Saturday, December 9, 2017

Dreading the Holidays?

We all have them:  Those awful memories of family get-togethers gone bad.  We mean well.  We plan for a holiday to share with loved ones and this time it will be different...but then.. we revert to our old habits.  Arguments ensue, feelings are hurt and soon, we begin to dread getting together again.

What do you do? Often, our expectations for what we want to happen does not match with reality.  We have our own versions of what happened which often differ from someone else's perspective.  We have our own biases and preferences and when others do not do as we expect or want, then what?

We even imagine those perfect holiday scenes and find ours never measure up.  A quote I read that emphasized how we blame others or ourselves for this perceived failure is "It's not you and it's not only you."  Everyone contributes in their own way to the enjoyment or problems that can arise. Trying to understand the other person's perspective promotes greater understanding and harmony.

There are certain conversations that my family tries to avoid because all of us know it will end badly.  We have that "silent agreement" among us to save those conversations with like-minded family members or friends because agreeing to disagree seems to work best.  We know we will not be able to persuade someone to our point of view, making someone right and the other wrong, or someone gets to win and the other's expense.

Something I have noticed at every one of my family gatherings is how we revert to roles we played when we were growing up.  Even though we are all adults with adult children, those old familiar roles are dormant until we get together.  It is during those times, when we do not relate as the adults we are that the problems begin.  And, adding alcohol to the mix increases the tension, as it is like pouring gas on the "taking things personally" fire.

The holidays can be reminders of better times in our lives as well.  Sometimes, that becomes an emotionally polarized situation. Although we remember happy times with loved ones who have passed away, we are also sad to be without them during a time that emphasizes family.  It can be somewhat awkward and difficult to attend a holiday gathering that include spouses or significant others when you are alone.

Everyone copes with holiday gatherings in their own way.  Try to remain open and accepting of situations that arise while you keep in mind the reason you are gathering.  You can find something about the occasion to enjoy and appreciate - other than the cookies!

Kathy Thome is passionate about using the therapeutic relationship to help you achieve your personal goals.  She is proficient in multiple approaches and will work with you to find that which is best suited to your needs. 
Kathy is skilled in working with many issues.  She has extensive experience helping individuals with depression, anxiety, grief, and the development of interpersonal skills that foster growth and esteem. 
Prior to her counseling career, Kathy was a high school teacher and a school counselor, which gives her a unique perspective and insight related to adolescents as well as parenting.  She worked with suicide prevention groups and also founded the first LGBTQ group (Gay Straight Alliance) at her high school.
Kathy is a state certified Licensed Professional Counselor, earning her Master’s Degree in Counseling from Western Illinois University.
In her free time she enjoys spending time with her family and friends, including those with four legs.

December Wellness Wednesday

(Forgive my lateness in posting.)  


Physical Wellness: What it is (and what it isn’t)

Wellness can be a tricky concept to nail down. By definition, it means, “the state of being in good health, especially as an actively pursued goal.” Beyond that, the generally accepted meaning includes more than an absence of illness-- it’s also about actively working towards your best self. There are many different aspects of wellness. They include physical, emotional, environmental, financial, spiritual, occupational, and social/cultural wellness. This month, we will focus on the most often emphasized aspect of wellness-- physical wellness.

Physical wellness is exactly what it sounds like-- taking care of your body! This includes things like physical activity; a healthy diet; drinking water or decaffeinated tea; getting enough quality sleep; avoiding drugs, alcohol, and tobacco; and scheduling annual check-ups and screenings. Doing these things has been proven to help you feel happier, healthier, and more energetic.

Research has shown several benefits to engaging in physical wellness practices. Physical wellness can improve your emotional stability and mood, reduce stress, and decrease your risk for anxiety, depression, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, high blood pressure, and some types of cancer. Exercise and healthy eating can also help with your body image, self-esteem, confidence, memory, and concentration. People who engage in physically healthy practices also tend to experience deeper, less restless sleep.

