Processing Grief and Trauma By Portia Pendleton, LCSW; Founder of InTouch Therapy


By Portia Pendleton, LCSW; Founder of InTouch Therapy

“A new normal,” or “unprecedented times,” we continue to hear this over and over again throughout COVID, seeing and hearing about horrific crimes caught on video, school shootings and now more recently with Ukraine. While some of these may impact you directly such as losing a loved one or friend to COVID or having family in Ukraine we all continue to experience “regular” difficult or traumatic events like the death of a friend or loved one to cancer or old age, a divorce or significant relationship ending, a miscarriage, car accidents and substance use issues – it’s a lot. The layers of stressors that continue to stack on each other impact us all greatly. Here in the Northeast we are also dealing with our yearly low moods or seasonal depression due to dark days and gray weather. Now that I have officially reminded you of all the darkness out there, how can we cope and heal in the midst of it –  here are some thoughts. 

Express your feelings. It seems so simple, but so many of us avoid uncomfortable or negative emotions. We want to fix things right away or distract ourselves from unwanted feelings and emotions, but it is so important to feel them just as intensely as our joyful ones. Sometimes as a parent it can be hard to find the time to grieve or express emotions, but demonstrating the full range of emotions in front of our kids teaches healthy expression and can lead to meaningful conversations. Make the time to cry – in the car, in the shower, on a walk or with another safe person. Friends and family want to show up for us, they want to help and they want to listen. Let them.  

Do something. After you have felt the emotion, it can feel helpful to take action. We can schedule time to focus more on something that brings us joy or connects us with support. We can donate time, money or other resources to causes that are important and necessary. We can prioritize our physical health and make sure to continue to take care of primary needs like sleep, food and safety. 

Go to therapy. I say this all the time not only because I am a therapist, but also because it is such a privilege to have a safe space to explore, process and heal from difficult events and trauma. Treatment is personalized and private and right now everyone can benefit. Depending on what you are going through, there are specific treatments whether it be processing or talking through events or specific trauma therapy like EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) or ART (accelerated resolution therapy). 

All of these experiences will stay with us forever. Our grief doesn’t shrink, but our experiences grow. Tonkin’s model of grief demonstrates this below. So keep showing up, connect with others even when there are tears, support others – it feels so good to do this, talk to a therapist no matter how “big” or “small” our problems are and remember the most powerful and noteworthy part of being a human being is how resilient we are especially with the aid of community. 


Portia Pendleton, LCSW

InTouch Therapy

251 Main Street, Suite 200, Old Saybrook

(860) 245-9598