There are calls I remember going on that I will never forget. Some of them happened almost a decade ago and I can still remember even the smallest detail.
One call, in particular, stands out among the rest and, to be honest, I did not handle it well for a very long time. My mind was plagued with “What ifs?” and “If only!”
If you have ever had one of these, you know what I am talking about.
There are no quick bullet points on cases like these—no easy answers. But, I’d like to provide some thoughts I hope will be helpful.
- Allow yourself to feel the full force of the sorrow. Don’t (as I did) try to run away from them.
- There is no timetable for what you will feel and how long you will feel it. Be kind to yourself. There is no rush. It might take years or decades, but that’s okay.
- These cases will change you but, in the end, you determine how they change you. It took a long time for me but seeing death motivated me to try and celebrate life.
- At the right time and in the right frame of mind, ask yourself if there is anything you can learn from the experience.
- If memories of that case pop up at unexpected times, know that it is all part of the process.
- As always, practice self-care. All the basics. Sleeping, eating, etc.
- Know that if you need to talk about it—I’m here. If I can’t be of help, I can help you find someone who can.
- Lastly, know that you are not alone. There are many others who have also made this journey.
Driving in from Houston today, I was struck by the beauty of the sun rising through the fog and the trees. And, for some reason, things like that seem more precious than they used to.
Michael Hawkins, MA, LPC is a licensed professional counselor at the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital (VMTH). With almost 25 years of experience as a counselor, he works with clinicians, students, staff, and clients—compassionately attending to the human needs that arise in the practice of veterinary medicine. Counselor’s Corner is a blog devoted to that purpose. BACK TO BLOG