I read an interesting “Opinionator” piece in the New York Times called “A Decade of Goodbye,” about the process of helping a loved one die. The author, Joan Marans Dim, says that she had often thought Joan Didion had been fortunate, in that her husband died suddenly, rather than suffering through a protracted illness, as Ms. Dim’s husband did. Ms. Dim describes the last day of her husband’s life, including the shared intimacy of giving him a sponge bath and gentle massage, then dressing him, and combing his hair for the first time in their lengthy marriage. This can be viewed as, believe it or not, finding the joy in everyday life. Yes, even as she is helping her husband die.
What she movingly describes is a dawning realization that each interaction really matters, and an appreciation of the satisfactions of a warm orientation toward her husband, despite the difficulties of living through a decade of serious illness with him, and his unwillingness to face his impending death. She shows us the importance of making each day count, and says that she wishes they’d had five more minutes together. My guess is that it would have been five more minutes to realize that it was the end and to say their goodbyes.
What does this have to do with therapy? When you deal with your problems in a substantive way through therapy, you learn to live more in the moment and to find the joy in everyday life. Instead of a decade of goodbye, it can be a lifetime of saying hello to this amazing and challenging experience of life, appreciating and deepening your relationships, and making the best of whatever life sends your way.
Do you make each day count? How do you make each day count? Leave a comment below.
Diane Spear, LCSW-R, owns a private practice in the Union Square/East Village area of Manhattan (New York City). She specializes in anxiety, depression, couples, and parenting treatment, and has been helping people find the joy in everyday life since 1995. She is accepting new patients. To learn more about Diane’s approach to treatment, click here.