The OSRP is proud to present Student Stories, a blog series that spotlights Student Members and their journeys to becoming registered psychotherapists. In this edition, we hear from OSRP Student Member Jenna Strydonck.
By: Jenna Strydonck
When I woke up on February 14, 2020, I was a full-time Human Resources Consultant at the local College. By dinner time that same day, I was starting my journey to becoming a 32-year-old widow. After spending seven days beside him in the ICU, he passed away. Every moment that passed when I was watching him deteriorate, I wondered how I was going to go on without him. I wondered how I would raise our three-year-old son all by myself. I wondered what would happen to all the big plans we had made together.
The one thing I was sure of was that I could not go back to the life I had on the morning of February 14, 2020. I was not that person anymore. After I lost David, I began to recognize all the trauma I had been carrying with me for my entire life. In the days after the funeral, I searched for meaning in my monumental loss. What was the point of falling in love so deeply and creating a perfect little boy if I was just going to lose him? I needed to understand the point of having it all and then losing it.
A mere thirteen days later, the entire world shut down. The COVID-19 pandemic protocols closed everything, and my son and I started our isolation. As if the grief of becoming a widow in your early thirties wasn’t isolating enough, now I was locked inside our marital house grieving with my little boy. I immersed myself in books and articles about grief and widowhood. I continued to connect with friends and family, asking them to help me figure out my next steps.
Then one day, a friend asked me if I had ever considered becoming a counsellor. Truth be told, I have always wanted to be a counsellor, but I never had the time, money, or faith in myself. A major concern I had with the counselling field was experiencing vicarious trauma. However, my friend reminded me that in my HR role I routinely dealt with emotionally distressed employees during the medical leave and accommodation processes. Facing the reality of how short and precious life can be, I decided to apply for the Master of Arts in Counselling Psychology at Yorkville University.
When I received confirmation that I had been accepted into the MACP program for the May 2020 intake I was ecstatic. I welcomed the distraction from my tsunami of grief. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on that first syllabus so I could read ahead and impress my professor. I searched Facebook for every Yorkville MACP group that I could find and requested to join all of them.
The first week of the first course was overwhelming to say the least. I frantically tried to wrap my head around the discussion questions. They must be well researched, thought provoking and evenly spaced out over the week, oh my! I wondered what I had gotten myself into. Only five weeks before this course began, I had become a single, working mother. I was also doing remote weekly psychotherapy to deal with my complex trauma and complicated grief. I have always kept myself busy, but this was different. I was working through my feelings in therapy which was even more exhausting than working three jobs.
I was plagued with doubts about my ability to be a good therapist. I worried that I was too damaged to be able to be of service to other people. I wondered if any other counsellors struggled with trauma, grief, and depression. I felt alone, again.
But then, I read through the please introduce yourself forum for my first course. It turns out that many of my fellow students were drawn to the field because of personal experiences with mental health challenges. I began to feel at home in the program and the profession. I had finally found my calling and I can say that my passion finally met my purpose.
A major milestone for my healing has been publishing poetry books. The therapeutic value in creative writing should not be underestimated. For this reason, I will be giving away a copy of my first book, The Quarantine Widow, to a randomly selected OSRP member during this year’s OSRP AGM (Sunday, November 21, 2021, from 1-4 pm est), following a brief presentation. (Members must be in attendance to participate).