This story originally appeared in the Trauma Support Services of North Texas Newsletter
(Both client and therapist final approval of their story is always obtained by TSSNT prior to publication.)
Shay’s mother had been brutally assaulted, suffering massive head injury and 53 other injuries. She managed to live for three weeks, with Shay at her side. When she died in November, 2009, Shay, an only child, became solely responsible for her mother’s funeral and burial. She believed that her step-father had killed her mother, but he was far from admitting it.
Shay started therapy with Cynthia the following January. Cynthia recalls that it was a slow process in the beginning. Shay’s mother’s family lived some distance away, so she had limited family support. Shay’s initial request of Cynthia was that she teach her how to talk about what happened with her four daughters, who were also grieving. In the process, she opened up as well. “When I came, I would cry and cry and cry and felt so overwhelmed. Cynthia helped me name my feelings, like anger and fear, and by being able to name them, I began to have a sense of control over them. If I was not being logical, she had the kindest way of pointing it out.”
“Shay really worked,” states Cynthia. “She read a book I recommended, she came prepared with questions, and she didn’t miss sessions. Before long, she recognized the value of simply pushing through the rough times rather than succumbing to them.”
With that assurance in place, Shay was able to look beyond her relationship with her mother to other relationships, including the one with her biological father. Shay participated in an 8-week TSSNT Trauma Grief group with other persons whose loved ones had died tragically. That’s where she realized even more that she was not alone, and if they could survive, so could she. During the last session, she brought a crock pot of her mother’s favorite tortilla soup to share with the group.
Eventually, Shay’s step-father’s trial date was set. The Bell County District Attorney victim advocate, Jill Hargrove McAffey, who had referred Shay to TSSNT for therapy, and Cynthia prepared her for what to expect during the trial, including all the “what if’s.” “Cynthia came to court with me, and I remember her sitting with me in my car, before the sentencing, walking me through calming techniques. She kept me sane and calm, and gave me the strength and courage to say what I needed to say.” Shay’s stepfather was found guilty, and Shay was able to speak directly to him in her Victim Impact Statement. He is now serving time in the Byrd Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
Looking back, Shay believes that Cynthia saved her marriage. Shay says, “I am so thankful for this opportunity, which did not cost me one penny. Cynthia’s office is my safe place. I know that, even now if I needed to, I could return and bring whatever was on my mind, share the burden with Cynthia, and leave it there. Then I can return to my home and my job as a ‘normal’ person.”