Death Bed EMDR

by | Sep 1, 2022 | EMDR Therapy | 0 comments

Some of you have read my book, Unburdening Souls at the Speed of Thought and some of you know me as trainees, consultees or colleagues. If you have not read my book, there is a character I talk about throughout; it is my dear friend of 62 years, my friend John.

In the book, I call him John, who knows everything. We met in kindergarten and lived one block over from each other for our entire childhood and even into early adulthood. I called him John, who knows everything because, well, he knows everything. He was our valedictorian, a national merit scholar, and any other academic awards a kid could get, he got them. He could do anything he tried to do, and he could do it perfectly. To call him gifted is an understatement. The fact that he was my friend was one of God’s great gifts to me. I doubt I would have ever become a psychologist without his influence. 

John was diagnosed with cancer about five years ago but was doing well. Treatments worked, and he was living a relatively normal life enjoying his retirement until recently. Perhaps the last six months were challenging, and then things deteriorated. He was in hospice in July. I spoke to him around the time he decided to stop the crazy western medicine treatments and just let hospice make him comfortable. We texted a little after that, but his texts were jumbled and not clear. This wasn’t easy to witness because John never misspelled a word in his life nor did he ever put a comma where it didn’t belong. 

On July 12th, he texted me and asked if I could talk tomorrow. Of course, I said I was thrilled he was able to talk. The next day when we spoke, he was lucid, but his speech was slurred and slow. That was a bit of a shock for me to hear my friend speak in this state, but his thought process was normal. He asked if I could do EMDR remotely with him in his bed. I said, of course. He explained the event that he could not shake that was troubling him. It was clear the event was upsetting to him; although it did not seem to be anything that should upset him to the degree it was. EMDR therapist understand this reality. Often the target is not the target. Where the session starts is not always where it ends. 

John could tap his thighs and talk to me on his phone. We resolved that issue in about twenty minutes. Sometimes I wonder if he called me for EMDR because he knew I didn’t know what to say or do for him, but he knew I could do EMDR, which would ease my pain of losing my friend while doing something for him instead of feeling helpless as he died. As I said, he was smart as hell and had incredible intuition and empathy for others. So I’m not sure if that session was for me or him. Perhaps both because it was the most important EMDR session I ever did in my life and I have done over 10,000 EMDR sessions in my life.

The details of the session I’ll keep to myself, but the last words my friend said to me were at the end of that session, he said, “I can let that go now. I’m free.”

That was the last time I spoke to John. The last time I heard his voice. He died on July 31, 2022. The next evening, August 1, 2022, less than 24 hours after John’s death, we got a call that my younger son had died in an accident. I don’t remember the last words I said to my son. Probably that I loved him because we always say that when we leave each other’s company.

You know there is a saying in ancient wisdom, it says if you love and worship God for twenty or thirty years, you may can come to some level of understanding him, but if you hate God, you can do the same work in two years. I’m about a month into the hate God stage. I doubt that will help any more than the loving God thing.

People ask should you do EMDR with frail clients. I guess like everything with EMDR, the answer is it depends. For me and my old friend John, I know I made the right call.

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