What follows is a personal account from a client I worked with in individual therapy about 14 years ago. I have asked her permission to include it because it shows movingly how much can follow from a very small intervention. Sometimes, as with Helen, the healing movement takes years and years before it bears fruit.
All those years ago, we began to make a place for an excluded person in her system. We used very simple visualisation. She had secretly kept her father in her heart, but there was no permission within the family story for him to take his full place. The story was too painful to be included fully.
With the passage of time, and at a point in the client’s life when she had more resources available, she was able to ‘meet’ her father and face his story.
Although it is more than 40 years since he died, she has the sense of release and relief in her heart, which comes when all our family members have their full place.
Some 14 years ago, during my counselling sessions, you told me that I was the product of two parents, and encouraged me to have a conversation with my dad, the first since he’d died in 1960. After my husband, Ade, died five years ago, I started tying up some loose ends.
I went to my dad’s grave for the first time ever. I reminded myself of what you’d said, and told myself that I was his daughter. My mum had always indicated that they had been unhappy, but I decided that that was their business, not mine. When I visited the cemetery I found that there was no grave stone: I don’t think anyone had visited him in all those years, so I’ve put that to rights now.
Ade was my last relative. Being on my own has offered lots of opportunities and challenges to think about who and what I am. By the strangest of strange and quirky things, I met a man, Paul, just a few weeks after Ade died. It was on a charity walk for Macmillan, of all things! He’s still in my life – absolutely gorgeous man! – and has been very supportive and encouraging in helping me explore my family tree (which he refers to as my family twig!) and in encouraging me to explore my Jewish heritage. He’s an atheist, brought up in a Baptist household which makes this all the more special.
The emphasis here is on the -ish in Jewish. It’s about heritage, not religion. I was sorting out the loft a year ago, and found some German papers belonging to my parents. I found the last known address for my dad, and to cut a very long story a bit shorter, Paul and I were in Berlin three weeks ago, on a Berlin Jewish Journey. It was an amazing experience, with an excellent group of people and led by a phenomenal guide.
The building my dad lived and worked in was still there, and had a café attached to it. It was an astonishing experience having a cup of tea there and made me feel I was truly having a cuppa with my dad. Wonderful!
We also visited the railway site of deportation, where my paternal grandmother and two uncles were deported to various camps.
That made me think about the Quakers who got my dad out of Berlin in April 1939 and to safety at Kitchener Camp in Sandwich. Someone on the trip has a contact with the Quakers, so my next step is to see if I can find some documentation about my dad’s likely escape journey.