Cultivate Calmness Podcast Episode #1 - Honoring National Grief Awareness Day: Kaela Rae Vance's Reflections
Host: Kaela Rae Vance LPCCS
In this podcast episode, Kaela Rae Vance LPCCS, a Holistic Clinical Counselor from Central Ohio, explores the intricate landscape of grief in commemoration of National Grief Awareness Day. With her specialization in advanced counseling techniques and trauma, Kaela provides valuable insights into managing complex grief. What sets this episode apart is Kaela's candid sharing of her own childhood grief story, weaving personal experience with professional expertise. This episode offers a compassionate resource for individuals seeking guidance or looking to support others in their grief journeys, ultimately honoring the importance of acknowledging and navigating grief.
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Hi, my name is Kayla Vance. I'm a licensed professional clinical counselor located in Dublin, Ohio, and I wanted to take a few minutes to introduce myself and wait for some people to join us today and hear what I have to say about my journey and where I've kind of been, how I got here today, and really get us started on the path with this podcast. And I'm hoping to reach a lot of people and maybe learn some new things from others as well as myself and share information about therapy and grief, as those are my specialties.
So today is really special. If you aren't aware today, August 30th is National Grief Awareness Day. And so I thought no better time than today to share with you about grief and why I am here. So like I said, my name is Kayla, and I have been a therapist now for 10 years. This year marks the 10th year that I've had a license as a therapist. But my journey into therapy started a long time ago.
So my grief journey started when I was seven years old. My mom had struggled with cancer and she died when I was seven, and I have two younger siblings, so they were five and two when she died. And from that time on, I had always wanted to be in a helping profession, and I wanted to save people like my mom, is how that journey started. So I originally wanted to be an oncologist and went to school, took science classes, did really well until college and science became really hard, and now I have a much better understanding of science. But then it was really difficult. So I changed my major and I majored in health education.
When I graduated, I still felt like I wanted to educate about grief and childhood grief specifically. And it took about a year and unfortunately, another tragic loss happened in our family. I had a cousin die tragically and unexpectedly. From that moment on, that's when I decided that I wanted to go into counseling. I wanted to help people like my family who were going through the grief process and how to manage that and what to do.
So went to grad school, graduated, and here I am today. I opened my private practice a little over a year ago, and I have been focusing on trauma and grief with children, adults, and I'm wanting to expand and talk a little bit more about that. Today I want to talk a little bit more about that journey that I had with grief and where I see this going in the future.
So like I said, my journey with grief started when I was seven. There are lots of memories, lots of experiences that I've had over the years. Looking back to when I was seven, yes, it was very hard. It was sad. There were many moments that I can recall that were difficult. There are also many moments that I can recall that were very happy and very great, and I do know and did have many great leaders and adults in my life that helped myself and my siblings cope with the loss of my mom. And I'm really grateful for those moments and for those experiences that they had.
One of the best things that I think my family was able to do, and I don't know whose idea that was, I don't know if it came from my mom, if it came from maybe a program that she had been in when she was in hospice, when they knew that she was dying. I've never gotten the answer to that. But she prepared for her death by helping us, her children be able to still remember her.
And so talking about this, I talk about this with other people and other people know this, but even talking about this with you and in this way may bring up emotions for me. This is a new experience and sharing things in a different way.
But one of the things that my mom did for us was she wrote us birthday cards, celebration cards, holiday cards for several years after she was going to be gone. So what I mean by that is I was seven, so I had a birthday card for when I was eight and nine and ten, and then they started to get less, and I don't recall, I haven't gone back and looked at those specifically recently, but then it was big birthdays, thirteen, sixteen, eighteen, and I think eighteen was my last birthday card.
I think I had a graduation card and there weren't anymore.
I believe from what I'm told about that time is that she was getting very sick and very tired and unable to write more cards. She had the intention to write more cards, wedding and maybe other big celebrations, but wasn't able to.
So those cards were things that I always looked forward to on a birthday. And on occasion I will pull those out and I will look at them and I will read them. And just that I had those and that I know that my mom was thinking about me, and that in grief, we have anticipatory grief. And so not only were we as children anticipating her death in those moments, she was also anticipating her death and her not being there for us as we grew up and her going to miss out on the experiences that we've had.
