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Making meaning of loss and friendships

by Dara Goldberg on 04/29/24

Loss is a concept that comes up in therapy all the time.  When I was a social work student, I automatically connected loss with death.  Over the past decade the definition has broadened in so may ways.  Loss can be related to relationships, moving, health, participation in activities, aging and so many other ways.  Loss is inevitable, its what we do next that determines a lot.

Yes, friendships come and go over the course of time, but what about friendships that change.   Sometimes, when I look at old photo albums, I feel a lot of sadness for not putting more effort into maintaining relationships.  Life gets busy, people move forward and some relationship fade away.  I like to believe that does not take away any of the meaning and joy that these people brought to my life when we were closer.  Many of us have those childhood friends that are still in our lives.  Are they still in our lives because we are close, have a lot in common and enjoy spending time together?  Or are they still here because that is just the way it is.

The big question is what do we do with this feeling of loss.  As people, our first instinct is to avoid or dismiss hard feelings.  We want to pretend its no big deal or does not really impact us.  What may the experience be like to sit with this uncomfortable feeling? To acknowledge it and even accept that it exists.  It may feel painful but also may feel really empowering to validate our own feelings and experience.  Loss is such a universal concept and feeling, it just varies how we chose to define it.  I am a believer in broadening this definition in hopes that people find comfort that they are not alone in their loss and it is a very normal experience.

Just say YES!

by Dara Goldberg on 03/19/24


I like to think of myself as a highly non aggressive person, and yet when my friend asked me to go with her to a trial boxing class, I said sure.  Not quite knowing what to expect, I said sure because I also try and practice what I preach which is take risks and get out of my comfort zone.

We got to this class and the instructors wrapped up my hands and wrists, handed me boxing gloves and said go.  Needless to say, boxing is out of my comfort zone.  Within the first few minutes of class, I was paired with another student and told to try and hit them.  Actively trying to hit another person goes against every instinct in by body.  I think I had to say out loud “You want me to try and make contact with someone else’s body?” The answer is yes because they were also trying to hit back at me and that is what boxing is.  Needless to say, no one got hurt, I got a great work out and this was a lot of fun.

It was out of my comfort zone.  I had to own that I did not know what I was doing, probably did not look amazing at it, and yet be ready to participate and join in because that was the point of the class.  Also, no one seemed to care that I was new, they were just focused on their own workout.  I did my best and hope to go back soon and try another class.

The theme is to continue to say yes to new experiences, even when they are unpredictable and maybe a little scary.  I had to challenge that feeling of discomfort and keep moving.  Even though this class was hard, I don’t regret for a minute having a new adventure and saying yes. 

I hate the word Productive

by Dara Goldberg on 03/04/24


By definition, productive is being efficient and effective at the same time, spending more time, energy, and attention on making progress on the tasks that matter.  What does that actually mean?  Who defines what being efficient and effective mean? How does one define making product on a task?

When I was in my 20’s my friends would refer to me as the laid-back friend.  The one who was never really anxious and always go with the flow. As I have gotten older and had a family, I have quickly become a Type A stereotype.  I live by my google calendar, I am always on time and spend way too much energy in my brain organizing mine and my family’s life.  However, the longer I have been working with clients often a lot like me, I have really begun to hate the word productive.  It seems like a set up for failure. 

Some people use the word productive as a badge of honor.  We all know those people who humble brag how they beautifully manage the 100 things they have going on in their lives. Good for them.  For me, it just leads to internal judgment about everything I am not doing.  It leads me to define a day by productive or non-productive. That feels so binary and unfair to myself.   Some of the days where I feel my best are hanging out with friends just talking, maybe reading, and almost always taking a nap.  Perhaps for me, that is being efficient and effective.

At some point in my career this metaphor was shared with me and I love sharing it with others.  I am not giving credit where it is due, so I apologize to this brilliant person who introduced me to this concept.  We have a lot of balls in the air. When we truly think about the ball we are juggling, which ones are glass and which ones are rubber.  If a rubber ball drops, it bounces, and hey it can even live in a corner for a while and collect dust. When you ready, you can wipe it off and begin juggling with it again.  Nothing bad happens.  When we drop a glass ball, it shatters.  Those are the ball we want to put our energy into.  Most of our ball are rubber.  A very few are glass.  Taking care of ourself is a glass ball.  Maybe prioritizing your family or your health is a glass ball.  I tell clients, they are not allowed to have more then three glass balls when doing this exercise. Realistically, most of our world does not break if we drop a few things, get behind, need more help, feel overwhelmed.  Most of the time, we can take a breath, take a break, and begin juggling again with manageable consequences.   Most of our world is rubber balls.

