Dear 2020 – A Letter of Loss

Dear 2020,

I recently heard that it may be helpful to write a letter as a way to process grief and loss.

Because loss comes in many different forms and there is no one size fits all to grief, I want to say goodbye to you and process my losses in a way that makes sense to me. Since I’m writing to an inanimate object, I will try not to get bogged down by my perpetual fear of offending anyone or hurting anyone’s feelings.

You know the song lyric that goes, “You don’t know what you got til its gone?” 2020, you made those lyrics realer than anything. As I have been processing my grief since March, I realized that most of the things I lost, I didn’t appreciate until they were gone.

The first thing I lost this year is the belief that I don’t have to pick a side. You taught me that the lines are tattooed into the sand so tightly that we must choose. I thought I could avoid that. But it’s not true. We must pick sides, and we must use extreme assumptions. For example: If I believe that black lives matter, I’m a Marxist. If I am pro-medical freedom and body autonomy, I don’t care about other people. If I question Fauci, I’m a conspiracy theorist. If I do my own research, I’m anti-science. If I don’t vote for Trump, I’m not a Christian. If I do vote for Trump, I’m a racist. There is no middle ground, no exception, no gray areas. You are the year that forced us to believe we must all play your twisted version of Red Rover.

At some point during your reign of terror, maybe around May, I lost the silly notion that as humans, we can assume the best about each other and offer one another the benefit of the doubt. These days, thanks to the ease of social media, I see that we only assume the worst, then swiftly cut contact, de-friend, unfollow, cancel anything that we disagree with. We make posts that start with, “I’m about to get real, and if you don’t like it, block me and unfriend me.” I’m grieving the belief that I have the option to share that which offers encouragement and hope, not division and dissent. Many times, what I thought would be encouraging, was offensive.

The other big loss I experienced this year, something I didn’t know was a luxury until now, is the loss of smiles. Thanks to the cooler weather, I’ve started walking and running outside again, and it is such a gift to receive a real life toothy smile from a stranger as I’m passing by. Many people walk by expressionless, not saying a word to me. Were they like that before? I don’t know. But 2020, you have made me hyperaware of how other people interact, or fail to interact, with one another. I really miss smiling. Facial expressions are important to my psychological well-being, and I didn’t know it until now.

Continue reading “Dear 2020 – A Letter of Loss”

Handling Grief Over the Holidays

December is never an easy month for me. Even in the years I decide to get a head start on my “seasonal lows,” I often end up getting hit by an intense overwhelm at some point during the month. This year, thanks to the added Covid-related stress, it feels like my winter blues got a superboost.

That’s why I was so grateful to get to speak to Licensed Professional Counselor Michael Sweeney on the latest episode of my podcast. Not gonna lie – it felt like free therapy. I realized that these intense feelings I am experiencing right now, on a more intense level than usual, are related to grief. Grief isn’t just losing a person – it can be any kind of loss.

There are many misconceptions to grief. I didn’t realize that my distractibility and lack of focus can also be signs that my nervous system is struggling to process grief while also stay here in the present. I don’t often find myself at a loss for words, but in this episode I definitely was. We cover why holiday grief is so common, how grief doesn’t always take the form we expect, how we need to stop comparing our grief, and ways we can process and manage our grief that is helpful to us!

Download and listen wherever you get podcasts, or listen here.

Learn more about Michael and his practice here.

How EMDR Teaches Your Brain to Process Trauma and Find Healing

Everyone has experienced trauma in some form in their lifetimes. The fact that trauma is stored in the body is well-documented, and the various tools and therapies being developed for healing continue to amaze me. This is why I was so excited to take an entire podcast episode and devote it to one revolutionary healing method!

Zach Herrin is a Licensed Professional Counselor trained in EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing). In this powerful episode, we discuss how trauma impacts our lives, the affect of grief, and how EMDR can be a powerful tool for healing. Download here or find it wherever you get podcasts!

Key Topics:

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  • Why is a trauma focus important in counseling?
  • How do you know if you have trauma?
  • The connection between grief and trauma
  • The history and science behind EMDR
  • Who can benefit from EMDR
  • The methodology behind EMDR
  • Kids and EMDR
  • The importance of emotional vulnerability

Learn more about Zach’s practice at solacecounselingcenter.com.

On Guard (Unraveling Grief)

Grief is like an out of season mosquito. You think you’re fine, but out of nowhere it gets you.

I like to think of myself as a very open and warm person. If you met me, you’d probably think I’m nice.

But let me warn you…I have a guard up. We’re all walking wounded – that’s part of life – and we all have ways of handling the twists and turns life has thrown at us.

I was 9 years old when I watched my grandpa die in my front yard. My life was squeaky clean before that, all rainbows and unicorns (literally – hello, My Little Pony). The most traumatic thing I had experienced was allergy testing.

But trauma is relative.

In one instant, I watched the people who were supposed to be in control… lose their control. I watched my grandpa, who was just sitting at my dining room table holding my hand while we prayed the night before, struggle to breathe and fall to the ground. I watched my mom and grandma using an epi pen and performing CPR, to no avail.

I watched his eyes roll back.

When my parents came home from the hospital that night, smiling because Pop-Pop was in heaven… that’s when the walls went up. That’s when I learned an important lesson.

Life as you know it can change in an instant. So don’t get too close. Don’t take anything for granted. Don’t love too deeply. Hold everyone at arms’ length. Disconnect.

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I lived like that for a long time. I struggle to be present in emergency situations to this day. The little girl who witnessed her precious grandpa dying likes to pretend she’s in a movie, watching everything from behind a screen.

However, I am learning to flip the script. As a mother, I am learning that there is another way to respond to grief. Continue reading “On Guard (Unraveling Grief)”