Friday, December 11, 2020

The intersection of Grief and Guilt

by Kim Vargas, LCSW

It is certainly not surprising that a significant amount of the therapeutic work I am currently doing with clients revolves around working on feelings of loss. The pandemic has triggered intense experiences of grief. People are grieving the loss of loved ones who have died of COVID. They are grieving deaths unrelated to COVID, but where COVID made it impossible to attend hospital stays and funerals. They are grieving the loss of jobs and schools and connections. They are grieving the loss of normalcy.

It is important to note that grief can be cumulative. In 2001, when I worked with survivors of the Pentagon terrorist attack, I was amazed by how many people talked about losses completely unrelated to recent events. I heard about lost siblings, partners, and close friends who had died years before. It turned out that the grief related to the recent event was significant in itself, but that it also provoked thoughts and feelings about previous losses. The combination sent people reeling. The same is true today. Those processing losses brought about by COVID may also be suddenly inundated by sadness and grief from earlier bereavement. If not known and understood, this can feel terrifying.

While grief alone is excruciating, many of these same people also experience guilt. For some, this guilt is a relatively small piece of the bigger picture. For others, the guilt is crushing and overwhelming, and sometimes overshadows the grief itself.

Prior to COVID’s arrival, I had already been exploring this intersection of guilt and grief in my clients’ lives. I initially found it puzzling that it was such a universal part of grief to feel guilty. I started to unpack what my clients meant when they said “I feel so bad” after a major loss. Time after time, with deeper examination, what initially appeared to be guilt was often actually another manifestation of intense grief.

Part of this comes from the notion that grief is such a confusing, disempowering feeling, that people may seek to better understand it by inserting themselves into the equation. Guilt gives us the false sense that we could have controlled something that was truly out of our control. For many people, disempowerment feels worse than almost anything else, and can be terrifying.

Often the guilt is irrational and truly has little or nothing to do with the actual loss. Sometimes it seems easier to feel guilt that to sit in the horror of the loss. Focusing on our own role in the loss also distances us from the actual loss feelings.  In the end, of course, this only serves to make us feel worse. However, we are rarely aware in the moment of this progression, and the loss and guilt sometimes meld together until it feels like we are carrying a million pounds of feelings.

I encourage my clients to deeply consider the role of guilt. Feeling guilty about something can be useful; it may make us stop a behavior, or be less likely to do the same thing in the future. But beyond guilt’s ability to inspire us to make changes, it rarely serves a purpose. For that reason, I suggest that clients consider how they can empower themselves, by first thinking through what specifically they feel badly about. When we unpack the bad feelings, what often comes to the surface is a more pure form of grief. And while that grief can be agonizing, it is imperative to the healing process to really name and understand the genuine emotion.

Kim Vargas, LCSW provides therapy to individuals, couples, and groups. Kim works with her clients to address a variety of issues, including depression, anxiety, grief, self esteem, and relationships. She also specializes in helping moms and dads to navigate postpartum issues and parenting. To learn more or schedule an appointment, contact Kim at kimvargastherapy@gmail.com or 267-568-7846.


Steps to walk yourself through grief-related guilt


by Kim Vargas, LCSW

Name the feeling. Do not allow yourself to just call it guilt without really digging deep to determine whether you believe you actually have something legitimate that you feel you did wrong. Talk to someone you trust about these feelings.

Acknowledge cumulative grief if applicable. Ask yourself whether some of the grief/guilt might be related to a previous loss. If so, be mindful of the cumulative effect of the grief.  Naming and assigning the grief to its separate roots can be helpful.

Address any legitimate guilt. If you do determine that you have done something wrong, try to find ways to make amends or plan to behave differently in the future. Remind yourself that you cannot change the past, but you can take control of the future.

Accept the sadness. Once you have acknowledged grief as the primary emotion, allow yourself to feel the sadness. Sometimes it is better to sit in the pain than to try to banish it without examination. It can be especially helpful to process these feelings with a trusted individual.