Personally, I have struggled for years with my physical wellness. I tend to go through phases of being very active and eating healthy, then losing my motivation and falling back into bad habits. As a busy person on a budget, it can definitely be a challenge to find cost-effective ways to be physically healthy while still getting everywhere on time! There are five small things I have started doing on a daily basis that are free or low cost and have already helped me feel better.
     Drinking decaffeinated tea: I get bored with plain water, and end up not drinking enough of it. Did you know you are supposed to drink half your bodyweight in ounces of water every day? That means if you weigh 180 pounds, you should be drinking 60 ounces of water or EVERY DAY. Tea is a way to change up the flavor without any of the added calories or sugar of other alternatives.
     Sleeping when tired: This one seems obvious, but I tend to stay up later for no real reason other than, “it’s too early for bed.” But sometimes my body needs the extra sleep! Also, 15 minute power naps are lifesavers.
     Park and walk: While this one requires a little bit of advance planning to account for the extra time, it has really helped me combat my sedentary job. Parking a little farther away, whether it be a few blocks or just the far side of the parking lot, helps me get my blood pumping and get energized for the day. I also like to take some of my break time to take a lap around the building, or get a few minutes of sunshine in the summer.
     Meal prep: If you’re like me, you’re lucky if you make it to the grocery store once a week. One of my biggest downfalls with healthy eating is packing healthy lunches. I’m always running late in the morning, so I usually tend to throw a frozen meal in my lunchbox or order delivery food at work. Lately, I have been trying to switch to eating salads and homemade lean meats for lunch, but I never have time to put them together before work. Instead, I have been making time on Sunday nights to cook and portion all 5 lunches for the week. I’ve found that it doesn’t take that much longer to slice veggies or cook meat for 5 meals than it does for one, and then I only have to do it once per week! This way, I have no excuse not to grab the healthy option instead of the frozen meal.
     Calendar alerts for appointments: I’m the first to admit it, I’m a procrastinator. I can also be forgetful, especially when it comes to scheduling appointments. Usually, my “yearly” checkups are more like every 15 months or so because I am not proactive about scheduling my appointments in advance. I recently discovered that rather than putting alerts in my phone for when my appointments are supposed to be, it works much better for me to put them in when I need to schedule them. For example, my dentist is booked out about 3 months, so I put an alert in my phone for three months before I need to go in reminding me to schedule my next appointment.
What are your tips and tricks for maintaining your physical health? Do you struggle with other things not mentioned here? Let us know in the comments or on our Facebook page!


Nicki Phillips is a counseling intern at Esprit and a graduate student at UW Oshkosh working towards a degree in clinical mental health counseling. She brings a fresh perspective to her work along with a vibrant personality. She believes everyone is inherently worthy of respect and compassion, and strives to create those qualities in her relationships with clients. She sees clients who are uninsured, underinsured, have a high deductible, or prefer to pay out-of-pocket for a reduced cost. She particularly enjoys working with adolescents and young adults, and has also worked with children (ages 5 and up) and adults. She has immediate openings for new clients! Please schedule online at espritcounseling.com. She can also be reached via email at nicki@espritcounseling.com or by phone at (920) 383-1287.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Put the Happy Back in the Holidays


The holidays are a very busy time for so many of us. There are family gatherings, events, shopping, many of which are based on tradition or expectations. Sometimes with all of the running from one thing to the next and the long to-do lists we lose sight of what we truly value or enjoy in the holiday season.
So this holiday season I am going to challenge you to reevaluate where you invest your time to determine what’s really valuable to you. A good question to ask yourself is “does this fill me up?” or “does this bring me joy?”. Sometimes we find ourselves doing things because they are expected of us or this is the way we have always done it, but does it fill you up? If not, stop doing it. If running to 3 different family gatherings in one day to celebrate feels more like a race or a chore than a celebration then stop doing it. Plan family gatherings that are spaced out over several weekends so the pace is slower and you can actually have time to connect with those family members. If getting up at 4am and cooking a 5 course meal is exhausting and does not bring you joy, stop doing it. Consider picking up a turkey and sides from a local grocery store or going out to eat.
What all of this comes down to is determining what you value most about the holidays and finding ways to focus on that and eliminating barriers that get in the way. If spending time with family is what you value but spending the whole day cooking and doing dishes gets in the way of that, stop cooking and doing dishes, find alternatives. Just because you have always done it that way doesn’t mean you have to keep doing it that way. If gift buying and giving creates a financial strain and takes away from the occasion, stop doing it. Find alternatives such as making homemade gifts from supplies you already have or decide to do an activity together as a family. I know a family who gives verbal gifts. They gather around and instead of opening gifts they share things they love about each other or ways that the people in their lives have filled them up that year. Discard the traditions and expectations that working for you anymore and make new ones!

