally Walter asked “Is there anyone else in your life that you want to speak about?”
Again, a long silence, then. “Daniel, you haven’t spoken about your wife.”
“Oh, didn’t I? Well there’s no problem there.”
This sent a strong signal to Walter. “Maybe, but you don’t seem to have any problems with your children yet you spoke about them at length. What is your wife’s name?”
“Jenny, but why are you so interested in her?”
“Are you not proud of Jenny’s achievements, do you see her as a good wife, good mother.”
“Then tell me about her.”
“There’s not much to tell really, she’s what you said and a good chef at an Italian restaurant.”
After the consultation Walter wrote in his notes -
Struggling to get Daniel to open up about wife.
May be the key to getting to the root of Daniel’s problem.
More than just his unresolved disagreement with his mother.
May be nothing to do with his mother at all. Cover story?????
He hasn’t elaborated on the reason for the disagreement.
Next session - what is it about his wife that he’s not dealing with.