The Holidays are Approaching, and They Aren't Always Merry

Anxiety, Depression, and Grief & Loss

The holidays are approaching, and it’s supposed to be the happiest time of the year. There are family gatherings, office parties, presents, music…...the list goes on. It can be overwhelming, and especially so for those suffering from anxiety, depression, or the loss of a loved one.

The expectation of putting on a happy face when you don’t feel like it can be exhausting. On a daily basis, people who have gone through a loss or are feeling depressed find it hard to attend parties or interact socially. The holidays add to the complexity of our feelings and the anxiety level rises.

You may feel pressured to celebrate, invited to participate in and attend gatherings you do not feel like attending. You may feel your co-workers or friends do not understand that you are not ready to celebrate and are urging you to join in.  Anxiety, depression, and sadness over the loss of a loved one is felt more deeply at this time of year.

What can we do to help ourselves through this season? The first thing to do is give yourself permission to feel what you are feeling. Let the feelings come and let the feelings move on out. Denying them or pretending everything is fine will only delay the feelings, and they will catch up with you. It is ok to feel sad, you are sad, it is ok to feel anxious, it’s an anxious time of year. By acknowledging those feelings, we can take deep breaths and it will help us to feel less sad and less anxious.

The second thing to do is limit your gatherings to a few that you really would like to attend with people you want to spend time with. You do not have to attend each party you’re invited to or each gathering at a neighbor’s house. Perhaps it would be better to invite a few friends and family members over to your place. This way you are surrounded by the people you care about; you are in control and feel more comfortable and secure at home.

The last thing I would like to suggest is to take this season as one for reflection. I know from a personal perspective that I think a lot about the people in my life past and present and what they mean to me. I think about the lessons learned and teachings from my parents.

It is a time of renewal and hope. For those who are religious or spiritual, take the time to reflect on readings and think about the goodness of life. For those who are not religious, it is still a time for renewed strength and promise of a new day. Feeling gratitude is an excellent way to say thank you to your friends and family who have supported you throughout your life or during your sorrow.

Feeling gratitude is not as hard as you may think. When you start to feel sad or have negative feelings, think of the tiny things you are grateful for at that moment. It could be that first cup of coffee in the morning or taking your dog for a walk. Simply saying thank you to the universe for another day may lift your spirits each time you do it.

5 Ways to Support A Loved One Who is Transitioning

By: Laura Kacere, MA, LPC

The process of transitioning one’s gender identity can bring up a whole host of physical and emotional experiences for the person engaging in the transition, as well as for those around them.  Everyone’s experience is different, but often some of the most challenging and rewarding parts of a transition can be the reactions from one’s family, friends, and larger community. Receiving social support is so important when one goes through any big life change, but particularly when someone comes out as transgender, in part because of the many systemic challenges a person can face when attempting to transition. Whether they’re your friend, family member, or partner, here are 5 ways you can support your loved one as they transition. (For the purpose of inclusivity, I will use the pronouns they/them in this article).

LGBT Support

1. Use the language they have asked you to use

When someone is first coming out as transgender, it’s not uncommon for them to request that others begin using a different name and pronoun to refer to them going forward. It can be challenging for some to make this change at first, but do your best to use the pronouns and name they have requested, even when your loved one is not around. This is an important part of validating your loved one’s identity and respecting their experience. It might feel like a small thing, but it can feel incredibly hurtful and invalidating to the person when they hear the wrong pronouns used, especially if this is the first part of their transition. Remember that it may have taken a lot of courage to make this request of you.

At the same time, be mindful of who you talk to about your loved one’s transition; the process of coming out can be an arduous one, and it is ultimately up to them how and with whom to share news of their transition. Do NOT out your loved one without their consent. This significantly disempowers them, and can have severe consequences, like harming a relationship or putting someone’s job in jeopardy. Coming out can be difficult and terrifying enough; support your loved one’s choices in how to do so.

2. Respect their process

There is no “right way” to transition, and everyone transitions at their own speed, and in their own way. Be aware of your own assumptions and expectations you may have of them. For example, your loved may or may not choose to make medical/physical changes, like starting hormones or getting gender re-assignment surgery. Recognize that you don’t always have to understand the process of their transition in order to support them.

