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November 24th, 2013

It seems coincidental how our discussions about counseling emotions in communication disorders coincided with my fathers 5th year death anniversary. I had the chance to reflect on the train to Chicago this weekend on the parallels between my experience with grief and how to apply it to my role as a speech pathologist. My initial hesitations to write about this gave way when I concluded that my experience helped me to appreciate the diversity of everyones personal struggle, and that appreciating the different grieving processes is relatable to families and individuals with communication disorders. My personal experience with my fathers death did not follow the traditional sequence Kubler-Rosss stages of normal grief. In the beginning, I found it easy to forget that he was gone. It was easy to appear happily stoic, as my mother called me. She sai d I continued life with a sunny disposition as if his death did not affect me at all. I carried on that way until I came to St. Louis a year later to study. Then the delayed grieving, anger, and depression hit. Missing him was so awful given my rapid change in scenery following his death that I sought counseling. My sessions were the keys that opened my Pandoras box of Kubler-Ross; I was in denial for a year, and angry and depressed for the next. My counselor was appreciative of my need to vent. I remember how she validated my feelings by summarizing what I would say without giving me false hope or pity. Her probes and questions also helped to unearth other suppressions. With her simple uh huhs, a CLOZ statement of You must have felt very for me to fill, and other ways of summarizing or eliciting responses, I felt more motivated to let go. Overall, it was an immensely cathartic experience. The gravity of this loss in communication disorders was not apparent to me until I considered my counseling experience. It helped me become much more empathetic to other peoples losses of loved ones, but I never considered how a communication disorder is also a loss. Now, I think of it as the loss of a dream, just like my fathers death was also the loss of a dream. No loss is greater than the other. There is just the fact of a loss. And I feel that only by experiencing my fathers loss can I fully understand its devastation. This helps me to understand that families and individuals go through a plethora of emotions with their conditions. A speech-language pathologist must understand that there is a loss of a dream and a fear of the future. Families and individuals become very vulnerable and may suppress a lot of their emotions. Sometimes, these emotions may manifest in seemingly personal attacks, or during a random moment in conversation. If this ever happened to me, I would take a moment to address the emotions by letting them speak. Now I understand the value of mindful listening much more. That catharsis can motivate the family more, relieve them of their emotions, and help them realize that they not alone in handling their situation. I have found it much easier to put myself into someone elses shoes with my fathers death. With further clarification from class material, I learned that the stages are not a comprehensive list of all emotions and that they can occur in any order, and that all experiences are unique. I hope that my experience helps me to be more sensitive to the emotional weight a communication disorder has on the family, individual, and their lifestyle.