Make the holidays about what fills you up. What brings you joy? 

 Kaitlyn Gitter is a Licensed Professional Counselor who strives to help people find inner peace and healing.  She provides client centered counseling services to children, adolescents, families, couples, and adults.  She values the human connection and creating a safe space for exploration, learning, and growth.  Kaitlyn obtained her Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology from The Adler School of Professional Psychology in Chicago, IL. She has extensive experience working with individuals struggling with eating disorders, self-esteem, and body image issues. She also has a particular passion for working with adolescents and young adults. Other areas of interest include grief and loss, anxiety, depression, ADHD, behavior issues, parent/child relationships, and family systems.

Kaitlyn utilizes several therapeutic approaches but specializes in Internal Family Systems Therapy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. She often incorporates relaxation and mindfulness techniques into sessions. In her work with children she frequently integrates play therapy and artistic expression to encourage healthy emotion regulation and communication.  In her free time Kaitlyn enjoys running, traveling, camping, and gardening. Kaitlyn believes that happiness is something you create and every individual has the power to make positive change in their life. She is here as a partner on your path to creating happiness and peace.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Wellness Wednesday: November 1, 2017

50 Ideas for Your Personal Self-Care Plan

These days, it seems like everyone wants something from us. As a graduate student, I’m constantly trying to figure out how to balance school, two jobs, an internship, and having a dog, all while maintaining my relationships with friends, family, and my partner. There is never enough time, enough energy, or enough organization to finish everything I want to get done in a day. Sometimes, the stress and chaos gives my mind the opportunity to trick me into thinking that “not doing enough” is the same as “not being enough.” It can be hard, but I know that isn’t true, and I can see that once I give myself the opportunity to step back, take a deep breath, and refill my proverbial glass.

There are all sorts of things you can do for yourself to refill your glass. The internet is full of them. Sometimes, all of the options can seem just as overwhelming as not doing anything at all. So, to start, here are a few tips for creating a plan that works for you:

       Write it down!
Whatever you choose, write it down. It not only helps you remember, but it keeps you accountable.
       Trust yourself
You know yourself best, so when looking at a list of possibilities, choose the ones that you think could really help. Be honest with yourself.
       Be brave
At the same time, don’t limit yourself to things you already do or do well. Try something new, and be open to things that might not have worked so well for you in the past. People change, and so do the things we like!

So, now that we’ve covered the basics, here are 50 ideas for things you could add to your own plan! Some are more habitual, others are for when you need a quick pick-me-up! I have collected them from various internet sources as well as from my personal experience.

