A Journey Towards Healing After Loss

Loss looks different for everyone and grieving a loss is as unique as our DNA. There is no right or wrong way to do it. Here in 2020, we are all collectively grieving so much– a sense of normalcy, routine, vacations, income, lives taken by COVID-19 and police brutality. For couples, their hopes and dreams of getting married this year have been taken away. For teens and young adults, they have lost their graduation ceremonies, proms and expectations for what college was supposed to look like. For others, they are dealing with their own personal losses on top of what is going on in the world: death of a pet or loved one, divorce, miscarriage, and cancelled IVF cycles.

When there is already so much loss and grief in the world, it is easy to compare your own grief to that of others. To feel like your grief is not as big or important. But grief and loss are not a competition. Your grief is just as valid as someone else’s. So how do we embark on this journey to healing when the world is such a dark and heavy place?

It is important to note that I say journey because there is not an end goal or destination when it comes to grief. Most often, individuals learn how to carry their grief with them every day. It does not simply go away. Loss is something you learn to live with. As Glennon Doyle says in her book Untamed, “Grief is a cocoon from which we emerge new.” Therefore the healing journey must be one that helps you not only pick up the pieces, but accept that they will look completely different than they did before.

Support and Communication– Having a support system and communicating with them is key when grieving– because trust me, it is easy to feel like you are all alone on grief island. You really cannot have support without communication when it comes to grief. While your loved ones may want to be there for you, they might not know how. They are not mind-readers nor should you expect them to be. It is up to you to communicate your needs to them so they understand how to be of support. Because grief changes you, be prepared for relationships and friendships to also be forever changed after a loss. Some days you may need your space and some days you may want to talk for hours. Both are okay, but important times when you need to set boundaries and express your needs. You may also need a higher level of support than your friends and family can give you. In that case, find a local or online support group to connect with others who are grieving a similar loss or reach out to a therapist.

Reading– Books, articles, blogs and even others’ social media posts can help normalize what you are going through. If reading is not your thing, try listening to a podcast instead (I highly recommend Brené Brown’s podcast with David Kessler on Grief and Finding Meaning). Not only will you feel empowered from learning new information, but you will also feel less alone and isolated. Reading and listening to others’ stories may give you some practical tools for healing. It might even help you see that life will not stay this dark forever, even though it feels like it will.

Journaling– I do not mean your 5th grade diary kind of journaling. Sometimes journaling means writing in all caps how angry at the world you are. Sometimes it means writing down every adjective and emotion you are feeling. Sometimes it is writing a letter to the loved one you lost to feel more connected to them. No matter how you choose to journal, the important thing is that you get your feelings out. By writing out how you feel on paper, you can better process your thoughts and emotions. You may even feel less consumed by them.

Physical activity– Stress, grief, trauma and emotions all manifest in different parts of our bodies. Whether it is our neck, lower back, shoulders, hips, chest or abdomen, our body is always trying to tell us something about how we feel physically and emotionally. That is why it is so important to incorporate some form of physical movement into your day– to move around the stagnant energy in your body. I get it, when we are grieving we often do not feel like leaving the bed all day. Sometimes doing a few gentle stretches can make all the difference in the word. While I always recommend yoga, I know grief can make it almost impossible to want to connect with our body. This is especially true if the grief is related to a trauma or pregnancy loss. Take it slow, be gentle with yourself and do not set too high of expectations. If one day, you are not in the mood for yoga and you feel anger pulsing through your veins, go for a run instead. Get out the physical tension and energy building up in your body however feels right for you in the moment.

Feel your feelings– I saw an Instagram post recently that put this perfectly, “you can’t heal what you do not let yourself feel”. Maybe it is journaling, maybe it is screaming into a pillow or letting yourself cry. Feelings are for feeling and just like our bodies, they are trying to tell us important information. Don’t get me wrong, it is utterly uncomfortable to sit with emotions like anger, hurt, pain and grief. But without these difficult emotions, there would be no happiness and joy either. And just because you feel pain or grief, does not mean that you can’t also feel joy or peace.

If you find yourself grieving today, I challenge you to sit with your feelings for a few moments. Allow yourself to feel whatever your feeling. Breathe into them. Perhaps even meditate on them. Name the emotion. Acknowledge and accept that is how you are feeling– without judgement. Then show yourself some compassion because you are human. Suffering is a part of being human.

Lastly, remember that you are not alone.

— Amanda Vargo is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Registered Yoga Teacher in Oviedo, Florida. She specializes in working with teens and young adults with anxiety, stress, depression, life transitions and low self-esteem. She offers individual therapy, virtual therapy and therapeutic yoga through her practice, Empowered Wellness.

How To Find A Therapist During COVID-19

Maybe you are stressed about finances, your job, or simply finding tiolet paper and necessities. Maybe you are barely keeping it together, balancing working from home and home schooling your children. Maybe you were already anxious and this health crisis has only heightened your symptoms and constant worry. Perhaps you already struggle with feelings of loneliness, isolation and depression and #socialdistancing has increased those emotions for you.

