Follow Your Heartbreak

Follow your heartbreak. A short statement, sure. The power behind it, however? Enough to have paused everything around me the first time hearing it and send me on a reverse route to my childhood.

The advice came during an event I attended for writing professionals a few years back. During a segment focused on career changes, one speaker shared his story of how he transformed his painful past struggles, his heartbreak into pursuing a career in psychology. It was a powerful narrative and powerful advice, and it turned my world upside down.

As a young girl in elementary school with a mother whose cancer was no longer in remission, I initially did not understand when my fourth-grade teacher kindly took me by the hand one day and walked me to an unfamiliar office. It would be my first visit with “Mrs. G,” the school social worker. Mrs. G became the nice lady I spoke with each week during lunch time. Her office became a warm space isolated from the rest of the world. I could talk about anything I wanted to with Mrs. G.

I began playing “Mrs. G” at home, testing out my clinical skills on my parents. Both Mom and Dad agreed to meet with me in my room each week for our scheduled “sessions.” With my binder in hand and questions prepared just in case, I was ready to help them sort out their feelings about Mom’s illness.

Following the loss of my mother the summer after graduating elementary school, I took comfort in seeing a social worker at my middle school, a friend of Mrs. G. I continued to think how awesome it would be to one day have a space of my very own where kids like me could come and talk.

My feelings in high school changed however, as not wanting to feel “different” became important to me. I made the decision to no longer continue counseling and decided to study writing and journalism in college instead. Little did I know that my pursuit of a writing career would eventually bring me back to my childhood aspirations.

Now I work in a cozy, welcoming space just like Mrs. G’s. I give it my best to provide support and encouragement to clients as they share their narratives with me. My heart aches as clients tell of their struggles, their own heart break, and beams when they overcome challenges. Creating that safe space like I had and helping clients process and overcome adversity is what drives and inspires me each day. Despite the twists and turns to get to it, I’m so glad I followed my heartbreak to field of social work.

Gina Pellrine, LMSW

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