One Absolutely Necessary Ingredient for a Great Relationship that No One Talks About

by Dr. Laura Bokar, LMFT, LCPC, ACS

We have all read many articles and books about relationships. Most of them state that in order to have a great relationship we need to communicate better, actively listen, go out on dates, put the phones away, make the relationship a priority over children, have sex, laugh, try new things, etc.  Yes, these are all important to maintain a healthy relationship. Yet the recipe list is presented as if, when done over a period of time, a relationship will simply improve. It will for that period of time, but the human tendency is to revert back to old habits. The recipe list is essential for a healthy relationship but will be difficult to sustain without adding one necessary ingredient.

What is the ingredient that could change everything?  This one ingredient is essential to building a more authentic relationship which may seem obvious but isn’t. The one absolutely necessary ingredient for a great relationship that no one talks about is the need to understand. Yes, the need to understand.  How does this important factor get missed when people talk about relationships? When we are learning anything new, what do we typically do? We google information, purchase a book on Amazon, talk to those who appear to be in great relationships and we obsess about it. We do all of this to help us understand.  Without understanding, we most likely won’t know how it works, what it needs, how to take care of it, and most likely won’t invest much time with it after we have it. If we don’t understand our significant other, then how will we know what they need and how to love them?

I was working with a couple where the wife, Sarah, was raised in a very loud, angry and verbally abusive family.  Matt, her husband, was also raised in a loud family but for a different reason. He was one of four boys who all loved watching sports together.  They would get very excited and also frustrated over games on TV. When Sarah and Matt married, they did not know much about each other’s history growing up. So when Matt would yell and scream at the football games, Sarah would become very frightened and leave exit the room. Matt was confused because he wanted Sarah to watch the games with him just like at home with all his brothers. It was not until Matt and Sarah had a conversation that a new understanding was developed. Sarah would become scared when Matt raised his voice because it felt like she was back home being verbally abused. Even though Matt was yelling and swearing at the football players and not Sarah, she could not separate the two. Once Matt understood how his behavior affected Sarah, he wanted to change and not hurt his wife. Once Sarah understood Matt’s history she wanted to work at staying in the room and watch the game with him. Both had a new understanding of the situation and both wanted to change to create a closer connection.

Sometimes when couples argue they tend to hear a word or tone that triggers an emotion.  They do not look to understand the emotion that is behind the words. For example, there are many times in a therapy session when one partner will state how angry they are at the other partner.  When I hear the word angry, I understand on a more vulnerable or primal level, that means hurt or sad. When someone becomes angry they do not want to be vulnerable. Anger is safer and creates distance. However, the true desire is to have their partner know and understand how hurt they really are.

In your significant relationship as well as any meaningful relationship, it is important to learn about the other person and understand their needs and desires.  It is also important to be curious about their past, including relationships with their parents. We need to take time to understand who they are, what makes them feel loved, happy, sad, scared, excited, depressed and all the other emotions we experience.  In other words, if we do not get to truly know and understand them, we will not know how to love them. Be curious about the people you love and care about – it will help keep a healthy relationship alive.

Taking the “Thanks” out of Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on our blessings that we may be thankful for.  This is one day year that gives extra special attention to our ability to be thankful and grateful.  Take a moment to read an important article posted on Psychology Today written by psychologist, Robert L. Leahy.

In this article, Robert Leahy discusses our ability to be thankful every day.  In fact, many of us express thanks and gratitude on a regular basis and do not realize we are doing so.  Giving thanks every day also enables you to find a positive aspect of each day.  This can help combat negative, depressive thinking.  Expressing gratitude every day can also build a general sense of happiness and confidence.

Take some simple steps to improve your ability to be thankful daily:

  • First, be more mindful! You may already be doing this and not realize it.
  • Notice patterns of negative thoughts, are they overwhelming you? If so, attempt to challenge them and replace them with a positive.
  • Start and end each day with a positive thought; particularly something good that happened that day.
  • End each day with gratitude; what are you grateful for today?
  • Share your thanks with others, modeling for others can encourage them to do the same.

