Last year on Halloween, my father passed away. Upon hearing the news, I felt like I was transported to another planet - a cruel new reality where the people you love the most have suddenly vanished.
Grief alters reality. ‘Grief brain’, a fog that sets in after experiencing a loss, can feel disorienting. Suddenly, time has no boundaries and mortality demands most of your attention without your consent. One year later, here are a few of my reflections on the process of grieving.
I’ve learned that the depth of the pain can seem boundless, an empty and bottomless ache, but little by little, pain and love find a way to coexist.
I’ve learned that grief cannot be alleviated but it can be carried. It can be held.
I’ve learned that the experience of grief is as unique as the experience of love in any relationship.
I’ve learned that there is no timeline, no stages, no pattern. Grief is not linear. Waves of tears, numbness, warm feelings of love and even joy may show up at any time.
I’ve learned that overtime, the loss is integrated, not overcome.
Grief can be lonely, but it doesn’t have to be. A support system and a safe space has helped me explore this new, uncharted territory.
One year later: I’ve learned the importance of embracing whatever brings me joy. At this point in my life, I feel inspired to live in the moment and surround myself with others who know how to do the same; appreciating experiences of all forms. I’ve learned that there is so much beauty and comfort in connection. Filling that lonely space from the inside out has been such a humbling journey.
Staff therapist: Stephanie Sandoval, AMFT
"Creating meaning and a narrative about the relationship and its ending helps people get closure,” Dr. Engler says. “You don't need the partner for closure—you can do it on your own.”
- Dr. Engler in Women's Health Magazine, "13 Ways To Get Over A Crush Once And For All"
“I hear all day from couples that they harbor a sense of disconnection that they often don't say out loud," says Brandy Engler, Psy.D., a relationship therapist in Los Angeles. "These kinds of questions help people put words to what they want and how they want to feel—it taps into your core longings.”
- Dr. Engler in Women's Health Magazine, "8 Questions That Provide The Ultimate Compatibility Test"
As my practice grew, my role changed from author to entrepreneur. Both are creative endeavors, but I was in foreign territory. I became mired in the non-glamorous parts of being a business owner –learning acronyms like ADP and EDD—and I lacked the skills for managing money or people. I was working 14 hour days, answering phones and emails, filing medical claims, negotiating deals on office spaces and training staff.
One year into our business boom, with 12 therapists and 2 offices, I was flat broke. I learned that growth doesn’t equal profit. Sunk by taxes, high overhead and no financial management skills, I sought out PACE Women’s business center in downtown LA, a non-profit organization that teaches business skills to female entrepreneurs. I joined their mentor program which connects retired business leaders with female entrepreneurs. Soon, I learned accounting skills and financial strategies that helped my business to become profitable while growing.
I’ve learned that the role of CEO is to focus on the big picture; to see the system as a whole, so I could create the most efficient, smooth and cost-effective flow rather than getting lost in the everyday small details."
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti recognizes Silver Lake Psychology at the Small Business Summit Awards.
Dr. Engler was honored to receive a award from the Mayor of Los Angeles at the Small Business Summit Awards Ceremony. Silver Lake Psychology was recognized as a small business success story in the Los Angeles area. Thank you to the Pace Women's Business Center for all you have done to make our collective grow.
As we approach the Remembrance Altars event at Silver Lake Psychology next week, I’ve been thinking about the meaning of death. This question was on my mind as I hiked the beautiful redwoods in Bothe-Napa Valley State Park. Most redwoods grow from sprouts that form around the base of an old tree, using the nutrients and root system of the parent tree. When the parent tree dies, the new generation of trees rise around the parent tree’s stump, using that same root system, and creating a circle of trees that are called “fairy rings.” There is something touching about the children of the mother tree forming a circle around the mother and that they are all still connected to the stump. And I’m inspired that even in death a living thing is still providing the roots and structure that its children grow from and is still feeding and nourishing them. In the end, the remains of the parent tree become part of the children. It makes me trust in the process of death, that it has meaning and purpose. That it’s not an ending, but a cycle.
"The most important part of communicating about libido is that each partner doesn't personalize the other's libido (i.e. your libido is low, that means I'm not attractive enough). I've spoken to hundreds, probably thousands, of people about libido, and it is almost never that reason. Once partners can see that libido itself is a journey, both personal and relational, they can be supportive and curious, ready to find each other's edges and challenge each other to feel and try new things."
- Dr. Engler in Vice Magazine, "Expert Advice on What to Do About a Low Sex Drive"
"Many of us have jobs or hobbies that keep us in our heads and out of our bodies, says Brandy Engler, LA based therapist and author of The Men on My Couch. Activities, including Yoga, gardening, and exercise, that don't rely on mental stimulation and instead connect us to our senses, relax us, or get us into our bodies are more likely to open us up to being sexual."
- Dr. Engler in Good Housekeeping Magazine, "20 Bad Habits That Are Killing Your Libido"
Finally. A new year. A clean slate. You’ve set your intentions.
Here’s how change works:
Change is not a decision; it’s a process. Researchers Prochaska and DiClemente list 5 stages of change: pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, and maintenance. Change doesn’t happen through will-power, it happens by traversing back and forth between these stages, learning valuable lessons about ourselves along the way.
We all have built in defense mechanisms against change. Freud enumerated hundreds of ways people resist what they want; though it often boils down to an unconscious wish or fear. In therapy, we can gain insight into our internal blocks—and learn to outsmart them.
All habits, good or bad, serve a function. Goals for the new year should meet your actual core needs if they are going to last. This involves looking at our fears, self-doubt or shame directly, leaning into it instead of avoiding it—which will take the power away from those emotions. This way, you can be driven by your aspirations and not the avoidance of fear.
When we let go of old habits, it’s normal to feel irritable, restless, empty, or even depressed. These feelings are all temporary and part of the process. Support groups or therapy will also help to move you through the toughest part of change.
This New Year, approach your change process with self-compassion. Embrace the reality of set-backs and allow yourself to go through the stages of change with curiosity about who you are. Grab a journal and a meditation cushion and let the journey begin.
If you feel stressed around the holidays, you're not alone. "Dr. Engler says that she actually sees a spike in business post-holidays, because of the emotional toll Christmas at home can take on a person."
This May Not Be A Good Time To Meet The Parents, Refinery29 Media
Dr. Engler's Articles on the Huffington Post:
Should You Get Pre-marital Counseling?
Women's Health Magazine interviews Dr. Engler on the factors to consider.
Why Moving in Together Kills Your Sex Life, and What to Do About It.
Men's Health Magazine interviews Dr. Engler about how to improve your sex life, and reviews her book, "The Men on My Couch."
11 Things That Actually Surprised This Sex Therapist.
BuzzFeed reviews Dr. Engler's new book, "The Women on My Couch."