While some may have known for years, even decades, what they want and need as they transition, the process may be more exploratory for others. Be patient. Transitioning doesn’t happen overnight; it’s a process, one that can take longer for some, and still others may not even have an endpoint of their transition at all. In fact, a transition doesn’t always have to mean transitioning from one gender to the other; it can also mean exploring different parts of the gender spectrum over time, or staying somewhere in the middle. Allow your loved one to make the transition their own.

3. Offer to help

Many aspects of transitioning can be intimidating - from medical changes, like starting hormones, to legal identity changes, like changing the gender marker and name on a driver’s license, to aspects of gender expression, like picking out new clothes – there is often a lot of that goes into the transition process, and it can be overwhelming. There can also a lot of vulnerability in seeking these services, and finding a doctor who is trans-affirmative, for example, can be challenging. Ask what you can do to help them navigate this process and help your loved one connect with the larger transgender community for more support.

4. Take care of yourself

While it’s necessary to recognize that this transition is theirs, and not yours, it’s also important to acknowledge your own reactions to your loved one’s transition, and to give yourself the space to process your own experience of the transition, ideally with a therapist. It’s not uncommon to experience what can feel like a grieving process, especially if you’ve known this person for a long time. For your loved one, the process of transitioning can feel like they are finally able to express themselves authentically, and they may feel detached and even dislike for their old way of presenting, or their old “self.” At the same time, you may feel that you’re losing someone, and may experience symptoms of sadness, grief; you may feel betrayed or angry or distrustful, and that’s okay. Recognize that what you’re going through is valid, while also recognizing that you’re responsible for those feelings.  Seek support from friends and family, and find a trans-affirmative therapist who can help you take care of yourself throughout this process. Giving yourself the space to process your emotional reactions to your loved one’s transition will also help you be a better support to them, and will ultimately likely strengthen your relationship.

5. Advocate for the transgender community

Transgender people, while thankfully gaining in visibility and political support, also continue to experience immense amounts of systemic and interpersonal violence and oppression. Your loved one may now have less legal protections, and are more likely to experience discrimination, harassment, and barriers to adequate health care, employment, housing, and more. It is immensely important that that we fight for the rights of transgender people. But if you haven’t already been a part of this fight for equality, now is a good time to start. Show your loved one that you care about the systemic inequalities they may now face by educating yourself on policies and other challenges affecting trans people. Show up at rallies, write your legislators, speak out, and stand up in support of the transgender community.

Resources: Know Your Rights and Supporting the Transgender People In Your Life

Gender Spectrum, which provides resources and support for transgender children, teens, and their families

Gender Unicorn, the much beloved unicorn that helps us understand the spectrum and fluidity of gender and sexuality


Grief Counseling - What Happens in the First Session?

Grief Counseling

By: Peggy Burns, MA, LPC

In my first blog, I wrote about Grief Counseling and when the right time is to make an appointment to see a counselor. Now I would like to write about what happens when you do make that appointment.

The very first thing to do is congratulate yourself. It’s a big step, and it took courage to get here. Grief and loss are universal, but what makes it unique is the person going through the loss of a loved one, the break up of a marriage, or another life changing event.

Your grief is yours alone. If this is your first time seeing a counselor, you may not know what to expect or what is expected of you. Start from the point at which you are right now. Feel the grief that you are holding right now and just talk, let it spill out like a fountain. As a therapist, I want to offer a calm, open, and nurturing place for you to be yourself and talk about whatever brings you in that day.

There are a few things that will happen during your session. You may cry the entire time you are there, or you may not cry at all. It’s the beginning of a new day, a small step that will lead to bigger steps. It may sound cliché, but it’s true.

At first it will feel like everything is all mixed up and out of order, and the words and stories sometimes don’t make a lot of won’t and that’s ok. There is no right or wrong way to say things in therapy. Just let the pain come out and feel all the power it will give you by releasing your thoughts and feelings.

