Sylvia Sandler, M.A., MFTi
Dear LA-CAMFT colleagues:
As I was starting to brainstorm topics to write about in the current Voices newsletter, headlines regarding the Las Vegas shooting were barely breaking on all the news circuits. Before realizing what was unfolding, I was thinking of writing about how the Fall season marks a time of transition. I thought about how Fall ushers a change from the Summer season. I thought of students, young and old, getting ready for a new academic school-year. I thought about the scents that remind me of Fall, including, pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg and my holiday favorite, Thanksgiving turkey. I thought about how families make plans to see their loved ones during the holidays, and the various emotions these reunions may evoke. I also thought about the bittersweet reality of many who rely on the precious memories of their loved ones because, unfortunately, that is all they have left to get them through the highs and lows of present day holiday celebrations. All in all, transition as it related to the Fall season seemed like a significant topic because many people struggle with it this time of year.
One of the ways I approach helping clients through this time of transition is creating space for them to honor the struggles they may face while at the same time noticing areas of gratitude. In doing so, clients realize that life is rarely one dimensional. Teaching clients to find balance in life is an approach which allows them to account for the messy part of life, while at the same time staying mindful of what is going well.
Then the horror of the Las Vegas Massacre sunk in, and I noticed that my colleagues and I struggled to make sense of this latest national tragedy. As the days followed, I noticed that the grief and loss resulting from this latest shooting amplified the anxiety in my clients. Colleagues and I also experienced a sense of powerlessness in not being able to have clear answers as to why this happened yet again and how best to help others.
After some soul searching, I came back to what I knew to be true before this latest random act of mass violence. I realized that what could be helpful would be the importance of allowing myself, colleagues and clients to experience the full range of emotions associated with this time of transition and uncertainty. Allowing ourselves to honor the many feelings and thoughts associated with loss and grief, as well as validating one another’s perspectives is the first step in the healing process. Knowing that we are not going through it alone is equally as important. The upcoming Thanksgiving holidays are clearly a time to surround yourself with people you hold dear and to comfort each other around tragedies like this. It is hard to grapple with tragedy by yourself at any age. While we sit around the Thanksgiving table we are reminded of all that needs protection, and the healing power of gratitude. So, while we mourn and feel the weight of loss, we take the time to appreciate each and every moment we can connect with others both in times of sadness and joy.
Sylvia J. Sandler, M.A., is the current editor of Voices for LA-CAMFT, and holds a subsequent registration as a Marriage and Family Therapist Intern, IMF#90381. Sylvia is bi-lingual and fully proficient in reading and writing in the Spanish language. Sylvia is gaining hours for licensing at The Ness Counseling Center and previously worked at Chabad Treatment Center Outpatient. You may reach her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.