Moving on!!

“My whole life I’ve dreamed of taking my kids camping. I even saved kid-size camping chairs from my childhood to set up around the campfire. I grew up fishing and hiking with my dad, and even loved winter camping trips with my fellow Boy Scouts. All I’ve ever wanted was a family.” I had just met Jacob, so I wasn’t sure yet why he wanted counseling. “It sounds idyllic, and you’re in the perfect spot to begin to explore,” I commented, patiently waiting.

“With my last therapist, we talked a lot about disappointments and regrets in my life. I know I’m not going to get what I imagined, but now I don’t know how to move forward,” Jacob explained.

It turns out Jacob and his first wife focused on building their careers right out of college. They were both very successful but, as a result, kept putting off starting a family until “later.” In their late thirties/early forties they decided to try the fertility process, and dedicated several years and a sizable financial commitment to trying to have children.

“We did everything humanly possible, but no kids and eventually, no more marriage. It was brutal. After our divorce I spent years working to get back on my feet emotionally and financially,” Jacob quietly shared.

“We had kids young,” Matthew explained. “I was never home. My wife did everything, homeschooling, managing our family, and volunteering in the community. I grew up with a single mom so I wanted to make sure my wife and kids had everything they ever needed and wanted.” “Financial security was critical to you,” I reflected back. “Absolutely. I learned that young. My newspaper route used help pay for our groceries as a kid.”

“How is family life now?” I asked, uncertain yet of Matthew’s concern that brought him in the door. “Polite,” Matthew stated matter-of-factly. “I get cards on Father’s Day and phone calls during Hanukkah, but that’s it. I’ve tried family counseling, special trips, and living near them. I’ve done a lot of personal work since retirement. It’s just not going to change. So it’s time for me to change.”

Sometimes it can seem like counseling is only about processing the past. Other times people come in to make their lives “perfect” or “whole.” But the truth is, counseling can also look like coming in with a specific goal and setting up steps to meet it.

After some brainstorming during his session, Jacob reached out to his guy friends and set up a family camping trip that included partners, kids, and grandkids. His childhood camping chairs were the hit of nightly gatherings, and the group has already planned a fall trip to see the leaves.

Matthew decided to reach out to a local family in need of housing, and make room for them in his downstairs. His house now feels like a home, and he’s enjoying learning new mentorship techniques during counseling as he supports the parents getting back on their feet.