There is no short cut for grief. I encourage you to be as open as possible in your sessions and go with the pain it brings. I know this sounds a little scary......what does it mean to go with the pain? For me it means when the saddest part of you feels like there’s a hole in your heart and the pain is deep within; just let it come out.  Sit with the pain, not by rushing through the emotions, but by letting yourself feel sad, angry, or whatever it is at that moment.  You can talk about how sad it makes you feel, how it hurts to think of your loved one, or you can cry and let the tears fall. If you don’t, it will keep coming back and creeping into your life unexpectedly; it will not just go away.

In the first couple of sessions, the therapist will most likely mention the stages of grief. It is probably something you are familiar with. Some of the most common ones are the Kubler-Ross' stages, also known as "The Five Stages of Grief," or Worden’s Task-Based Model. Whatever works for you is the best one.   It also helps normalize what you are going through by reading about the stages and knowing that everyone will go through these in their own time.

On a personal note, I did not feel anger in the order it was listed when my sister died, and it showed up much later when my daughter died. I was so mad at my sister for not being here to help me grieve for my daughter, and I was surprised when I felt this emotion. I had to go back and re-read the steps. It helped me see that the stages don’t always have to be in order, as emotions come at their own will.  

I want to congratulate you on reaching out to a grief counselor and letting the healing begin. I hope you will take your time and listen to your heart. You will begin to feel relief with each session.

Yoga for Anxiety, Part 3: The Poses

By: Laura Kacere, MA, LPC

Yoga asana is one of the 8 limbs of yoga, and refers to the physical poses. While most of the other limbs of yoga focus on meditation, it can often be difficult to calm the mind while the body holds anxious or stressed energy. In a yoga practice, the poses are often used with the intention of energizing or calming the body first in order to set the stage for the deep focus of meditation.

Yoga poses are able to have a deep effect on the body’s relationship to the mind and to emotional balance. They have shown to decrease physiological arousal, reduce heart rate and blood pressure, and ease respiration. They also increase heart rate variability, which shows the body’s ability to respond to stress in a healthy way.

Setting time aside to practice yoga can be enormously helpful in reconnecting yourself, tuning into your body’s needs, and decreasing your anxious thoughts and sensations.

The poses that tend to be most effective for reducing anxiety are also the most calming, and can be beneficial to do in the evening, especially if you struggle with racing thoughts and anxious energy as you wind down to go to sleep. You may notice, however, that when you try these slower poses, your anxious mind races. This can be the perfect moment to practice breathing and mindfulness, explored in my previous posts. You may also find that a more active and faster-paced yoga practice works better for you, and that’s okay.  There are many different ways to practice the physical poses of yoga, so explore different yoga styles and see what works for you. Just make sure to continue to practice breathe awareness and mindfulness as you move through the poses.

As with any kind of physical movement, consult your doctor if you’re unsure about doing these poses, or attend a yoga studio in your area to get assistance from a trained instructor. Listen to your body, and if any of these poses cause discomfort or pain, or you feel lightheaded or out of breath, move out of the pose immediately. If you are pregnant, consult your doctor before beginning this practice, and consider taking a pre-natal yoga class in order to know which poses are most beneficial for you.

Seated forward fold in a chair

Do this forward fold in a chair, like at your desk or at a table. Doing the pose seated, as opposed to standing (described in the next section) can be a safer way to practice if you have back problems, or have tight hamstrings, and is accessible to everyone, regardless of your flexibility level. It can also be a great pose to do while at work or school during the day, when you feel stressed or anxious. This pose can be energizing as it reverses the blood flow to your head, yet promotes deep relaxation by allowing your spine to lengthen and your neck and shoulders to relax.

Sit toward the edge of your chair with your legs in front of you, knees bent, and your feet firmly planted on the floor. Start with your hands on your knees, and take a slow, long inhale through the nose. As you exhale, move your hands forward and down your legs, allowing your belly to come forward toward your thighs. Keep your seat in the chair and your feet on the ground as you move your hands to your ankles or the ground, and allow your head to relax and hang over the knees. Relax your neck and shoulders, and breath slowly through the nose, allowing the spine to lengthen, and the head to hang heavy. You might even close your eyes. Stay here for a few breaths, and when you’re ready to come out, rise back up as slowly as you can, staying firmly grounded in the feet, and allowing your head to come up last. Take a few deep breaths once you rise back up to your seat, and notice any changes in the body and mind.