1.    Pick one thing that you need to do and get it done so it’s off your mental “to do” list.
2.    Get a manicure or pedicure.
3.    Get a massage.
4.    Find a therapist.
5.    Get a book from the library (free) or bookstore about some topic you’ve been interested in, but have never taken the time to learn. Afterward, spend a few minutes each day learning about it.
6.    In the morning, listen to music that inspires and motivates you.
7.    Write a list of things you’re grateful to have in your life and post it somewhere you can see it often. We have a tendency to focus on the negative, so remind yourself of the good stuff.
8.    Go through your closet and purge the clothes you haven’t worn in years. Donate them to a charitable organization.
9.    If you bring your lunch to work, pack a few extra items to share with someone less fortunate on your way or during your lunch break.
10. Share a kind smile with strangers on your way to and from work. Some people may go all day without anyone acknowledging their existence.
11. Start a cycle of encouragement. Tell someone near you what you appreciate about them. They may return the favor when you need it most.
12. If you buy your morning coffee, skip it today and donate the money to a charity of your choosing.
13. Call your mom, dad, or any other family member you care about just to say hi.
14. Learn how to sew. Self-sufficiency may have some other mental health benefits for you as well.
15. Send a completely random care package to someone you love. Who doesn’t love a surprise?
16. Try out a form of martial arts. A lot of schools offer a free lesson.
17. Take a moment at the end of each day and consciously list a few good things in your life. This can help refocus your emotions on all the positive things that happen each day, even when it doesn’t seem like it.
18. Turn off your phone and step away from the computer for a whole day.
19. Take a few minutes and enjoy a funny animal video on YouTube.
20. Go for a walk by yourself with headphones on, listening to music you love.
21. Prepare a meal, no matter how simple.
22. Create something for no practical purpose such as a song, a poem, an essay, a painting, a drawing, a comic strip, a collage, etc.
23. Lay on the floor on your back with your eyes closed for five minutes (or longer) and just breathe.
24. Shower with all the lights off. It forces you to move incredibly slow and it’s so relaxing. Make sure to have safety mats in place so you don’t slip on your way out.
25. Stare at your pet or another animal and seriously contemplate their existence. Do you think they believe they have a higher purpose?
26. Rearrange all of your furniture in a way that makes you more comfortable or just to try something fresh in your living space.
27. Check in with yourself a few times each day and take a moment to process your thoughts and emotions. Don’t let them build up.
28. Swing on a swing set. Too many adults forget how much fun this is.
29. Call your friend or sibling when you know they can’t answer and leave a ridiculously funny made up song as your voicemail. You’ll spread a little laughter while also laughing in the process.
30. Make up a brand new dance move and teach it to someone.
31. Do a five minute meditation on your feet.
32. Carve a couple hours out of your schedule this weekend to enjoy a classic film.
33. Go out to see a movie at your favorite theater all by yourself.
34. Make a piece of artwork—draw, paint, cut and paste, whatever—that someone might interpret as ugly and tell it you love and accept it anyway.
35. Watch RuPaul’s Drag Race and bask in the charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and talent of the contestants. Try to channel some of that in your own life when you find yourself needing it.
36. Go to a support group meeting.
37. Listen to a podcast about something that interests you that you haven’t yet explored.
38. Roll out a blanket and eat your dinner on the grass at home or in the park. Invite someone else if you’d like company.
39. Make yourself a gourmet grilled cheese and some tomato soup. Comfort food at the right time or during the right type of weather can be great for boosting your mood.
40. Tell yourself something that resists self-criticism but feels encouraging like, “I’m doing the best that I can.”
41. Taking care of yourself can start with something small! Maybe today you just need to lie down on the couch instead of on your bed for a change of scenery.
42. Write something encouraging on a post-it and put it where you will see it every day! Or write directly on your mirror: “I am beautiful and brave.”
43. Say a magnificent affirmation out loud, like “I am a child of the universe, and I have been given endless talents and capabilities.”
44. Commit to posting mostly or only positive things on your favored social media site for a while. For every sad news item, there’s a related (or unrelated) story of resilience, bravery, and triumph.
45. Write a review of a business you like. Send that positive energy into the universe and share some love for your favorite local places!
46. Read a book that’s easy and fun. You can give it away to a younger person in your life after if you feel like giving it up.
47. Listen to an album you loved when you were younger but haven’t heard in a long time.
48. Congratulate yourself for doing difficult things, even if they might not seem difficult to others. Depending on the individual, plenty of everyday things can be difficult, like riding the bus, standing in line, filing paperwork, going to the doctor, making food, doing chores, etc.
49. Wash your face. Sometimes the simplest hygiene tasks can be the most refreshing.
50. Reflect on the struggles your ancestors endured so you could exist and remember that you have inherited their strength and resilience.
What do you think of these ideas? Share your results and any tips you have learned in your own wellness journey in the comments or on our Facebook page!
Nicki Phillips is a counseling intern at Esprit and a graduate student at UW Oshkosh working towards a degree in clinical mental health counseling. She brings a fresh perspective to her work along with a vibrant personality. She believes everyone is inherently worthy of respect and compassion, and strives to create those qualities in her relationships with clients. She sees clients who are uninsured, underinsured, have a high deductible, or prefer to pay out-of-pocket for a reduced cost. She particularly enjoys working with adolescents and young adults, and has also worked with children (ages 5 and up) and adults. She has immediate openings for new clients! Please schedule online at espritcounseling.com. She can also be reached via email at nicki@espritcounseling.com or by phone at (920) 383-1287.


