Living with no regrets – saying the important thingsJanet Miller MA LPCC
Saying I love you.
We all have wonderful stories in our lives. The problem is we seem to forget them fairly easily!
Recently someone asked me about bereavement / grief work that I do and suddenly I remembered this story. It doesn’t matter if you have experienced a person loss recently or not, it is a great reminder to all of us.
I worked for a large hospice for 11 years. It was a wonderful experience. Just like in athletic training – when the pressure is on, I find the work more passionate. (Some of you also work like this.). Anyway… I was working with a young man who was about 14. We will call him John, just to make the story easier. John’s life was really tough in the time that I saw him. His parents were not married and he lived with just his mom. She must have been a wonderful mom, based on his stories. The problem was, mom was dying. When I met him, Mom had just gone on hospice and John was forced to move and live with his dad and step mom. (Nice people, but not “home”.) As a result of this move, John also had to switch schools. My heart went out to this young man.
Somewhat surprising to me was that John was willing to talk about his situation with this counselor. I was so honored to listen to important things about John’s life and his mom.
One particular day I had the team report that John’s mom was not doing well and probably wouldn’t live much longer. Well John’s appointment was that day. As usual he came in with much to say, including the honest emotion of anger. From previous meetings I was aware that John’s family (like many others) didn’t say “I love you.” Nor did they say other important heartfelt things.
At some point in John’s session I asked him, “So what is the important stuff?”
“What are you talking about?” John asked.
I replied, “The important stuff. – The things that if you don’t tell mom before she passes, that you will regret when you are 40 and when you are sixty years old. You know, the things you will wish you had said.”
“What?” He replied. “She knows that I love her.”
“I am sure she does. But will it matter later that you told her or didn’t tell her?” I asked.
John wasn’t too happy with me.
I explained to John that a counselor’s job is not to always say nice, pretty, and easy things. A counselor’s job is to invite people to consider more than what they see at the moment. And by seeing that, they can then make better decisions for themselves.
We talked a long time about this. It is always scary to think about saying things to people that are from our hearts if we normally don’t talk about them.
Soon John’s time was up and he was on his way. He never did agree that talking to mom might be a good idea. In fact, he was pretty sure he wasn’t going to do it.
A week or two later, I learned that John’s mom had died. I found out the funeral schedule and went to the funeral. When I arrived, one of John’s Aunts went and found him. John gave me a big hug (a surprise) and introduced me to much of the football team, aka new friends. Then he said quietly, “Janet, I need to talk to you.” He led me to the back funeral room that was a little more quiet.
John couldn’t contain himself and before we stopped walking to our destination he started to say, “I told her! I told her!” There was great joy in his voice. John went on to explain that the last time he had visited his mom, it was a visit like normal. And then, he just left. He went out and jumped in Dad’s car and they started to drive away. Suddenly John yelled “Stop!” To his dad. He told his dad he had to go back.
Dad took him back to mom’s house and John ran in.
At this point, John looked at me with tears running down his cheeks and said, “Janet, I told her what you said. I told her my important stuff. All of it. I thanked her for being my mom and for loving me. I said so many things. I said I love you! And Janet, she told me she loves me too!”
Of course, I am crying tears of joy right along with him. And this young man, thanked his teary counselor for telling him he might want to do this. What an honor to work with John, even if he was angry with me about the suggestion in the first place.
All that said, John will never be 40 years old with regrets of not telling his mom important things of his heart, and he will always always know her words of love.
I just want to invite you to consider important words today. You know, things of your heart. Have you spoken them to the people around you? You might want to consider saying important words, so that when you are older, you won’t regret not telling them. Loss is hard, but it is easier when we have said our important words.