No matter what you may be feeling right now– your feelings are valid and you are not alone. This is no time to put your mental health on the backburner. You might have read endless articles and posts about how to practice self-care at home while you are quarantined. You already know where to find yoga videos, what apps to use for guided meditations, how to keep up your hygeine, get enough sleep and fresh air, as well as limit your intake of news and social media. What happens when that is not enough though? When you are feeling like you need extra support to get through this unbearably challenging time? You are probably wondering how to go about finding a therapist, let alone the right therapist who is offering telehealth sessions. So let’s chat about some places you might go to find support to make sure you and your mental health come out of COVID-19 not only surviving but thriving:

  1. Open Path Psychotherapy Collective is a non-profit directory of therapists that offer sliding scale rates to clients who lack health insurance or whose health insurance doesn’t provide adequate mental health benefits. Therapists listed on their website offer sessions ranging between $30 and $60 (between $30 and $80 for couples and family sessions). This is in comparison to current market rates of $80- $200 per session for self-pay therapy. After searching the directory and finding a therapist you feel is a good fit, you simply pay a lifetime membership of $59 in order to receive the discounted rates.
  2. BetterHelp deems themselves the world’s largest network of online licensed therapists. Whether you are an individual adult, couple or parent looking for counseling for your teen, you can search and be matched with a licensed therapist in your state. BetterHelp online therapists can support clients with a wide range of mental health concerns including stress, depression, anxiety, relationship issues, grief and more. You can also choose how you communicate with your therapist– either through messaging, live phone, video or chat sessions. Per their website, the cost of counseling through BetterHelp ranges from $40 to $70 per week (billed monthly).
  3. Other therapist directories such as Psychology Today, GoodTherapy and Therapy Den all lists licensed and pre-licensed therapists who offer both online and in-person sessions. To find the right therapist for you, you can filter your search by location, specialty, gender, cost or insurance, and of course whether or not they offer telehealth sessions. Most therapists offer free phone consultations so you can chat with them to make sure you are a good fit before scheduling a session.

The bottomline? Don’t let COVID-19 be another barrier to reaching out for support. As cliche as it sounds, it is okay to not be okay. Make your mental health a priority– you deserve it!

  • Amanda Schofield is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Registered Yoga Teacher in Oviedo, Florida offering telehealth therapy. She specializes in working with teens and young adults with anxiety, stress, depression, life transitions and low self-esteem.

Social Media and Teen Self-Esteem

Tweens and teens are spending more and more time on social media apps like TikTok, Instagram, and Snapchat. According to Pew Research Center, 95% of adolescents report owning or having access to a smartphone, and almost 90% report they are online at least several times a day. Even as adults, we use social media as a means to stay connected with our friends, family, and we can’t forget celebrities like Jennifer Aniston– who broke Instagram when she joined! It is human nature to crave connection and inclusion. Teens, especially those part of marginalized groups like the LGBTQ+ community, find comfort in connecting with others alike near and far via social media.

However, there are several downsides to social media use during adolescence. Think about how much your life as a teenager revolved around socializing. Were you invited to Amy’s party on Saturday? Did you sit with the “cool kids” at the lunch table? Social status and being included matters more than anything else at this very vulnerable age in life– when a lot of mental health concerns have their onset.

So let’s talk about the 3 main ways teen social media use impacts their mental wellness and how we can empower them to increase their self-esteem!

The Comparison Trap: The majority of social media posts are simply a highlight reel of our peer’s accomplishments and most exciting or stylish moments. Yet, this does not stop us from comparing our lives to that of everyone else’s. From fashion choices to appearances, it is so easy to fall into a pattern of negative self-talk when we are bombarded 24/7 with what everyone else wants us to see.

Focusing on Likes: Social media “likes” have quickly become the new popularity contest. This means that teens are equating their self-worth to how many likes they get on a selfie or followers they have. The desire to feel liked, attractive and worthy of love or attention causes teens to make choices such as using filters, altering their appearance, and even engaging in risky behaviors such as interacting with strangers. Not to mention the stress and anxiety that comes along with getting that perfect pose or selfie.

Face-to-Face Interaction: The more time that your teen spends on social media, the less time they will spend interacting with their peers face-to-face. Without this precious face-to-face time, teens are losing out on building vital social and communication skills that they will need to excel in college and beyond. Communication in person looks and feels a whole lot different than on the internet. Therefore, in order for them to feel their most confident in a variety of social situations, it is important for them to practice assertive communication skills on a regular basis.

Tips for helping to build self-esteem in teens and adolescents:

  • Limit and monitor their social media use.
  • Encourage them to follow inspiring accounts or role models not just influencers.
  • Make sure they set aside specific time to interact with peers in a face-to-face setting.
  • Get them involved in extracurricular activities such as theatre, art, or sports.
  • Set a good example! Put your own phone down and work on being more present.
  • Practice using daily positive affirmations with them to combat negative self-talk.
  • Focus on giving them positive praise on their personality traits and accomplishments versus appearance.

The take away? Your teen will follow in your footsteps. If you are constantly on your phone or comparing your life and appearance to others– so will they. They may resist these changes at first, but change takes time and consistency! If you are worried about your teen’s mental health and noticing a change in their mood or behavior, reach out to a professional for support. You do not have to deal with these concerns on your own.

  • Amanda Schofield is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Registered Yoga Teacher in Oviedo, Florida. She specializes in working with teens and young women with anxiety, stress, depression, life transitions and low self-esteem.