Practice self care and self compassion. Grief takes a tremendous toll on people. In order to keep functioning, it is vital to take care of yourself. In addition, having compassion for oneself makes the process easier. There may be times when the grief is crushing, and other times when it feels more manageable. Giving yourself grace during the hardest times will encourage healing.

Empower yourself. Given that part of the guilt may be a dysfunctional way to feel more in control, it is useful to find healthy ways to empower yourself. This may or may not be related to the grief itself. In some cases, finding empowerment in any realm of one’s life can be incredibly beneficial. This may mean a major life shift, but more often takes the form of something in the moment. Accomplishing a task, cleaning your house, or going out for a run are small examples that may have a large impact.


For Grief

by John O’Donohue (From To Bless the Space Between Us)

 

When you lose someone you love,

Your life becomes strange,

The ground beneath you gets fragile,

Your thoughts make your eyes unsure;

And some dead echo drags your voice down

Where words have no confidence.

 

Your heart has grown heavy with loss;

And though this loss has wounded others too,

No one knows what has been taken from you

When the silence of absence deepens.

 

Flickers of guilt kindle regret

For all that was left unsaid or undone.

 

There are days when you wake up happy;

Again inside the fullness of life,

Until the moment breaks

And you are thrown back

Onto the black tide of loss.

 

Days when you have your heart back,

You are able to function well

Until in the middle of work or encounter,

Suddenly with no warning,

You are ambushed by grief.

 

It becomes hard to trust yourself.

All you can depend on now is that

Sorrow will remain faithful to itself.

More than you, it knows its way

And will find the right time

To pull and pull the rope of grief

Until that coiled hill of tears

Has reduced to its last drop.

 

Gradually, you will learn acquaintance

With the invisible form of your departed;

And when the work of grief is done,

The wound of loss will heal

And you will have learned

To wean your eyes

From that gap in the air

And be able to enter the hearth

In your soul where your loved one

Has awaited your return

All the time.

 

A Fire In The Head

 by Dean Solon

words are empty.
we infuse them with grace
and with grit.
they have no home
but what we give them.

i consider this,
i contemplate this.
what arises 
is grace,
an experience of who i was
before i was born
into this strange and awkward world.

when i was born,
i came into a light that welcomed me
as another stranger 
in a strange land.
my eyes opened to a terrain
brand new
and oddly familiar,
a land that breathed life
into my recently formed lungs.

i was born to be here,
blown by the winds of seeming chance
that have transfigured as i have grown older
to be something else:
an essence,
a vitality of living matter
infused with purpose and passion
to be an originality of form
and to be a singularity of spirit,
one soul among billions
teeming, streaming
on the planet.

i remember no other home 
but this one we call earth.
yet here I am
wondering out loud:
what brought me to this galaxy,
what took hold of me
to bring me here
and make these footprints 
in these sands of time and place

The Inner Ocean #7

 By Dean Solon


another episode of the ocean clearing the synapses,
washing clean the stray thought forms that pop up.
the waves bringing the good news:
my head has been emptied 
again.

the excellent practice of witnessing what is present
in the space between thoughts
is rendered nearly obsolete:
where the brain is silenced
there is no space to be filled...
when the brain is silenced 
all there is is the fullness of timeless time...

i am noticing the sun beginning
it’s daily descent into nothingness.
it does so with a big show
of fantastical shifting colors,
of daring drops toward the horizon,
of tricking me into thinking it has gone somewhere
when it is here, always here,
a shining light presence
in the boundlessness of our inner ocean worlds.


Sunday, November 15, 2020

Color Visualization Exercise to Release Tension

by Kathleen Krol, MSS, LCSW, RPT-S

 

Scan your body beginning with your head down to your feet and notice if there is any tension anywhere. If there is, bring your open-hearted curiosity to it. Allow yourself think of the area of tension as a color. Invite yourself to notice if the tension has a shape, texture, and temperature to it as well. Next think of a color you like that makes you feel calm and relaxed. Does this color have a shape, texture, and temperature? Imagine this color coming in through the top of your head like rays of light or mist and going to the spot of tension. Imagine this color permeating around the area of tension and bringing in calm, softening the spot of tension, perhaps maker it smaller. You may want to breathe gently as you continue to allow the calming color to soften the tension.