Sunday, October 22, 2017

#MeToo

"I'll bet you a nickle I can kiss you without touching you."
The first time I was forced to feel sexualized and  powerless was when I was 12 years old.  He was..?? 50-something and a physical education teacher at my junior high school.  As I have often looked back on that incident, I am aware of the grooming of me that he did prior to that moment.  He was complimentary and friendly.  Always greeted me or waved from across the room. It made me feel special and I liked that I was recognized, (or so I thought), more than the hundreds of other kids in my school.  In my naivete, I trusted him and respected him.  He was a teacher and we were taught that they deserved those things simply because of their title, position, and age.
We were waiting for the bell, that released us to our next class, to ring.  He came over and signaled for me to come talk with him.  Me!  In front of everyone else!  Me!  Then, I remember being amazed at his question.  Certainly he could not kiss me without touching me and he would lose and I would be a nickle richer.  He took me into a storage area and kissed me on the lips and simply said, "I lose" as he handed me the nickle.  My lips were burning, my heart was exploding with shame.  Almost instantly a female teacher walked in and questioned in an accusing tone, "What are you two doing in here?"  She had put the blame equally on me as it was on him.
Sitting at dinner that evening, my lips continued to burn.  I imagined that my mother could tell something was wrong, that I had done something terrible.  Of course, she didn't know, but my guilt and shame were overwhelming. What would have happened if I told her?  I feared I would be punished, so I said nothing.
The teacher continued to harass me by frequently asking me if I wanted to "bet a nickle".  I could not escape it and thought I was powerless to do anything about it.  This was just the first of many unwanted sexual advances, comments, and gestures that I have experienced and the recent news events and #MeToo movement has reminded me of how those behaviors had impacted me not only during my impressionable adolescent years, but well into my adulthood.
The October 30, 2017 issue of Time Magazine's article, "The View" begins with this sentence, "Cognitive dissonance is a hell of a drug."  This describes when our culture/society condemns and despises sexual predators but then excuses them and even promotes them to positions of power.  The invalidating message this implies to persons who have been victimized, reinforces our feelings of self blame, shame, guilt and dehumanization.  Our stories are discredited and devalued as we are accused of things that suggest we asked for it, should have known better, or are lying.
Of course, we are all expecting this to be that "watershed moment" that will result in change.  Discussions are being held on many levels as the news continues to cover developing events.  What is the solution and how can this problem be adequately addressed?
A newscast I recently heard recognized the power that other men can have when they address the behavior when they see/hear it.  Objecting to crude comments made "in the locker room" or in the boardroom might be met with resistance from the offender.  Men don't want to be seen as women and are expected to support such inappropriate behaviors.  They might speak up privately afterwards, but by then, the offender goes free.  The newscast emphasized how important it is for men to object to the behavior at the moment they witness it as it shifts the focus to the offender rather than remain on the victim.
Reflecting on the support I would have loved to have been given at age 12, to know that I was not to blame, to have the woman teacher confront the man about his inappropriate behavior and to have grown up in a family where I could have been able to confide in my parents without the fear of being punished would all have had positive outcomes rather than the years of shame and self blame I endured.
And just as a closing thought:  Mine was only a kiss.  Millions of women (and men) have suffered much worse.

Kathy Thome, LPC,  is passionate about using the therapeutic relationship to help you achieve your personal goals.
She is proficient in multiple approaches and will work with you to find that which is best suited to your needs. 
Kathy is skilled in working with many issues.  She has extensive experience helping individuals with depression, anxiety, grief, and the development of interpersonal skills that foster growth and esteem. 
Prior to her counseling career, Kathy was a high school teacher and a school counselor, which gives her a unique perspective and insight related to adolescents as well as parenting.  She worked with suicide prevention groups and also founded the first LGBTQ group (Gay Straight Alliance) at her high school.
Kathy is a state certified Licensed Professional Counselor, earning her Master’s Degree in Counseling from Western Illinois University.

