The Other Side of the Couch – Unexpected Gifts

By Susan E. Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP

March 18, 2020 – almost a year ago – was the last time I saw clients in my office. We were all in the early days of the pandemic – uncertain, rattled, no idea of what to expect or what was to come. The news became more and more dire with each day. The country shut down. I remember driving through deserted streets – my husband and I drove one day into downtown Nashville, all the way down Broadway, just to see it. Empty. No people. No church. No Symphony. No plays. Worst of all, no contact with my daughter and my granddaughter as we all tried to make sense of what was dangerous and what we could risk.

It all seems like a blur to me now. I have heard the days of the week during COVID called Blursdays – because there is no sense of time, no markers that indicate the familiar rhythms of life. We humans live lives based on expectations and routine. Our bodies require food at regular intervals; we require sleep at certain times. We unconsciously count on these routines and structures. While we certainly continued to eat and sleep, the pandemic stripped away our sense of expectation. Suddenly we could count on nothing. Going to the grocery became an exercise in avoiding mortal peril. Hugging a grandchild could result in becoming infected with a mortal disease. We could enter a hospital and never come out, dying alone with no loved ones near us. Or worse – we could infect the ones we love and watch them die while blaming ourselves.

Today – almost one year later – we are entering an era that MAY BE hopeful. The amazing speed with which effective vaccines have been developed and made available is changing the risk analysis each person has had to make each day. More and more people that I know personally are getting the vaccine, and with each shot in the arm hope increases that we will be able to regain those moments of just being with each other without fear.

At the same time, this year has also brought me face to face with the reality that time does not wait for anyone. Three beloved family members are facing cancer. My beloved feline companion of 18 years left us after a hard-fought battle with kidney failure. My clients continue to struggle with all the things that bring people to therapy – because COVID is not the only thing that is going on in their lives.

How to make sense of all this? I have found two things that make a difference.

The first is gratitude. The second is structure.

This year I have returned to playing the piano because I am home to do it. I am no longer “too busy” to take the time to practice. I have continued to do the work I love online, but I am choosing to work fewer hours and to spend more time with my family and with myself. I have become an amateur bird watcher. My far-flung family has become much more connected through the magic of Zoom. I am cooking much more regularly rather than going out for meals. These are small things – none of them is monumental or earth-shattering – yet taken together, they have made a difference in my life for good.

We know that the practice of gratitude creates better mental health. Structure helps those Blursdays become manageable and even enjoyable. Having a routine and expectations of the self help contain anxiety and mitigate depression. As the days of the pandemic begin to wind down, I hope to take with me these unexpected gifts.

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP

Communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, proud native Nashvillian – in private practice for 30+ years. I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts. Contact me at

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