 

Another variation of this exercise is to imagine the tension is a color you don’t like. As you take a breath in, then breathe out, imagine you are releasing the color along with the tension. With each exhale, you are blowing out the tension and this color. Now imagine a color that you do like, that makes you feel relaxed and calm. As you breath in, imagine that color coming in with your breath and think “calm”. Continue to exhale, saying “letting go of tension” silently in your mind each time you breath out. Imagine more of the calm color entering your body as you slowly breathe in and relax.

 

Letting Go and Embracing Hope

by Kathleen Krol, MSS, LCSW, RPT-S

 

Traditionally, December is a time of looking back at the highlights of the past year, joining in varied holiday and spiritual celebrations and waiting in anticipation of what the new year will bring. This December, like most of 2020, will be different. For many, the lows may have overshadowed the highs, holiday and spiritual gatherings may be smaller with the absence of significant others, and individuals may be cautious and apprehensive about what the new year brings, rather than hopeful. So how does one let go of the negativity of 2020, shift energy to embrace the potential for positive, and move forward into 2021 with hope?

 

Letting go does not necessarily mean forgetting. Instead, it is about releasing the negative energy that can cling to us. Letting go is acceptance of the things we did not have control of this past year: circumstances, the world, others. Letting go is more about choosing how we respond and whether we choose to hold tight to negative energy or release it and make space for new energy. Letting go is a process and can have many paths.

 

The process of letting go and shifting your energy might start with a check-in (both physically and mentally) when there are situations or personal interactions which trigger a “hot spot.” A “hot spot” can be a negative or uncomfortable emotion, thought or body sensation. If you have been in survival mode this past year, you may not have had time to process your frustration, anger, sadness, and other feelings. What would enable you to experience your feelings?

 

Possibilities may include talking it out, journaling, movement, music, art, expressing through writing poetry or a song. Once you have allowed yourself to experience and express the emotion, then you are more open to letting go of any remaining negative energy. Ritual can be another symbolic way of letting go and moving forward. Writing down what you want to let go of and then releasing it through burning it or ripping it up are two ways. Another idea is to write words or situations on stones and toss them into a creek or river. Name the situation, take a deep breath and as you blow out, toss the stone saying, “I release this” or “I let go of this”.

 

Letting go and transforming the energy from negative to more positive can be through shifting your focus from one of defeat to one of empowerment. Look back at the past year and notice your personal strengths, supports and resources and the strategies that helped you to cope. Acknowledge you made it through your own perseverance and endurance and that you may be stronger than you think. Invite yourself to recognize that this inner strength – and those external resources – will be there for future challenges as well.

 

Moving forward into the new year, you may invite yourself to take each day as it comes. First, be kind to yourself. This past year has taken a lot of emotional and mental energy. Give yourself time for personal reflection and self-care this last month of the year and as we go forward into 2021. Allow time for yourself to replenish your energy, nurturing and caring for yourself first.  Rather than create New Year resolutions in which you may try to compensate for unfinished tasks of the past year, consider aiming for smaller, more doable goals. You might try a daily challenge – such as substituting one healthy snack (like fruit) for a “pandemic comfort food” (like cookies) – rather than setting a loftier goal of losing all the weight you gained during 2020. Maybe you can aim to walk 15 minutes every other day or schedule a long walk weekly, rather than criticizing yourself when you don’t exercise daily. Starting with smaller, more easily achievable goals will give you a boost of confidence, and these small successes are likely to build on themselves.

 

Last, you may want to try replacing apprehension about the future with a sense of curiosity to what the day and year will bring. Aim to be curious as you go about your day, using your senses to bring you into a more full appreciation of things you might normally take for granted. This may include noticing, smelling, feeling, tasting, or touching something new and really experiencing it in the here-and-now. Simple pleasures like the taste of a crisp apple, the warmth of the sun through the window, and the sound of birds chirping can bring delight when we bring our full attention and curiosity. Try to find one new thing each day to truly savor.