In her free time she enjoys spending time with her family and friends, including those with four legs.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

WELLNESS WEDNESDAY

Introducing our Wellness Wednesday feature.  On the first Wednesday of the month, we will post a tip to promote wellness.  Here is the first.

On my journey to becoming a professional counselor, I have learned a lot about myself as a person and a professional. One of the main things I have worked on throughout the last two and a half years is learning to trust myself, to believe that my voice is worth listening to.

In the past, I have struggled with meditation and guided imagery because it forces me to sit in silence with myself. Now that I have become more comfortable sitting with myself, I am beginning to enjoy it. Recently, Kaitlyn introduced me to a meditation called the "Wise Woman.” It has inspired me to more deeply explore what holds me back, and has been a great tool to help my clients who struggle with self-esteem, anxiety, lack of confidence, and negative self-talk.

A meditation like this can be used in many different ways. You can read it to yourself, out loud or in your head. You could have someone else read it to you (like a counselor or friend). You could even record yourself reading it and listen to it. The version I use is below, and you can feel free to adapt it however you would like. For instance, you can change the gender of the wise person so it aligns with you.

Begin by settling in your chair, finding a comfortable position that allows you to take deep, calming breaths. If you feel comfortable, close your eyes and focus on your breath. As you breathe, begin imagining a place in nature that you find peace. It can be a forest, a beach, a mountain trail, or any other place that you feel connected to.

Imagine yourself sitting in a room, looking down over this place of calmness and serenity. Take in everything. What do you see? What do you smell? What do you hear?

You decide to go outside, so you leave the room and find a path. As you begin to walk, continue to notice what your senses pick up on. Are there birds singing? Children laughing? Is there a breeze? What do your surroundings look like? Try to imagine them in as much detail as possible. The path widens and curves as you continue to follow it. Go slowly and take your time.

Up ahead, you notice a house. Something about the home beckons to you, and draws you in. What does the house look like? What makes it so appealing?

As you approach the house, a woman opens the door. It is as if she has been waiting for you all along, like she knew you would be coming. Somehow, you know she is a wise woman. What does she look like? How is she dressed? Try to picture her as clearly as you can. She smiles, and invites you in.

Inside her house, she shows you to a room, and you instantly feel at home. What does the room look like? What about it makes you so comfortable? Are there pictures on the walls? Comfy furniture? A fireplace? Maybe she offers you something to eat, or to drink. You sit down, and for a minute, there is simply comfortable silence.

While you are in her presence, you recognize how it makes you feel. You feel at peace, accepted, and loved for exactly who you are in this moment. Somehow, you know the wise woman cares for you unconditionally.

After some time, she says something to you. What does she say? You turn to her and respond. What do you say? You have a conversation for a while. What is said?

Eventually, you notice she has colors surrounding her. You had not noticed this before. What colors are there?

As you think about the colors, you notice the sun is setting. You say you are going and you thank each other for the time together.  You say goodbye. As you are leaving, the wise woman gives you something. What is it?

You walk back down the path and watch the colors of the sky. Take your time walking back, and notice what is different. Is it quieter? Does the path look different in the fading daylight?

You see the place you began, so you head towards it. You walk up the path.  When you are there, you will begin to come back to an awareness of this room. Feel your feet on the floor, and your body in the chair. When you are ready, open your eyes.

I will let you in on a little secret. The wise woman you met? She is you. You can call her up whenever you feel alone or in need of some wisdom in your life.

The color and the item she gave you are things that can remind you of the wise woman. When you see them in your daily life, they can serve as reminders that the wise woman is always inside of you, and available when you need her.


Nicki Phillips is a counseling intern at Esprit and a graduate student at UW Oshkosh working towards a degree in clinical mental health counseling. She brings a fresh perspective to her work along with a vibrant personality. She believes everyone is inherently worthy of respect and compassion, and strives to create those qualities in her relationships with clients. She sees clients who are uninsured, underinsured, have a high deductible, or prefer to pay out-of-pocket for a reduced cost. She particularly enjoys working with adolescents and young adults, and has also worked with children (ages 6 and up) and adults. She has immediate openings for new clients! Please schedule online at espritcounseling.com. She can also be reached via email at nicki@espritcounseling.com or by phone at (920) 383-1287.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