Not everything we do and care about is created equal.  How do we decide what is important to us and only us to prioritize?  How do we begin to let go of the internal and external pressure that we have to keep all these balls in the air?  What if we begin the change the language, we use to describe how we move through the day, and make choices?  What if we begin to change or adjust what we value? 

I see potential to feel less stressed and most importantly more proud of what we actually are doing instead of running through our day like it is a checklist.  I would encourage you to try taking the work productive out of your vocabulary, release yourself from the judgement of needing to do more and see how you feel.  Spend more time focusing on the glass balls. 

One Night in Wilmington

by Dara Goldberg on 03/04/24

When I told a few people I was going away this weekend the first thing they ask is “where are you going?”  My short and sweet answer is Wilmington Delaware.  Don’t get me wrong, Wilmington seems like a nice enough city (although we couldn’t really figure out the vibe, but I’m willing to blame this on the snowy January day) but that wasn’t the point of this trip.  My friends from college and I were so desperate to see each other in the short 24 time span we had; Wilmington was the place between us all geographically. I write all this to speak how challenging it seems to be for three women to get away from our respective homes for one night.  These two women are some of the most important people in my world, I want to prioritize them.

               A few months earlier my husband took a trip to Las Vegas with some friends.  They booked flights, booked a hotel, gave me plenty of notice and went. He made it look easy. He deserves to get away and have fun.  I say this to note the difference that these experiences of enjoying time with friends without your children seems to be incredibly difficult for women.  Sometimes there are valid reasons and sometimes, women take so much owner ship of their families lives and schedules, the idea of booking a plane ticket feels overwhelming, anxiety producing and for some close to impossible.  Noting this is just my personal experience and not claiming it to necessarily be a universal one.

               I write this as a woman in my forties, fortunate enough to have the means to travel, fortunate enough to have a supportive husband, and fortunately enough to be able to take a few days away from my family and spend them with my extended family, my girlfriends.  All these factors considered, I ask myself, why does it seem so challenging for women to create space for themselves, their friendship, their physical health, and their mental health?  What is the message we tell ourselves that get in our own heads that we “shouldn’t” prioritize these experiences or that our family will literally fall apart without us.

               In my professional life, I am a social worker and spend a lot of time talking with women, especially mothers about the “shoulds” in their life.  I ask them to challenge this word.  What is driving the “should”?  Is it guilt, obligation, pressure from within or others, a need, a want, or something else entirely.  This is not a new concept that women are often inundated with the idea of being the “perfect wife/mother/ woman.”  We are inundated with messages from other families and especially social media.  There is a lot of unrealistic pressure seeing “perfect” families online or even talking to people.  It all gets internalized and often leads women feeling that they are not enough.  I love using the term with my clients “good enough parenting.”  This is a concept by Dr. Donald Winicott, pediatrician, and psychoanalyst, who coined the Good Enough Mother.  This is an approach to parenting that involves being sensitive, responsive, and adaptive to our children’s needs and developmental abilities. It stands in direct contrast to the perfect parent, recognizing that you can’t be everything all the time and that’s more than OK.  I work to embrace this idea in most areas of my life and I find the letting go of perfections gives me a lot more room to breathe and feel good about myself.

               What could be the benefits if we believed ourselves when we said we can leave.  I use the term leave loosely.  Leave do not necessarily mean days away, it could be just getting a cup of coffee alone for a few hours. Our children will be fine with out us (they may struggle and bit and then even thrive) and the whole existence of our home won’t actually fall apart if we, the mom, go away for a few hours or days?  On the flip side, what is the benefit if we give ourselves real time for us and nurturing outside relationship without guilt?  Would we come back refreshed, more rejuvenated, more engaged, less exhausted.

               We did have a wonderful 24 hours in Wilmington just sitting in a hotel room in pj’s, doing our nails, catching up and being silly. For 24 hours my biggest job was to just take care of me. Thank you Wilmington!