 

In little ways, you can be conscious and intentional in letting go, shifting your energy, deepening your focus, and discovering hope as you finish out this year and prepare for the next. Depending on the intensity of your individual circumstances, you may find you are still holding unto something that is challenging to let go of by yourself. If that is the case, be kind to yourself and seek support with friends, family, or a professional. Some burdens are too heavy to carry alone, and you may not be able to let go until you are fully witnessed by someone else. We are here to help.

 

Kathleen Krol is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Registered Play Therapist who works with individuals, children, teens, and families using a family focused and integrative approach to treatment. Areas of expertise include trauma, anxiety, depression, grief/loss, life transitions and adoption and attachment issues. She specializes in EMDR with all ages, Play Therapy, Family Therapy, Sand Tray and Sand Focusing Therapy and Parent Coaching. If you would like to learn more, go to www.kathleenkrol.com or contact her at kasiakrol17@verizon.net or 215-289-3101#1.


Saturday, October 17, 2020

Thriving

by Elizabeth Campbell, MS, LPC, RPT-S

 

During a time of crisis, we often feel as if we are just surviving from one day to the next, sometimes one minute to the next.  We are in a time of unprecedented crisis.  Not only are we experiencing a global pandemic that has lasted 7 months, we are also experiencing a shift of the systemic racism that has plagued our country for centuries being brought to light.  And there is an extremely contentious presidential election that is omnipresent.  The combination of long lasting and intense stress as well as multiple additional factors is enough to put everyone in a place where our stress is outweighing our resources.  In order to not just survive, but thrive during a crisis, I remember the four C’s:  Compassion, Care, Caution, and Comedy.

 

Self-compassion is the foundation and perhaps the most important ingredient in thriving.  We all need some grace right now.  We are mourning, we may be under financial stress, and we certainly have more to digest and worry about right now.  All of these emotions take up a lot of space and leave less room for all of our other life tasks and roles.  I urge you to show yourself some care and compassion for not getting the last load of laundry done or forgetting that thing on your to do list.  It is very, very understandable right now.  Show yourself the love and understanding that you would give you in your most treasured relationships. 

 

Self-care is another essential ingredient in thriving.  It is important to note that yes, self-care includes bubble baths and manicures.  It also includes saying no to things when there is too much on our plate, taking care of our basic needs, and filling up our tank with whatever works the best for us.  It is important to note that often in times of crisis, we return to the comfortable coping skills that most likely were a survival skill in a difficult time in our life.   Examples of these are shutting down, overworking as avoidance, or disconnection from others.  It is completely normal that you may have shifted into some of these old patterns.  But it is also important that we evaluate when negative consequences of a survival skill outweigh the positive.

 

And that leads us to caution.  Remember self-compassion?  It is okay if we are eating a bowl of ice cream every night, have a glass of wine, or are bickering more with our loved ones.  But if that turns into bingeing, substance abuse, or constant conflict, it is important to hold ourselves accountable and seek support in order to get back on track.  A measuring stick for if our means of coping are doing more harm than good is if the negative outcomes outweigh the positive and most importantly, if it is impacting your functioning. 

 

Comedy is my very favorite component of crisis thriving.  This includes seeking levity via tv shows, movies, books, limericks, or whatever get you giggling.  It also encompasses finding joy in your day to day in whatever way you can.   For instance, a gratitude practice, recognizing whatever small thing we are thankful for in the day, can shine joy in the darkest days. 

 

It is important to note that the nature of crisis is that our stress outweighs our resources.  It is a daunting task to try and shift the balance.  If you need support in this, please connect with your network or reach out to us at The Resiliency Center for whatever support can assist you in thriving.

. 

