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to grieve is to know love

I knew next to no one when I moved to NYC. I had just ended a toxic relationship and left Scotland, the country of my dreams. I was 23, going through a really rough time, and hiding it very well.

I got a job working as a receptionist at a yoga studio. I loved being in New York and felt a sense of independence and confidence I’d never felt before. But I was also in a lot of emotional pain, old eating disorder stuff was coming up, and at a certain point, I knew I needed help. I had been in therapy on and off throughout my life and had found it somewhat helpful up to that point, so I thought, why not. I’ll look for a therapist. One day at the yoga studio, I saw a postcard on the community board for a therapist whose office was a block away; I emailed her.

6 years later, I still see that same therapist and have also been in group therapy for around the same amount of time. I remember when Lindsey asked if I wanted to join the group. I said yes, and had absolutely no idea what I was getting into. I remember her reacting with surprise when I told her “yes.” I thought, “Man, what will this be like??”

On October 5th, 2022, I said goodbye to the group as I prepare to leave for Denver. It has been an extremely emotional experience, and I am grieving this loss.

There is something almost unexplainable about the feeling of group therapy. It's powerful. It is a sacred, trusting container and our facilitators held incredible space for us to be vulnerable and learn and grow from each other. We all started as strangers, but as we learned such intimate things about each other, it didn’t stay that way for long. We soon knew each other deeply in that particular space, and for me personally, it facilitated immense healing and personal growth.

Nothing has challenged me therapeutically more than my group. I learned how to feel my emotions, communicate boundaries and needs, relate to others, hold space for others to feel their feelings, develop a relationship with my triggers, and so much more. It has been my rock over the past 6 years—I rarely missed a session. And even though I will continue my therapeutic work, this chapter is closing and I am grieving. This therapy practice and NYC are tightly wound up in my experience; saying goodbye to the group makes my departure from the city more and more real. I will never forget the people I met in group and everything they have taught me. Never. Their lessons live in my soul. I have loved this group profoundly and so, the grief comes. I am allowing it all.

Our tradition of saying goodbye is picking out and sharing an object that reminds us of the person leaving the group, and the person leaving does the same thing for each group member. (My objects are pictured above). It’s a beautiful gift and one that was a bit overwhelming for me to receive. It also felt immensely loving and comforting. Healing can be lonely. It can be a hard, and sometimes painful, process. It can become difficult to see the forest for the trees, and even with all the self-work I do, I have felt at times that nothing was changing. As most things do, it just takes time (so much time) and consistency. It is in moments like these farewells and new beginnings that I can really step back, see and feel my progress. Because I have changed, deeply. And I am so so proud of myself.

I used to ask my therapist, “when will I know when I’m ready to leave the group?” I saw many other folks leave over my tenure, and wondered if there would be a point when I would know it was time. Now I understand: I probably never would have felt “ready.” The journey of discovering yourself and working on your shit is lifelong. What I found peace in was the fact that I felt I had learned so much. I had dedicated myself to showing up in the group and in the world as the person I wanted to be, and slowly but surely, I became her.

New York changed me and for that, I will be forever grateful. I will say over and over ‘thank you, universe’; for the yoga and the reception job and especially for that postcard on the community board.

In honor of my 6 years, I wanted to share 6 things I learned from my group over the years:

  1. Boundaries are an act of self-love

  2. All you need to do is show up, and if that’s all you feel you can do, that’s enough

  3. When in doubt, ask more questions

  4. Healing means sharing and celebrating the good stuff too

  5. Release expectations….this helps most things

  6. Never underestimate the impact you have on the world by just being authentically who you are

The space that Alana and Lindsey, the co-founders of Intuitive Healing, held for me and the group (in all its iterations) over the years is really really really special. I am Intuitive Healing’s biggest fangirl, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell you to check them and their team out if you’re looking for therapy in NYC.

For now, I am feeling the grief of leaving and am also feeling confident in the skills I have gained through group therapy that I am bringing into this next stage of my life. I was speaking with Lindsey about my introversion (as I often do) in a session a few months ago. We were specifically talking about making friends in Denver. I am a little nervous about it; but I said to Lindsey, ‘When I moved to NYC, I didn’t know who I was. I didn’t know who Rachel was. I was in so much pain and disconnected from myself. Now, I know who I am. And I think that’ll help a whole lot.’

PS if anyone catches the reference in the title of this blog, comment below 😉


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