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    Been There, Done That: Eight Decades And Counting By Alice Herb: Requiem For My Therapist

    By Alice Herb


    In November I wrote that I had grown so old that I was losing my network of friends, professionals, etc. who gave me my quality of life. It was light-hearted but real. This time I will share with you a very big loss – my therapist, whom I visited off and on for more than 40 years. He died unexpectedly a week ago. I did not expect to be as devastated as I am. After all, he was not family or a close friend. Yet……



    I had known the man for more than 40 years. I was in therapy off and on throughout this period. The first time I quit, I did not call back for about 15 years. I left a message on his answering machine asking if he remembered me. He responded within a couple of hours laughing saying “How could I forget you?” So I once again continued with him for another period of time and then, tired of trying to make sense of my life, quit again.



    I don’t remember how many times I quit but he always took me back. What motivated me to return was usually another crisis or tragedy in my life. Indeed at one point, he said that when he saw that I had left a voice message, he dreaded calling me back because so many times I had lost yet another of my nearest and dearest. 



    I had originally gone to him when I no longer knew how to deal with my older son who had gone off track on drugs as a teenager. I had tried several other therapists but found them wanting. I decided to stay with him although our first meeting was inauspicious. I had come to the appointment on time but sat in the waiting room for an incredibly long time. I don’t remember why I stayed that long nor why I didn’t knock on his door but I just sat there. I must have been desperate. When he finally came out, he exclaimed in horror that he had forgotten about me. We did make another appointment and I was a loyal patient for all these years – from early in his practice to probably as his last patient. What I now remember from our last several meetings was his insistence on being heard. He told me that I was the most stubborn person he had ever known and had such a complicated life that it was impossible for me to hear and absorb what I needed to hear. When I once asked what his therapeutic approach was– Freudian or what – he said he used everything he could think of to help me. Methods didn’t matter – whatever worked is what he used. He always called me the smart, well-trained attorney who could turn any argument into another path and avoid what he wanted me to examine. I had many fights with him and stalked around his office. I could never lie on his couch. I was a royal pain in the neck. 



    Yet he certainly did help me. He referred my son, Rick, to a great psychiatrist, who in turn referred Rick to someone whose specialty was drug-using if not addicted youngsters. Unfortunately, I lost Rick anyway in one backward step after he had been clean for quite a while. My therapist hung in there with me in my depth of grief and sorrow. There is no simple anything when one loses a child. I still live with that loss but he helped me rejoin a more normal life. But then I lost my father and my second husband both in the same year. I realized then how hard he worked to bring me back. I yelled and carried on and he steadfastly did what he could to draw all the sorrow out.  



    This last plea for help was about my relationship with my younger son. The two of us had had so many crises that it caused a rift that we are still trying to repair. When I was informed that my therapist was in the hospital, I sent him a text message telling him to hang in there, I still needed help. I was sure he would recover. But sadly he did not. I have a lump in the pit of my stomach acknowledging this loss. But I will refer back to all we had talked about for as long as necessary. RIP my dear therapist!


    Alice Herb is a retired attorney, journalist, and bioethics consultant. Having reached the age of 85+, she’s more than ready to share her experiences and opinions with agebuzz readers. Want to comment on something she’s said? She welcomes your feedback at

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