Elizabeth Campbell is a Licensed Profession Counselor who provides empowerment and strength-based support to individuals in personal growth and change.  She specializes in play therapy with children, family therapy, creative counseling for adolescents, and trauma-informed treatment for all ages using an integrative, mindful approach to address the whole individual and promote healing.  .If you would like to connect with Elizabeth, reach out at elizabeth@elizabethcampbellcounseling.com or 610-757-8163 or learn more at www.elizabethcampbellcounseling.com

 

Saturday, October 10, 2020

The Inner Ocean #6

by Dean Solon               

the quiet 
of the ocean’s thunder roar
is a stillpoint, 
a silent space amidst the turbulence
insisted upon to drown out the peace
we can feel and be living with.
the urgency of the waves
pounding upon the shore
is a cascading call to be merciful
in a world intent on
distraction and disturbance.

the quiet 
of the Big Sky
is a blue miracle
with its attendant wispy white companions
a reminder 
of what we fitfully and fortunately remember:
the sacred majesty of creation
and all that is included,
riches too many to be named and numbered,
riches yet to be discovered,
a mystery not to be solved
but a mystery to be savored and shared.    

we like to think we know what we are doing,
we like to believe we have a handle on all of this,
when what we know is life is short,
                                         love is possible,
                                         awe and wonder are exquisite.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Finding Meaning

The following are suggestions to explore ways of finding meaning during this difficult—but temporary —experience of the pandemic:

Focus on the present moment. At this moment, everything is fine; nothing bad is happening to you.  You’re not going hungry.  You have shelter. You’re healthy. List the things around you.  Notice what you see, hear, smell, and taste at this moment.

Express gratitude.  Each day, notice three things you are grateful for.  Pay attention to the little things:  seeing a hummingbird, the taste of a piece of chocolate, a sunny day.

Try to learn something new. Is there a hobby you’ve always wanted to do, an instrument you’d like to play, or a language you’d like to speak?

Help others.  You can make financial donations, deliver food to the needy, send cards to health care workers, or make calls to lonely friends and neighbors.

Are there new activities you could try to give your life meaning?

Choose three activities from the list above that you will do over the next week to create meaning in your life.

You may also want to consider what you would like to continue doing once the pandemic is over. Why does that feel important?

Consider the following:

·      Volunteering one’s time;

·      Giving money to someone in need;

·      Writing out one’s future goals;

·      Expressing gratitude for another’s actions, either written or verbal;

·      Carefully listening to another’s point of view;

·      Confiding in someone about something that is of personal importance; and

·      Persevering valued goals in spite of obstacles.

Redefining Meaning through Challenging Times

by Barbra Danin

Eudaemonia  - eu" ("good") and "daim┼Źn" ("spirit"),a life of activity governed by reason

Ancient Greek philosophers had the leisure to contemplate life’s meaning and engaged in many debates over what determines a good life. According to Aristotle, striving for happiness should not be man’s highest priority; rather, he wrote that one should strive for Eudaimonia, or fulfillment through the process of doing what is purposeful and worthwhile to each individual. This involves well intended action through knowledge that is acquired throughout life experience.

Since the quarantine, many of us find ourselves thinking about our lives in ways we may not have previously had the time or interest in doing. Trends are shifting rapidly as we reevaluate our values and focus more on what holds meaning and priority – Be that quality time with friends and family, healthy living and home cooked meals, discovering nature, creative ventures, or pursuing professional aspirations.

For some, living in small spaces in dense urban areas is no longer attractive, and home sales are spiking in suburban areas with larger properties. Fashion trends are shifting dramatically, with sales of jeans plummeting and leisure wear and Birkenstocks purchases soaring. Walmart’s biggest sellers are self-grooming devices, while lipstick sales have flattened and Amazon’s stock of bread and pasta makers is low. At the same time, fear and anxiety is rising as we struggle with the negative impact of social isolation and uncertainty over what the future holds.

As we continue to face the changing circumstances of the Coronavirus pandemic, how can we assign meaning to these times and respond to the challenges of the moment?  Can we draw from the wisdom of those who experienced adversity in the past? Victor Frankl offers both practical actions and philosophical insight in his book Man’s Search for Meaning.  During his interment at the Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II, Frankl, a psychiatrist, keenly observed his and fellow prisoners’ psychological and behavioral evolution as they lived through the horrors of their imprisonment. He was curious as to how they were coping during that challenging time and what seemed useful to them in efforts to survive.  He noted that those who found resilience appeared to assign their own personal meaning to their experience:

It did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us…….our answers must consist……………in right action and in right conduct…taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and fulfill the tasks it constantly sets for each individual. 