And so as I go through life, I miss her every day and I think about how I want her to be there, but I have mementos and I have things of hers that I was able to see carry with me throughout my life and different things that bring me comfort.
So this necklace is one of them, actually. This is a new necklace, but made with pieces of her jewelry. And this is a necklace that my brother had made for my sister and I that have our birth stone and a diamond stone from my mom's mother's ring and I believe, I think that's it. And so he had these made from those because he was able to use some of the stones from those for his engagement ring to his wife. So we were able to take things from her that were special because they were hers, and we were able to incorporate them into our lives and in ways that were special for us. So this is something that I wear after he gave it to me.
Before this, I had another necklace that I would wear all the time from the time it was given to me and would rarely take it off. And these are those stories of those mementos. Even a necklace that when it was broken was very sad. It was traumatic in itself for me if it broke, and my husband has had it fixed on numerous occasions because I didn't want it changed. I didn't want the chain changed. I didn't want the clasp changed. I didn't want anything changed about it. I just wanted it fixed.
Now, everybody has a different grief journey and it's a different grief experience. For some people, maybe that wouldn't matter so much for me, it mattered at the time. Now, I might say that doesn't matter so much, as long as I know that it's hers and that the parts of hers are still there, that's what's meaningful. Some people may choose never to wear their loved one's jewelry or clothing because it's too special. Other people may choose to wear it, and you take it with them everywhere, kind of like I have done. There's no right or wrong way to grieve. We all grieve differently.
And that's what I hope to teach you and to learn in this podcast and in these talks is that we all learn and grieve differently. And as a clinician, even I know a lot about grief as a grief therapist, but I'm still learning. Every day I read books and I learn other ways of thinking about grief.
I hear even my family members' experiences even through this process. I have talked to other family members briefly about their grief and things that they went through when the same family members died. When my mom died, I know how I grieved, but I also don't know how I grieved. I've had my dad tell me the things that I would do that I don't remember. I know how I witnessed my siblings grieve, but I don't know exactly their experience unless they've wanted to tell me about it. I recently learned things about my grandparents and the way they handled the death of their daughter, my mom, how they handled that, what that experience was like for them and how they worked through that while also taking care of and watching their grandchildren. Me and my siblings grow up and grieve the loss of their mom. So all of those things were all encompassed together, and those were things that I didn't pick up on and I didn't learn about when I was little. And those are things that I'm able to recognize now.
So grief is a journey, and I hope that today on National Grief Awareness Day that you're able to understand that and you're able to share some of your experiences with me. I would love to hear about them and be able to share in your grief and remember your loved ones. But it's also important to recognize on this grief awareness day that grief isn't always about the loss of a loved one or the death of a loved one.
Grief can be in many ways, it can be maybe the loss of a relationship, a divorce, a separation, a breakup. It could be a loss of a friendship from separation or just changes in who you are. And we don't see eye to eye anymore and we don't agree. It can be the loss of a job moving loss of a pet again from either death or separation, or I need to give something up that I don't want to give up or even wanting to do something.
So for example, it's the beginning of the school year right now, and loss can be experienced at this time too. You can experience joy and loss at the same time. So I know a lot of teenagers that are going off to college. College can be a wonderful, exciting experience, but it can also be a loss of childhood of I have to take on responsibility now so I no longer have that freedom to do whatever I want because now I have to pay for things. Or I left a boyfriend or a girlfriend behind, and now I'm in a different place and I can't see them as much. Or I've moved out of my house and I'm in a dorm or I'm out of state. So many losses can also be experienced even in a wanted change, like going to college for example, or moving for a job. I want this job. I want to move here, but I also am going to miss the things that I'm leaving behind. Those are losses and joys being experienced at the same time, and sometimes those things could be hard to manage and hard to deal with.
So in talking about grief, we're not just talking about somebody or something dying. It's also just missing or change can be a loss in and of itself. So I hope that you want to join me as we explore trauma and grief and other mental health topics, and I can't wait to share them with you.
Thank you for joining me today and learning a little bit about me, where I've come from, how I've gone on this journey of grief and loss and trauma, and hopefully share those things with you and we can learn and experience together. Have a wonderful day. Thank you for joining me.