Counseling and psychotherapy for individuals, couples and families

The Chair at the End of the Table

Rachelle Roberts, MS, LMFT

February 14, 2016

It only takes a moment to brave a calling and that is what it was; a moment in time when I found the strength to embrace this journey and remain vulnerable enough to help others in the process. I was invited to dinner with my two sisters and their husbands. Unconsciously I struggled with my singleness since the separation from my spouse, but consciously I presented as if it was normal and all good with me.

When we arrived at the restaurant my brother in law asked for a table for five. The Hostess said that all she had available was a table for four. We conceded and proceeded towards the open table. My sisters and their husbands found seating together as I heard the waitress say in my direction, “I will put a chair at the end of the table for you.” I felt exposed, awkward, alone, uncovered for at that moment I realized my life was reduced to a metaphor of that chair at the end of the table. My life was not as it was supposed to be. The consciousness of my existence assaulted me. My eyes fill with tears as I watched the hostess place the chair into its position. I quickly excused myself to the restroom where I found an open stall and locked myself in and wept.

Life as I had known it changed for me that day. My husband was not returning. There would be no Golden Wedding Anniversary for me. I will be facing this world alone. Can I survive? Do I have the strength to do this? Will I ever stop feeling this ache in my heart? Yes, the ache. It is constantly present, sometimes more strongly felt than others. At weddings, at funerals, at birthdays, at every family event and church function the ache is there. The ache that holds as a faithful reminder of my aloneness, my failure, my shame.

At that moment I grieved not only for myself but for those who went through this process without hope or understanding. My tears shifted away from pain and into promise as I vowed to God and myself that however painful the process, I would faithfully record my experience to offer understanding and guidance for those who find themselves on this unexpected journey of the Chair at the End of the Table. On my journey I found that experiencing loss can birth new life.