I’ve found joy and meaning again after loss

cath_profileI am a qualified and experienced Social Worker, Humanistic Neurolinguistic Psychology Practitioner, and Creative Grief Support Practitioner with a diverse background in trauma debriefing, child protection, career transition coaching, leadership training, and counselling for burnout, depression, anxiety, and grief. I’ve undertaken a lot of training and always been a diligent student with 4.0 grades in both my undergraduate and Masters degrees, and a practitioner who is high-integrity, committed, compassionate, and holds very high standards for myself in my counselling, coaching, and teaching work. But more importantly, what has shaped my work and what I want you to know, is that I know personally what it’s like to go through major losses and scary life events, and to struggle through and find my way back to joy and meaning during and after such events.

Our first baby – our daughter – died in utero at 5 months gestation. Labouring to deliver her was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but the few hours we spent with her lifeless body afterwards also paradoxically remains one of the most precious times in my life. Two years later, I miscarried our second pregnancy in the first trimester. During both pregnancies, my kidney functioning had unexplainably deteriorated very rapidly so we decided not to try to get pregnant again, grieved the loss of ever experiencing a full term pregnancy and birthing biological children, and began to pursue adoption instead.

Eighteen months later, just after we adopted our gorgeous son, Zola, and thought that we’d finally come through the hardest of times, I suffered acute kidney failure and also discovered that I had lost some hearing and that I had holes developing in the retinas of both my eyes, resulting in significant loss of sight. These health issues are connected by a very rare genetic mutation that affects the development of the membranes in my kidneys, eyes, and ears. For many months my doctors tried to understand and treat my kidney failure and loss of eye sight through multiple assessments and surgeries. Though we were not able to regain any of my lost kidney functioning or eye sight, the treatments appear to have successfully stabilised them. Because my genetic mutation is so rare, there’s very little research to predict what will happen to my kidneys, eyesight and hearing in future and very few avenues for treatment. So, alongside learning to live well with all of these losses, I have had to learn to live wholeheartedly in the face of great uncertainty about my future health. One step at a time, through and after each of these losses, and even as I face the possibility of future losses, I’ve found my way, and me and my family have been able to create joy and meaning in our lives again.

If you have gone through or are still in the middle of major trauma, loss, health issues, or uncertain and scary future events, I can meet you there because I’ve been there with many clients, but perhaps more importantly, I’ve gone there in my own life. Because of my personal experience of grappling with various ideas about death, grief, resilience, spirituality, you can rest assured that I won’t give you the “7 steps to happiness” bollocks or the flimsy motivational hype that’s so prolific in much of the grief and personal development literature. I also won’t try to squeeze your rich and unique experience into an over-simplified, universal model of how you “should” grieve, because I know that grief experiences and expressions are as unique as the losses that created them. I know that creating joy and meaning after loss and trauma is no easy road, and there’s no single “recipe” or formula for every person. But I also know that you can live wholeheartedly during and after significant loss, and I have many personally and professionally tried-and-tested, solid tools to help you find and create a life that’s deeply meaningful and worth living after loss.

family2

Me and my precious boys

Counseling, Coaching, and Teaching Experience

I’ve worked in various roles in the creative and/ or helping professions in various countries since I graduated from my Social Work undergraduate degree in 2001:

  • Teaching arts and crafts to kids in an after-school club at a primary school in Cape Town, SA
  • Child Protection Social Worker in London, UK
  • Employee Coach/ Counsellor to call centre agents in Cape Town, SA
  • Freelance art work for private clients in Cape Town, SA (menu design, mural painting)
  • Career Coach online while living in London, UK
  • Private Counsellor to employees in education and health in Cape Town, SA
  • Leadership training for managers at call centres in Cape Town, SA
  • Training first year medical students in interviewing skills, multi-disciplinary teamwork, ethics, and empathy at the University of Cape Town, SA.
  • Training Social Work students in family assessment and supervising Social Work field practicum at the University of Cape Town, SA.
  • Research Assistant on a book project on the topic of intercultural trauma, in Canada.
  • Since 2010 my work has focused solely on grief support and training of grief support practitioners online.

Training

I have studied a variety of counselling/ therapy/ coaching methods over the years, including:

  • Psychodynamic social work assessment
  • Intervewing children and vulnerable adults
  • Introduction to Art Therapy
  • Introduction to Drama Therapy
  • Trauma Debriefing
  • Solution-focused Therapy
  • Suicide Intervention
  • Neuro-linguistic Psychology Master Practice
  • Martha Beck Life Coach Training
  • Nancy Kline’s Time to Think Method
  • Byron Katie’s “The Work”
  • Narrative Therapy/ Inquiry
  • Having developed a love for narrative therapy/ inquiry, these days I mostly draw from this method in my work, and continue to invest most of my learning in the arena of narrative therapy/ inquiry.