The Therapist Mourns His Mother's Death: Being With Clients While Heartbroken

The Therapist Mourns His Mother's Death: Being With Clients While Heartbroken

by Bob Livingstone

Therapist Bob Livingstone offers grieving therapists advice about the effects of mourning upon therapeutic practice.
My mother died Dec. 18, 2005. She was 84 years old and died of complications from open heart surgery. I am a psychotherapist in private practice and had to return to work shortly after her death. I wondered how I would deal with my deep and heart-stabbing grief while I tried to help my clients work through their issues. Yet, little in graduate or post-graduate training prepares us to deal with such a time in therapy, let alone our lives.
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Bob LivingstoneBob Livingstone is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with a 19-year private practice and the author of The Body-Mind-Soul Solution: Healing Emotional Pain through Exercise, published by Pegasus Books.

Livingstone also wrote the critically-acclaimed Redemption of the Shattered: A Teenager's Healing Journey through Sandtray Therapy. The Therapist magazine states, "The journey from torment to peace is profound, and it is vividly rendered. The honesty of his writing is a gift to anyone who has experienced trauma, alienation, the inability to digest or to forgive." He has focused his work on bereavement groups, anger, and helping children from divorced families. He utilizes his life experiences as well as professional ones to connect and assist clients. Bob holds a Masters Degree in Social Welfare from the University of Kansas in 1979. He can be reached at 650-347-5167. You may also visit his website at

Thank you for this article. Working with clients who experience loss often triggers my own losses, and experiences and is was helpful to have the countertransference normalized, and contained. I liked the 'strategy in place' as well - since not all self disclosure is appropriate. Thanks again.
Vicky V
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CE credits: 1
Learning objectives:

  • Reflect on when and how to disclose personal, emotional information to clients.
  • Increase awareness of how therapists? grief can be used as a therapeutic tool with clients.
  • Consider strategies for therapists who are in the initial stages of recovering from loss.
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