He published the book Man’s Search for Meaning after his liberation. The book presents his theory of Logo therapy (logos=moving), a treatment approach with focus on the future, rather than the past.  Echoing the theory of Eudaimonia, he contends that a search for meaning is the primary motivator of life, and that each of us must continually redefine our meaning for the moment in which we are living, with an emphasis on work and correct action, connecting with others, and accepting circumstances over which we have no control.

For Frankel, what energized him were thoughts of his wife, plans to publish his book, fantasies of a favorite meal…… He observed that those inmates who tried to assign meaning to the experience at the time were able to better tolerate the suffering they underwent than those who became hopeless.

As summer ends and we enter the fall season, we may consider this time as an opportunity to look inward and explore and challenge long held values and beliefs, and to revisit our personal hopes and aspirations towards a life of meaning and purpose for now and for the future.

Barbra Danin, MA, LMFT, is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Clinical Art Therapist, and Certified EMDR Therapist.  She provides individual, couples, and family therapy.  Her specialties include treating children with anxiety, trauma, and behavioral issues – and empowering parents with concrete tools for lasting change. Contact her at (314) 477-8585 or barbradanin@barbradanin.com. Learn more at her website at www.barbradanin.com.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Learning to Say "No!"

by Rachel Kobin

 

There are times when we have to let people down. Maybe your name has been on the volunteer list for years, but which is worse, feeling resentful as you do the job, or letting someone else step up to the plate? Perhaps the task would be skipped or reinvented for the month. Who would judge us harshly for our human frailty?

 

It seems I am the one who judges myself harshly for my human frailty. I have a hard time saying "No." I want to help everyone improve their writing, publish their book, get into the MFA program of their choice, deal with their recent bipolar disorder diagnosis, or figure out how to spell "trivial." Inevitably my desire to help so many people at the same time leaves me overextended. Recently I said I didn't have the energy or time to do something I'd promised I would do, but when no one could take my place, I caved in and did it after all. Don't be like me. Stick to your guns. Say, "No!" Preserve your mental and physical health. You are worthy of such basic kindness.

 

I am worthy of this, too, which is why from this very moment, "No," will flow from my mouth like saliva while I sleep. I said "No" to drugs in the eighties, and endlessly to my parents when I was two, so I'm just going to say no to everything. No, no, no, no, no, no, no! Oh, even typing that is fun. And then, I'll do the work I can and make some people happy. But not everyone, because as I should know by now, it is impossible to make everyone happy all of the time. 

 

Okay, given how much I love what I do, I'm probably not going to say "No" to much that has anything to do with writing or friends who need help spelling a word. But next time I'm exhausted and say I can't do something, I'm not going to back down. I'm going to remember that my refusal is a courageous act of self-care. I invite you to follow my lead.

 

To further bolster your newfound confidence saying "No," I leave you with the words of the infinitely wise band, "They Might be Giants," and their song, "No!" from their album titled, "No!"

 

No is no
No is always no
If they say no, it means a thousand times no

No plus no equals no
All nos lead to no no no

Finger pointing, eyebrows low
Mouth in the shape of the letter O

Pardon me, no!
Excuse me, no!
May I stay?
Can I go?
No, no, no

Do this, no!
Don't do that, no!
Sit, stay,…

 

Rachel Kobin has over twenty years of experience writing in a variety of professional settings. She founded The Philadelphia Writers Workshop in 2011. Though normally found leading creative writing workshops at The Resiliency Center, she currently provides them via video conferencing. She works with writers privately as a coach and editor to help them make their final drafts as brilliant as their original ideas.

 

Creative Self-Expression and Community

by Elizabeth Venart

 

Living during the time of COVID19 is living in an age of uncertainty and grief. Grief for lives lost and also grief for all the big and small losses. The milestones – like birthdays, weddings, graduations, and anniversaries – that we could not celebrate in our usual ways. The annual vacations and parties that just didn’t happen. A myriad of feelings may arise: boredom at the lack of variety, sadness about the loss of normalcy, loneliness, anger, and fear about the future.

