After having worked with a young woman in therapy that had struggled with depression and suicidal intentions, I reflected over the course of our work and allowed my thoughts and emotions to be held within the container of paper and ink. It’s emotional work to accompany individuals within their darkness, as well as their journey toward the light of their life’s desires and hopes. Reflecting on my own grief process of saying goodbye has been a useful tool through the years, one in which my clients sometimes have also appreciated. The following writing is the reflection I wrote and shared with the client on her last day of therapy with me, a session in which we processed journeys, goodbyes, connections, and unknowns:

The warm blood in her heart, kept contained in her veins as to not draw the sharks that circle in the darkness, gives life to either, yet the duration differs. Floating alone at sea with the salt from her tears burning her eyes, she is weary and parched, numb to the jellyfish stings. The question replays in her mind with each passing wave, do I swim or do I drink?

A colorful deviation bobs nearby. She ponders. An illusion? Maybe. A dream? Doubtful. For it would mean that I am in a restful sleep. Do I bother to investigate? What the hell!

This useless, old plank, weathered and cracked seems to carelessly drift around her. What is the likelihood? She grabs in desperation and attempts to push herself up on it, but it fails to lift her burdens from the water. Instead, she feels sharpness in her hand and recoils in confusion as her timbered optimism resurfaces. She hoped for buoyancy and, instead, got a splinter. Another let down? Damned to disappointment?

In spite of the sting and anger she reaches again, refusing to let go. “I’m tired and …. damn that splinter!” She looks to her hand. “Maybe I can just inhale and let the waters take m…son of a bitch!” Nestled under the skin, she cannot seem to shake the pointed discomfort. “I actually thought this old board could save me?” The absurdity can no longer be ignored. How can this board float so at peace? Tossed by the waves it simply floats on. No fight. Her wry smile surfaces and shines brighter than the sun, and she begins to laugh.

Rolling to her back, she holds the plank close. Still aware of the water, she now feels the warmth of the sun on her face. Still wet, still alone, except for her wooden companion, yet something is different. She sees the clouds that will give her respite. She sees the gulls breaking free from gravity and finding nourishment from the depths that once consumed her. And, there is that damn splinter that will not go away.

A sea of water and nothing to drink. A painful splintering reminder that she is alive. What she wants could kill her, what causes discomfort interrupts the eddy in her mind. A current of determination creates peaceful freedom. “I don’t know where I am going, but I know the sun rises in the East. If I die it will not be because of my decision. It will be because it was inevitable.” And so, she swims.

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