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I wrote 70 poems about the experience of losing a daughter.

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Tell us about your mental health journey

One of the challenges I faced was getting over the negativity which surrounds the concept of therapy. I saw it in the movies, where one therapist actually has an affair with her client, to speaking to everyday people who often gave me the feeling that therapy was reserved for losers. I am certain that therapy carries a stigma, and you just have to push that aside, and enjoy the benefits, which are immense, and life changing; furthermore, many people believe that they have all the answers, and attempt to provide amateur therapy. This can be extremely damaging. And I firmly believe in body chemistry, and that you very much need to get the right match in order to move forward, and reap the benefits which are part of the experience of meeting regularly with a professional therapist. The other challenge is finding the opportunity to meet a large number of therapists, and to try some out so that you can make a wise choice, based on experience you have had with the person. First Session, recommended by my family doctor, gave me that chance, and I grabbed it.

What did you learn in therapy and how did it help you?

Professional therapy provides many breakthrough moments because the therapist gets to know you within several sessions, and will surprise you with suggestions and comments which reinforce your trust and acceptance. Without this trust, you will not move forward. After my daughter's death, a year ago, I wrote 70 poems about the experience of losing a daughter. I would read one during each session, and I could hear my therapist breathing in silence over the phone, obviously affected by what I had read. she was never emotional, but I had the feeling way down deep in my heart that she really did care about me, and my recovery from complex grief. And she was getting to know me very well. I liked her, I trusted her, and I felt secure talking with her, even though I was exhausted after each meeting.

What is one thing you wish more people knew about therapy?

I tell many people, especially those who claim to have your interests at heart, the same thing. Leave it to the professionals. Do not give me advice. I have a professional whom I trust implicitly, and whom I tell my deepest secrets without hesitation. She is there for me, and me alone, and she concentrates on my situation without distraction or misinformation or psychobabble.

Who looks out of your green eyes now?
They couldn’t harvest your internal organs,
Because you died in Stage Four cancer.
So you gave them your eyes.
Doctors surrounded them with ice cubes so
Your eyes must have thought it was a wintery day,
When they headed for the helicopter in a cooler.
Perhaps they are now in Nunavut,
Squinting at the blinding horizon
For roaming tutktu or seal at the floe edge,
And may have already experienced snow blindness.
And they would have to get used to the way
The Inuit smile by squeezing their eyes
Almost shut, and saying:”Eeeeeee.”
But then again, they might be on the prairies,
Watching the golden oceans of wheat,
And the leathered cowpokes hooting:
“Howdy and welcome to the west.”
Wherever they are in Canada,
My wish for your green eyes is that
They get to see big sky country,
And clouds that have your smile in them,
Floating just over the purple hills.
And that they remember the beauty
Which used to rest behind them,
In my daughter,
When they were another two windows
To another irreplaceable soul.
Rod McDonald  December, 2021

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