When I look at my own journey of healing and what inspired me to become a therapist, I think of the phrase “tis better to light a candle than curse the darkness.”
This quote was introduced to a 10-year-old me after experiencing my own tragedy.
As a ten-year-old, I could not comprehend why so many people were taken from us including my hero dad on 9/11. My brain used to replay over and over again my reality and try to solve what was happening. Was my dad taken from me so soon because I did not kiss him goodbye when he left for work? Did I not love him enough? What if he comes back and forgets who I am?
The stories played in my adolescent brain over and over again. I refused to face it, I didn’t want to believe it. I wanted to fix it.
We are Resilient
Americas Camp was one of the therapeutic spaces that not only helped me heal but taught me the best lessons of resiliency. This “magical place” brought together other kids who lost a parent on 9/11. We looked at each other and realized at this place we were no longer the 9/11 kid. It was safe to be kids.
We were able to leave our bubble of complete incomprehension of what shifted our lives and be in a place where we can process and heal together as kids, shaping our development.
Americas Camp motto “tis better to light a candle than curse the darkness” was a lesson for the world, that despite our tragedies we can grow, we can honor, and most importantly we can share our stories to ignite strength and resiliency for others.
More importantly, I learned that something good can come after something bad. It opened my eyes to what collective healing and resiliency looks like.
Trauma and Grief
Trauma is not a one size fits all. Trauma is unique, it is messy and yet it can be beautiful.
It gives us perspectives and life lessons that we can use to enhance our lives on and show up for others with more compassion.
One of my mottos in life is I learned how difficult and messy traumatic events can be in our lives, but have also learned how resiliency can be beautiful.
At Americas Camp, we learned to lean on one another, learn from one another, and cultivate strength and resiliency through our sense of community. They say it takes a village to raise a person. Similarly, it takes a village to help one overcome.
In the wake of a traumatic event, more often than not those affected are often left feeling lonely. Despite the phone calls, the meals, and whatnot, our experiences can feel alienating.
We often feel silenced by our trauma. There is a craving for a search of meaning, for someone to step aside with us. And more often than not there is collective grief around us, eliciting people around us to feel like our experiencing the trauma (secondary trauma).
According to CNBC, collective grief and trauma are “tightly linked.” Experts say that this kind of grief is rewiring survivors’ brains, impairing their ability to reason and make good, or reliable, decisions on a large scale- just like trauma. An integral part of healing from trauma is being able to talk about what happened, however, it is challenging for many to do so when they feel like they are surrounded by others who haven’t experienced a similar situation themselves. This is why in the wake of a traumatic event, individuals affected are often left to “fend for themselves”
Community and Support Heals
Therefore, this need for community healing is critical. I myself witness this first hand after 9/11 not only within my magical place, Americas Camp but within my own community - local and broader alike. The way our communities came together after 9/11 was remarkable. It taught me that despite all our differences, we all have the ability to come together: to listen, learn and accept one another. I don’t think I would be the therapist I am today without these life experiences and lessons.
What ignites my passion and inspiration each and every day is rooting in what it means to cultivate a community for others, especially children, to grow, smile, and thrive in a place that is safe and compassionate. In my past years working as an educator for almost a decade where many of my students experienced their own hardships at home, as well as working with many different populations of children affected by the “imaginable”, or trauma, I have learned from my journey to bring out the "sunshine" in each and every one of them, to show them and guide them to their own resiliency and strength. Now as a therapist, I support clients to help them move in a direction of healing and thriving, bringing joy into their daily lives.
As I always say, "the world has changed me, and now it is my turn to change the world."
Cait Leavey is a graduate of New York University, with a Master's Degree in Mental Health Counseling and Wellness.
Cait applies a strength-based approach to her practice, instilling confidence in each individual's strengths and “superpower” while equipping them with the tools to help them thrive and overcome their challenges.
She takes a warm, trusting, and welcoming approach to therapy, meeting every child and family at their level and need.
Cait is available for morning, afternoon and evening appointments virtually or in-person
Tuesday - Friday. She is also available on Saturdays at Peaceful Living MHC, located on the border of Scarsdale and Eastchester in Westchester, NY.