“Just Get Over It”: When Your Grief is Not Supported

We all have experienced grief at one time or another. However, while most people associate it with death of a loved one, many other life changes or events can cause grief. Examples of events and transitions where grief typically occurs, but may not be acknowledged or socially supported, include: divorce, serious illness, physical impairment, moving, job loss or change, infidelity, abuse, natural disaster, traumatic events, infertility, pet loss, children growing up, loss of an expectation or dream, loss of a societally unsanctioned relationship, and aging.
Such “disenfranchised” (i.e., unacknowledged or unsupported) grief undermines our normal coping strategies. When grief is viewed as illegitimate, we fail to receive the support and empathy typically given after the death of a loved one. Instead, although we may know something is wrong, we (as well as family and friends) may ignore, dismiss, or play down our right to grieve. We may think (or be told to) “just get over it,” but reminders of loss -- such as missing favorite activities due to a disability or not being able to spend a holiday or birthday with family members due to divorce or a move -- can lead to chronic grief (Doka, 2016).
Grief experienced by children or teens may also be disenfranchised because adults often assume that children are less aware of and less affected by life events. Teens and children may hear, “You’re young, you’ll get over it” after losing a friend, experiencing peer rejection, or enduring a family move. Yet children and teens are acutely aware of and affected by life events and transitions involving themselves, family, or friends. These experiences can be traumatic as well, complicating symptoms of grief (Hooyman & Kramer, 2006).
When others minimize, fail to recognize, or dismiss our grief, we lose a crucial coping mechanism: social support. As a result, we may hide our grief, fearing social disapproval or be influenced to believe we have no right to grieve. Instead, we feel “something is wrong with me,” leading to shame, embarrassment, or a sense of failure. Messages such as “It’s time to move on,” “get over it,” or “it’s not that bad” further compound our suffering because they foster self-doubt, self-blame, resentment, feeling misunderstood, and disconnection. We end up confused by conflicting feelings that make it difficult to sort out our feelings (Doka, 2016).
I personally have experienced disenfranchised grief from various life events: surviving a cancer diagnosis after being given a 20% chance to live, the end of my first marriage, an empty nest (causing mixed feelings of pride for my children’s independence but also loss), death of a pet, moving, and career change all involved feelings of loss.
My own losses have made me realize the personal courage and self-awareness it takes to acknowledge continuing grief when the world thinks you should be “over it,” to reach out for support from others (including professional support), and to be self-compassionate (rather than denying one’s feelings). I have both witnessed and experienced the strength, wisdom, and beauty that can come from acknowledging and working through grief to establish a new normal.

When experiencing disenfranchised grief, have the courage to reach out and get the support you need. Counseling can be especially helpful when you are not getting or feel uncomfortable asking for support from friends, family, and loved ones. Additionally, counselors trained in grief work can provide specific grief interventions to help you process your grief, acknowledge your loss, and cope with what you are experiencing. Further, if you have or are experiencing trauma symptoms related to the grief event, counselors trained in trauma work, can help in identifying, validating, processing, and coping with these as well. In addition, counseling can help loved ones learn how to best support you, when experiencing disenfranchised grief. 

Kathy Glick specializes in working with clients coping with life transitions or challenging life events, including loss, trauma, and relationship issues, and is currently accepting new clients. Kathy has specialized training and certification for working with loss and grief including: loss of a loved one, divorce, relationship changes, empty nest, pet loss, job change, loss of safety or trust, retirement, moving, change in health status, aging, etc. 
Kathy has specialized trauma training, including EMDR, as well as specialized training in couples therapy. She attended training through the Beck Institute for CBT and uses evidence based therapies to help address anxiety, depression, self-esteem, relationship, and confidence issues. Having experienced several of her own losses, life changes, and challenging transitions, clients find Kathy to be both empathetic and insightful.
Kathy holds a Master of Science in Professional Counseling, a Bachelor's degree in Business Administration (providing her with a broader, practical perspective), certification from the National Board for Certified Counselors, and is licensed in the state of Wisconsin. Outside of work, Kathy loves spending time with family, friends, and her dog, Miguel. She enjoys traveling, yoga, walking, biking, cooking, and reading.