Standing forward fold

For a deeper stretch in the legs, try this pose standing.  Start with your feet firmly rooted on the floor and hips distance apart. Bend your knees slightly, fold forward at your hips and bring your torso slowly down toward your legs. If balance is difficult here, place your hand on a chair or a wall as you come forward into the fold. Make sure to keep the legs slightly bent, at least in beginning, so that you don’t stretch too deeply in the lower back.

Bring a little more weight into the heels, as it is natural to move weight forward into the torso when folding forward. With the feet rooted down, allow the neck and head to relax. If you feel steady, bring your hands to opposite elbows and rock gently from side to side. Allow the spine and chest to lengthen as you inhale and exhale slowly through the nose. If it feels okay, you can start to straighten the legs. Allow the crown of the head to point down toward the ground as you lengthen and soften the spine with each breath.

To come out of the fold, release the arms and root the feet down into the ground, knees slightly bent, as you very slowly rise up. If you move too quickly, you may find yourself with a headache, so rise up as slowly as you can, and take a deep full breath once you’re back to standing.

Legs-Up-The-Wall pose

This is my favorite pose, and is a great one to do at night before bed. It takes very little work or energy, and yet has tremendous benefits; it is said to be good not only for stress and anxiety, but also for insomnia, headaches, lower-back pain, and menstrual cramps. Where the forward folds increase blood circulation to the head and torso, this pose inverts our legs and pelvis, energizing and refreshing those areas of the body.

Start by sitting on the floor next to a sturdy wall. Sit close enough that you’re seated almost right up against the wall, and then with one smooth movement, swing the legs up against the wall as you bring your back to the floor. Your body should make a right angle now, with your seat against the wall, or a few inches away, your legs vertical, and souls of the feet facing the ceiling. Your back, shoulders, and head should be completely supported by the ground so that you can completely relax. There are ways to modify this pose with pillows, blankets, and even a chair if you would like more support. If you start to experience any pain or tingling in your legs or knees, come out of the pose. But if you feel comfortable, you can stay in this pose for 5-8 minutes. Try practicing mindfulness in this pose, allowing the body to relax and the mind to be still.

When you’re ready to get out of the pose, bring your knees into your torso and gently roll to one side. Stay here for a few breaths, and then use both hands to push yourself up to a seat.

Child’s pose

This pose is one that can generate feelings of safety and groundedness, and is one of the most commonly used poses for anxiety. Start by coming to the floor on your hands and knees, with your toes un-tucked and knees slightly apart. Sit back onto your heels. If this is uncomfortable for your knees, you can bring a blanket in between your thighs and shins. You can also place a long pillow under the torso and beneath your seat for even more support in this pose.

Walk your hands forward and bring your forehead down to the ground or to a blanket. You can keep your arms stretched out in front of you, or bring them by your side with the tops of your hands on the ground by your heels. Breathe slowly and deeply through your nose and relax into the pose.  Let your spine stretch with this poses, allowing your back to act like a shell that feels protective and safe. Stay in the pose for a minute or two, as feels comfortable.

Tree pose

Balance requires concentration, focus, and a lot of awareness of your body in space, which can often allow you to let go of any other anxious chatter going on in your head. It can be easy in balancing poses to get frustrated with yourself when it gets hard. Tree pose is one of the most commonly-practiced standing balance poses. See if you can try this pose without judgment; if you fall out of the pose, notice the thoughts that might try to tell you you’re not doing well. See if you can let those thoughts go, and gently move yourself back into the pose.

Start by standing with your feet hip distance apart and pressing firmly into the ground. Before beginning a standing balance pose, I often lift all 10 toes off the ground and stretch them wide before placing them back on the ground, attempting to take as much floor space as possible. Notice the support of the ground beneath your feet, and take a few slow breaths here to establish balance. Then slowly lift your left knee, bringing your left foot off the ground, and turn your left knee out, opening your hip. Rest the soul of your left foot either just below the right knee or on the inner right thigh. Your right thigh can then push back, engaging the strength of right leg by lifting the kneecap if you can.