 

Artists have long given voice to the challenges faced. But one need not be a bonafide “artist” to benefit from expressing ourselves through creativity. Creative self-expression is our birthright. Young children sing, color, mold playdoh, create rhythms on drums, dance. Expressing ourselves through writing, art-making, music, dance, photography and more provides a meaningful outlet for our emotions and a way to process our experience and give voice to that which we may not know how to say aloud.

 

If you have a regular practice of writing, singing, playing an instrument, or expressing yourself through art, you may have been drawn to create more over the past five months. If you don’t already have a creative practice, get curious about what naturally appeals to you. Maybe you enjoyed painting when you were younger but fell away from it when you started working. Perhaps you have dreamed of writing down the stories of your life – or creating an entirely new universe for a science fiction novel. Maybe you love snapping pictures with your phone already – and think it could be fun to join a group of other photographers to embark on an odyssey of shared learning and adventure.

 

When we come together in community to create, we often connect deeply. The very process of self-expression – and the vulnerability it takes to share our work – can create an atmosphere of intimacy as we recognize the sacredness of shared experience and the universality of our concerns. Local and national groups and interactive programs are listed below. Live online classes in which we have the opportunity to connect with other participants may be the most rewarding choice to help stave off feelings of isolation emblematic of current times.

 

One of the creative practices sustaining me through the pandemic is writing. In April, I discovered the Isolation Journals. They are the brainchild of Suleika Jaouad who believes that “life’s interruptions are invitations to deepen our creative practice.” Collaborating with artists of all disciplines, she responded to the pandemic by creating a journey through 100 days of writing prompts. Readers were encouraged to share their writing in a dedicated Facebook group, and the results were inspiring. The project now has over 100,000 members spread across 100 countries. Her website includes all 100 prompts, featured writing by members, and an invitation to join the community and receive weekly journal prompts for your own wirting. Suleika describes the project as “our living archive of human creativity”, highlighting the project as a place where “stories of vulnerability become stories of resilience and strength that unite us as a community.” It is said that to be a great writer, you must write whatever you most fear writing. Taking risks to be real – and share our rawness with others  – strengthens our capacity to face fears, find our voice, and go deeper still.

 

Creative writing need not be lengthy to be satisfying. Gotham Writers had a “silver linings” contest for the best 19-word story about a silver lining during COVID 19. It is challenging to write a story with only 19 words, but I certainly had fun trying. I shared the contest with friends and family. Not only was the process of writing our “silver lining” stories fun, it gave us an opportunity to connect beyond the routine “how are you?”

 

We are living through a remarkable time in history, and it is unmistakably hard. Listen to yourself and give voice to what lies within. As Bill Moyers said, “Creativity is piercing the mundane to find the marvelous.” May your discoveries delight and surprise you – and foster deepening courage and connection to navigate the days ahead.

 

Elizabeth Venart, LPC, NCC, is the Founder of the Resiliency Center and a Licensed Professional Counselor specializing in working with Highly Sensitive Persons, artists, entrepreneurs, and other therapists. With advanced training in EMDR Therapy and IFS, she supports people in getting to the root of the places where they feel stuck, so they can experience greater joy. A Certified Laughter Yoga teacher, Elizabeth leads weekly zoom laughter classes  and infuses laughter into her work and her life. Learn more by visiting her website.

The Healing Power of Telling Our Stories

by Rachel Kobin of the Philadelphia Writers Workshop

 

When the writers workshops migrated from The Resiliency Center to Zoom in March, I was initially concerned about whether I’d be able to recreate the comfort participants develop from writing in the same room together week after week. Although I always provide participants with the option to use the workshop time as a substance-free escape from reality, the tentacles of the virus had us in its grip. Some expressed their fear and frustration with humor, while others' emotions poured onto their pages like tears shed mourning for the dead. No one held back despite the electronic context. 

