Jennifer Golick’s office held small toys, silly comics, stress balls and board games to put her clients at ease. She said things in a straight forward, I’m–not-kidding kind of way. At the same time she made folks feel people so accepted, they could hear the truth without being knocked down by it. She proudly showed off pictures of her daughter and husband, and evidence of her marathons completed. She laughed easily, which we both knew was absolutely necessary in our field of work, although few do it enough. She made me coffee with extra half and half, and hugged our dogs when I visited.
Jennifer was kind when speaking of her staff, but held people accountable. The boys she treated received the gift of a very wise and experienced clinician with a youthful spirit. The families were treated with respect, with an understanding that they were parents who were hurting, not failures, that raising teen boys is, ironically, like a marathon. These folks had slipped and found themselves face down in the mud, but Jennifer was all about picking yourself up and brushing yourself off. And moving on.
When I heard the news on Friday that three social workers were being held hostage at a veterans home in Napa, a shiver went up my spine. You cannot do the work I’ve done and not considered this possibility – the angry ex-client, the schizophrenic off his meds, the teenager on meth. As therapists, we get in close to some of the darkest parts of anyone’s soul. We try to walk gingerly, to hold a candle not a spot light, and help the client shrink the shadows lurking there.
But inevitably, there are trip wires. There are spots too tender for a man to maintain his cool, there are secrets a woman is enraged you opened up. And often we are blamed.
It is a dangerous job, an often thankless one, and one in which there is little camaraderie or support. For the most part, few know the areas we traverse daily.
I watched the news on Friday, shocked and saddened when I heard all three hostages were murdered. And in the morning I saw that one was Jennifer. I had not even realized she had shifted jobs to the veterans’ program.
I can’t begin to explain or understand the devastating loss her family is facing, the absolute horror they must be feeling, the anger and sadness. The hole she leaves will never be filled for her daughter, her husband, her family.
All I can speak to is my own experience. As an experienced family therapist myself, I find it hard to trust other providers. I know the tricks of the trade, know when they are in over their head, or bluffing. But I trusted Jennifer. I trusted her intuitively, and that only built as we knew each other longer. My tears flowed, as did my son’s, as we considered the reality of what transpired Friday, and the loss going forward. As the atrocious gun violence continues, it shouldn’t be shocking that I know a victim. The numbers are so high, it feels almost inevitable. And that in itself is what is shocking.
The world lost a wonderful, committed, warrior on Friday, who shared her compassion and wisdom to help those who suffer. Lives end so quickly with a gunshot. There is not time to say “wait”, or “goodbye.” I am grateful that my last email from Jennifer says, “Thank you Joanell, for your kind words.” I had written to her just to say thank you for her presence and focus when it was most needed.
I imagine an enormous welcoming party for Jennifer when she arrived on the other side. The relatives of the people she helped in her short time on earth would make a very large group. I have no doubt that she saved the lives of many of the boys she worked with, and lifted the hearts of their parents in painful circumstances. I pray we can go on with her work, caring for our youth and veterans, the sick and the lost, with her strength as a model in our hearts and minds. That the painful ending does not over shadow her beautiful soul, and love for life.
Rest in Peace Jennifer, and God Bless your loved ones.