Tyson Bailey, PsyD, ABPP
REFLECTIONS ON LOSS
Reflecting on the past year brings up a conversation I have with my clients regularly, one that focuses on how terrible our culture is with grief and loss. I often state that we only allow people 37 seconds to grieve in an incredibly narrow set of circumstances.
These expectations leave many of the clients who choose to share their stories with a profound sense of “brokenness” because they cannot “just get over” the pain and distress. It has been a consistently novel idea that they are and have been experiencing a persistently activated loss throughout a majority of their time on this planet. While validating, this conversation also brings with it a newly recognized experience of loss—one associated with how many important life events have been impacted by the pain, impaired self-development, and distress that is common in the wake of repeated trauma.
Although many conversations are related to a client’s personal experiences of grief and loss, this year has brought a point of commonality into the therapy room. We have experienced the loss of a therapeutic space, the persistent stress of uncertainty in the beginning stages of the pandemic, and the desperate search for a sense of “usual” together. We have witnessed the news stories of the people who did not survive the virus, now 4 million and counting worldwide. Faced with these experiences, we had many conversations about recognizing the impact of these losses and figuring out how to maintain a sense of connection in a virtual world. I believe we are only beginning to scratch the surface of understanding the impact of these losses as a society and we must strive to give each other space, to challenge the cultural ideas about how we “should” feel or process our emotions. It is my hope that Division 56 can provide a place for these conversations to happen now and every day in the future. The place that we can connect as colleagues and friends to validate our lived experiences. For without these types of connections, the past year would have been a much darker place.
As I wrote the first two paragraphs, I found myself reflecting on the other persistent losses and points of invalidation that have been part of our nation’s history. From the violence that has been perpetuated on Black bodies and minds; the attacks on Muslim individuals after 9/11; the hate and violence toward Asian American and Pacific Islander communities during WWII and through the current pandemic; anti-Semitism in all of its forms domestic and broad; to the genocide of our Indigenous cultures to make way for White settlers. Consistently reminding myself, as a privileged straight, White, male from an upper-middle class background, that for marginalized communities, that safety is not something that could be lost, because it was never established in the first place. This has been one of the most important lessons of my life as a trauma psychologist—true safety is most often a luxury of privilege and can only be lost if you had it in the first place.
2021 CONVENTION PROGRAMING
We are honored to have 15 exciting and informative programs for this year’s virtual convention, many of which will explore these discussed above. Given the myriad impacts of COVID over the past year, about half of the presentations are focused on pandemic-related research findings. We are also thrilled to have several presentations focusing treatment and assessment of dissociation. Further, several sessions will discuss the impacts of trauma on marginalized groups, which is important given the continued disparities in treatment and health, as well as the persistent impact of institutionalized racism, heterosexism, and ableism.
I also hope you will join me for a discussion of treatment for complex posttraumatic reactions during my Presidential Address. I will focus on the importance of understanding how and when exposure is present in this work and suggesting an expanded model for healing when clients have experienced persistent harm and disruption, particularly during early developmental stages. I hope this presentation continues throughout the remainder of the year, and I notice sadness that we do not get to interact in real time.
For the second year, Division 56 has sponsored individuals creating project focusing on Cultivating Healing, Advocacy, Nonviolence, Growth, and Equity (CHANGE). We would like to extend our deepest gratitude to Ayli Carrero Pinedo and Katy Lacefield for spearheading this exciting project over the past two years and supporting our early career and student members. We are thrilled to congratulate the winners of this year’s CHANGE grant and are excited to see how these projects develop. Please join me in celebrating the following winners:
Dr. Candice Presseau (ECP)
Aldo Barrita (Student)
Mahogany Monette (Student)
Ginette Sims (Student)
Wendy Chu (Student)
We Need You!
Division 56 leadership is consistently search for passionate trauma psychologists to help ensure we are meeting the needs of our members. We are always looking people to join our committees and keep us moving forward. If you are passionate about trauma-informed care, research, or pedagogy, please reach out so we can get you connected.
In closing, I am grateful and humbled to be part of this amazing community of trauma psychologists. I am grateful to all of the humans who have shared their stories, lives, and guidance throughout my journey as a psychologist. Without these wonderful humans, there is no way I would be where I am today. I would like to extend special thanks to Laura Brown, who taught me the power of taking risks and reminded me to “not just do something, sit there.” As I was completing this article, this Permission to Mourn came across my Facebook feed. It seemed an appropriate end to these reflections and a reminder of the importance of authentically experiencing all that life has to offer, especially feelings we are typically encouraged to hide in our culture even if they fit the situation. I hope everyone is taking good care and your loved ones are safe and healthy. We are all looking forward to coming together as a group again in 2022 and continuing our journey of fostering a trauma-informed world.