 

When the Black Lives Matter protests began, I decided to address the issues head-on in the best way I knew how: I offered prompts that would give us the opportunity (but not obligate anyone) to write about aspects of the movement. Today a woman responded to the prompt "If I were the last storyteller in my tribe..." with a story about the resiliency the three branches of her family developed as they rose above suffering by making love their guiding force. Of course, she phrased it much more elegantly than I just did, but the point is that storytelling is how we make sense of the world around us. 

 

The writing and conversations provoked by this summer's writing made me see, once again, how healing it is to listen and be heard. When one person shares their story, we grow by coming to understand that while our life journeys may be vastly different, the feelings they evoke are universal. Even when the togetherness we create is on computer screens, the connection is real."

 

Rachel Kobin leads the Philadelphia Writers' Workshop at The Resiliency Center. The workshop provides a safe, structured setting for writers to express themselves, experiment, learn, and grow. To learn more about joining her fall workshops - and learn about her new writing marathons once they are announced - see her website at www.phillywriters.com.

Monday, June 1, 2020

The Ocean Sky

by Dean Solon


am looking upon the ocean's steadfast magnificence

a poem allowing itself to be surfacing
and to be known

the ocean is awash with waves

the white capped waters leaping
upon the rocks piled high
whose siren calls are singing
"wash over us
  wash over us..."

a passing of white pillowing clouds across the ocean sky

the human sign reads "fishing getty only"

yes
and there is far more

a continuing conversation
between heaven and earth
whose sounds we may hear
and whose meaning we may understand
if we listen closely

Friday, May 22, 2020

Breath Giving Moves during Breath Taking Times

by Brittiney George

Do you feel like you’re in a weird time warp right now? I know I do.  It is as if 
time is both simultaneously standing still and flying by.  I noticed that many of 
my clients are also experiencing the resurgence of old wounds and injuries as 
the distractions of day-to-day living have changed.   When you combine the 
lack of transitional time and space throughout the day with mixed information 
about how to move safely in the world, it makes perfect sense that many people 
are feeling disoriented, disempowered, or even disembodied (like a walking 
head, not an embodied being).
 
“These are breath taking times, so give yourself a breath”.
 
As the adrenaline of immediate change wears off, you may be feeling burnt 
out or burnt up.  You may be feeling “off”.  If you are, trust it.  It is your body 
letting you know, “I’m feeling out of sync”, and it is the perfect time to check in 
with a direct link to your nervous system-your breath.  
 
Are you doing a lot of yawning?
Do you feel disconnected from your body or energetically depleted?
Are you making a lot of out moves- giving all day long but taking little in?
These are great indicators that your body may want to take “in” a breath.  
 
Often with trauma or in times of stress, we reverse our natural breathing pattern. 
Instead of inhaling down into our core, hips, and pelvis (our root), we inhale up.   
Up into our chest and shoulders.  Up into the front of our body.  Our back body 
and sides, the backs of the ribs, get locked in place without the lungs finding 
their full expansion.  
 
Maybe you find yourself sighing often?
Or holding a lot in as tension in your torso, chest, jaw or face?
Do your shoulders feel as if they’re carrying the weight 
and responsibility of the world?
These are great indicators that your body may want to let “out” a breath.  
 
A system that is in overwhelm is looking to release, get out from under, to take 
less on or in.  Think of your exhale as your body’s natural gift of detoxification.  
It’s your body’s way of moving out stale air, pent up energy, and unwanted 
emotional residue.  During times of stress we are often told to “take a breath”, 
but it is the out breath, the exhale, that has the most impact in nervous system 
regulation.  
 
Breath taking times require breath giving moves.  Give yourself space. 
Gift yourself Breath.
 
Brittiney George, BS, CST-PRO, ICI, CEIM, is a Movement Practitioner and Somatic Therapist specializing in Transformative Touch.  She is also a faculty trainer and mentor for The Somatic Therapy Center.  Her areas of specialty include working with highly sensitive persons (HSP’s), and supporting nervous system reregulation by resourcing through the body.  For a free 55 min. introductory Somatic Therapy session contact Brittiney at 610-389-7866 or movebackintolife@gmail.com.