Bring your hands, palms together, at your heart, and bring your gaze to one thing in front of you that isn’t moving. Keep your visual focus on this one thing, and notice if you’ve stopped breathing. Take a few breaths in this pose. When you’re ready to come down, gently lower your left leg, and bring your foot back to the ground, toes facing forward. Take a long slow breath here before switching to the other leg.

For more poses for anxiety, explore this great list of poses on Yoga Journal.

Yoga for Anxiety, Part 2: The Breath

By: Laura Kacere, MA, LPC

Noticing our breath goes hand-in-hand with mindfulness, which I spoke about it Part 1 of this blog. In fact, intentionally changing the way we breathe is, some would say, at the core of a physical yoga practice. Breathing is also an incredibly effective strategy for managing anxiety.

When you experience anxiety, you may find that your breath moves very quickly, with short and shallow breaths, or you may find yourself holding your breath, particularly during moments of increased tension. The way we breathe, in fact, has significant effects on our emotional and physical wellbeing. Shallow, irregular breathing can increase our heart rate and raise our blood pressure, while causing our mind to speed up. When our breath is full and regulated, our blood pressure and heart rates lower, balancing the nervous system and calming the mind. Long, slow exhales, in particular, stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which is the part of the nervous system that prepares our body for rest.  

[A quick disclaimer: when doing breathing techniques, it is important to first consult a doctor if you have any breathing issues, like asthma. Take breath practices slow, especially if you’re new to them, and if you notice yourself becoming short of breath or lightheaded at any time, or you find yourself in any kind of pain, stop immediately and return to your normal breathing pattern.]

When you feel ready to try this practice, find a quiet place where you can sit comfortably or lay on the floor. Start by gently noticing where your breath is at this moment. Bringing some mindfulness toward your breath – keep a gentle awareness on how it feels and sounds, and just be curious about the places where you may be more open, or more tight and tense. Are you taking short, shallow breathes? How relaxed or tense do you feel, and where do you feel it? Is there a tightness in your chest? Are there places where you might be holding tension that are making it difficult for you to breathe smoothly and fully? Again, just notice what it happens in your body, without judgment. Perhaps you notice your body changing as you bring your awareness to it. Often when we bring our awareness to particular parts of the body where we store tension, we begin to automatically relax those spots.  

Breathing in and out through your nose, see if you can now intentionally soften parts of the face that may be holding tension. Now relax your shoulders, your chest, and your abdomen. If you’re having a difficulty time relaxing them on cue, try this: tighten the skin on your forehead before relaxing it, squeeze your eyes shut before softening them and so on for every part of the body as you move from head to toe, intentionally tightening, and then softening every muscle. Continue to breath as you do so, in and out through the nose.

Now that your body is a bit more relaxed, start to count the length of your inhales and exhales, keeping the breath through the nose if you can. Count for a few rounds of breath, and once you have a good idea of the general length of each, see if you slow down your exhales by a count of 1 (so if you typically exhaled to a count of 4, try exhaling to a count of 5). Keep the exhales longer than the inhales, make sure to breath all the way in at the top of your exhale before slowly extending and releasing the breath out on the exhale. Continue to do this over a few more breath cycles, at whatever pace feels right for you. When you’re ready, return to your normal breathing, and see if you notice any differences in your body and your mind. Allow yourself to sit in the effects of this practice before moving to something else.

If you felt comfortable doing this, you can continue to explore other breath practices, like 2-to-1 breathing and alternate nostril breathing when you’re ready. Breath practices like this one can greatly increase your emotional balance, and can be particularly helpful in moments of anxiety and stress to slow down the mind and bring you into your body and the present moment.

To read more about breath practices for anxiety, I recommend Bo Forbes’ book, Yoga for Emotional Balance. And stay tuned for Part 3 of Yoga for Anxiety, where we’ll explore the asana, or poses, of yoga that can be most helpful for managing your anxiety.


Yoga For Anxiety, Part 1: Mindfulness

By: Laura Kacere, MA, LPC

You don’t have to be able to touch your toes to receive the benefits of this 5,000 year old practice. In fact, while yoga tends to be considered a form of physical exercise in the U.S., yoga has always been, at its core, a mental and spiritual practice, with the bulk of the work taking place in the mind. And it’s good for your mental health: increasing research is showing the benefits of yoga in relieving stress and anxiety, as well as depression, post-traumatic stress, and more.

The three parts of this series will include the introductory parts of yoga: mindfulness, breathing, and movement. Although they can each be challenging in their own way, they are also accessible to most people. Mindfulness, or present moment awareness, is one thing you can start practicing right now, alongside psychotherapy, to help manage your anxiety.

We hear the word mindfulness in many different contexts these days, so much so that it may be confusing to pin down what it actually means. Mindfulness expert Jon Kabat-Zinn’s definition is well regarded, and I think, easiest to understand: Mindfulness simply means “paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, and without judgment, to the present moment.”

Sounds simple enough, right? But in today’s world of technology, we often find more ways to distract ourselves from the present moment than to actually tune into it. It can be even harder for those struggling with anxiety – when you experience anxiety, you may find yourself ruminating over events of the past, or worrying about potential events in the future. Bringing your awareness to the present moment, even just for a few minutes, may feel counter to your typical patterns (in a good way!) and can be incredibly beneficial. It can feel a bit weird at first, but see if can try this practice of bringing your awareness to this moment here in front of you.

Start by taking a moment and connecting with your senses. It can be as simple as noticing the colors of the trees as you walk down the sidewalk, or noticing the feeling of the hot water on your hands as you wash dishes, and breathing in a smell that you enjoy...anything to bring you fully into this moment right here.

The next step is to try this present moment awareness with your thoughts and feelings – noticing, without judgment, a rising feeling of sadness, frustration, joy, or worried thoughts. By recognizing these thoughts and feelings as they arise, you can start to separate from them a bit, and even allow them to pass you by, or flow through you like a wave, or float away like leaves flowing down a stream. You are not your thoughts, you are not your feelings, but it is okay to have them. This is often the hardest part – the non-judgment. Can you notice those thoughts and feelings without criticizing yourself for having them? Or perhaps just notice that critical voice, without identifying with it? Can you even introduce some gentle self-compassion for yourself alongside your awareness?

When it comes to the practice of mindfulness, especially mindfulness meditation, the most common thing I hear people say is, “I’m not doing this right.” Be patient with yourself. You will, inevitably, get caught up in a past moment, a thought, a feeling, a storyline – the point is not to not have these thoughts, but to gently bring yourself back to the present moment each time you notice them, to let it move on and begin again.

Mindfulness is an active and lifelong practice, not something you can master or achieve. But over time, with patient practice, mindfulness creates space to let go of our tight hold on our worries and thoughts, as well as of the constant distractions and avoidance strategies we use to keep ourselves out of the present moment, and it brings us into it. As scary as the present moment can seem, when we meet it head on, just as it is, we may find that we stop fighting with it, arguing with our thoughts and emotions. When we stop trying to control everything, we can start to build acceptance, and with acceptance, you may find that you’re better able to soften and open up to the beauty of the moment right in front you.

Learn more about mindfulness in Jon Kabat Zinn’s book, Wherever You Go, There You Are and explore Kristen Neff’s mindful self-compassion exercises here.  And stay tuned for Part 2 of Yoga for Anxiety: the Breath.

Grief Counseling – Take your time…...but how long is too long?

By: Peggy Burns, MA, LPC

Many, if not all of us, have experienced grief in our lifetime. The baby boomers most likely have experienced the loss of one or both of their parents by this time and perhaps even a sibling. I am one of those baby boomers who have lost both parents and two siblings.

The loss of a loved one is like no other experience, it’s devastating and heartbreaking. You may think you will never feel the same, and that's true, but you won’t always feel as bad as you do when it happened. 

Is There a Time Frame for Grieving?

Although there are well-recognized “stages of grief,” you may not go through them in order and you many even go backwards and feel anger again, for instance, or resignation, only to start all over again.   

Grieving is personal and the time frame varies from a year to two, perhaps longer. I say two years only because if you are still grieving like you did when you first experienced the loss, then it may be time to seek grief counseling. 

How Might Grief Counseling Help?

Grief counseling isn’t that different from other counseling. It is a forum to express your feelings, tell the counselor that you are still sad, still miss your loved one, and be able to talk about him or her. It’s a place where you can think about how to move forward with more clarity, strength, and understanding of how you are being affected by this loss in your life and what that means for your future.  

A person-centered approach to grief counseling offers a supportive and empathic relationship where you can feel safe, and offers unconditional positive acceptance as you struggle with your feelings of grief. Often times the person you are mourning is the person you have counted on as emotional support, and counseling can help supply a little of that missing support.

I find that one of the biggest questions is “What could I have done to prevent it from happening?” In most circumstances, there was nothing that you could have done to stop it from happening. Taking the personalization out of the picture is a necessary step and talking through these emotions will help with that process.

Grieving is also Active, Not Just Talking

The approach I like to use is based on Worden’s task-based model, which sees mourning as an active process that involves four tasks:

  • Accepting the reality of the loss;

  • Experiencing the reality of the loss;

  • Adjusting to the world without the deceased; And

  • Finding an enduring connection with the deceased in the midst of embarking on a new life.

These four tasks time – your own time. Grief is a journey that people are reluctant to take because in order to change grief, you must experience the sadness and pain of loss. It is not a road one likes to travel down alone.

It seems like an impossible task at the beginning, but with time, it will start to happen. If it doesn’t or you feel stuck in one of the tasks for too long, then maybe it is time to seek a counselor.


The Power of Vulnerability

By: Emily Franchi: Posted on Tuesday, September 27, 2016 12:43 PM

The presence of a strong social support network has been proven to be vital to maintaining physical and mental health. Positive social support can help increase resiliency to stress and protect against trauma-related psychological difficulties. Research has shown that relationships can be strengthened and provide us with the greatest sense of fulfilment through the practice of vulnerability. 

Dr. Brené Brown has spent much of her career studying the power of vulnerability and why many of us shy away from being vulnerable with our loved ones and close friends. She highlights shame and the fear of being perceived by others as weak or as a burden as key forces driving our avoidance of vulnerability. In a sense, we block vulnerability in an effort to protect ourselves from disappointment and grief. However, Dr. Brown’s research has found that asking our loved ones for help and support during times of need actually fosters love, trust, and connectedness in relationships. 

Through her interviews with hundreds of individuals, she has found that allowing ourselves to be vulnerable and open in our relationships, cultivates joy, belongingness, and an ability to live more authentically. Dr. Brown uses the word, “wholehearted,” to describe people living in a place of vulnerability. Wholeheartedness, she claims, is gained through a practice of gratitude, empathy, and a willingness to seek help and communicate openly in our most important relationships. Please watch the videos below to learn more about Dr. Brown’s research on vulnerability.

Redefining, Accepting and Creating Space for Failure

By: Emily Franchi: Posted on Wednesday, April 13, 2016 10:17 PM

     Adolescence and early adulthood mark a period of life when individuals face the challenge of creating their own identities and experimenting in new social groups, occupational roles and changing environments. Today’s youths have the added pressure of comparing their own lives, relationships and successes to the idealized and curated online personas found on social media profiles. This unrealistic version of someone else’s life fosters a drive towards perfectionism and a fear of failure that can negatively affect motivation, happiness and satisfaction as individuals traverse an already challenging period of life. 

     With this in mind, it’s important to teach the teenagers and young adults in our lives to understand the benefits of failure, and, more importantly, the difference between failing and being a failure. To fail at a project or activity means to have put forward one’s best effort towards accomplishing a goal. Putting forth that effort is an accomplishment in and of itself. There is a significant difference between failing and being a failure. Failure is inevitable, and creates space for an individual to grow and to learn new ways of thinking and approaching a problem in the future. It does not mean that one “is a failure.” To “be a failure” is but a mindset; it blocks creativity and the road to success by creating a voice within ourselves that tells us to stop trying. The most important lesson one can learn as a young adult is how to move forward from failure, accepting it as a lesson learned and an opportunity to try again.