So let your holiday kick-start a new season of “Thanks” and gratitude!

Thanksgiving 2

Grieving – Our Heartfelt Response to a Major Loss


Grieving comes to most of us at some point in our lives. In fact, statistics show that each person can expect to experience the loss of a loved one once every nine to thirteen years. The resulting sadness may be the most painful of life’s experiences. Because it is painful, however, our eventual adaptation to the loss can bring meaning and integrity to our lives – and this, ultimately, is a gift to us from the one we have lost. It is a reminder to us that the circle is unbroken.

Our ability to adapt to loss is an important feature of the course of our lives. Change can instigate growth. Loss can give rise to gain. If we do not grieve the loss, however, it may drain us of energy and interfere with our living fully in the present. If we are not able to mourn at all, we may spend our lives under the spell of old issues and past relationships – living in the past and failing to connect with the experiences of the present.

Grieving is a process of experiencing our reactions to loss. It is similar to mourning. The term bereavement means the state, not the process, of suffering from a loss. Normal grieving is an expected part of the process of recuperating from a loss. The intensity of the process comes as a surprise to most people – and for many, it becomes one of their most significant life experiences. People have their own individual grief responses. No two people will experience the process in the same way.

The first reaction to the loss of a loved one, even when the loss is expected, is usually a sense of disbelief, shock, numbness, and bewilderment. The survivor may experience a period of denial in which the reality of the loss is put out of mind. This reaction provides the person some time to prepare to deal with the inevitable pain.

The feeling of numbness then turns to intense suffering. The person feels empty. There are constant reminders of the one who has been lost. There may be periods of increased energy and anxiety followed by times of deep sadness, lethargy, and fatigue. There may be a period of prolonged despair as the person slowly begins to accept the loss. The one who grieves may find it difficult to feel pleasure and it may seem easier most of the time to avoid other people. The bereaved may dream repeatedly about the lost loved one – or hear their voice or even actually see them. The grieving survivor may adopt some mannerisms of the one who has left.

Sadness may be interspersed with times of intense anger. Many of us have difficulty expressing anger toward one who has died. (However, anger enters into most of our relationships, and the relationship with the one who has died does continue, though changed, even after death.) We may reproach ourselves for not doing enough to prevent the death or for having treated the deceased badly in the past. The grieving person may become irritable and quarrelsome – and may interpret signs of goodwill from others as messages of rejection. Normal stressors may become triggers that set off periods of deep anger.

Physical symptoms commonly accompany grief. These include weakness, sleep disturbance, a change in appetite, shortness of breath, dizziness, headaches, back pain, gastric reflux, or heart palpitations.

Some people may show a “flight into health,” as if the loss were behind them and they had started to move on again. This pattern occurs frequently, especially in a society which encourages quick fixes, even though the complete resolution of the grief process can take up to two or three years. To shorten the process by pretending that it has been completed is to invite a prolongation of the symptoms.

Suggestions for Experiencing Grief

All of us grieve in different ways, depending on the circumstances of the death, our own personal characteristics, and the meanings attached to the death by those left behind. Nonetheless, there are some specific actions that most of us can take to complete the process in a way that allows us to move on, eventually, to a whole and meaningful life again.

– Allow yourself to grieve and feel the depth of your loss. Grieving is hard work. We may feel that we should be “strong” and hold in our emotions, that happy thoughts and feelings are the only way to get through a trying time. This approach, however, makes it very difficult to complete the process of grieving. It is important to accept the reality of the loss. The person who died is gone and will not return. This fact must be accepted in order for the grief process to continue. Try to understand why the death occurred and the events that led to death. Give yourself permission to feel and think about whatever comes up regarding your loss. If happy thoughts and feelings come your way, allow them to happen. Similarly, if dreadful pain, sadness, and anxiety show up when tears turn to uncontrollable sobs, give in to these temporary feelings. Embrace your sadness, know it, and make it your own. If it is difficult to open yourself to these feelings, it may help to make a personal commitment to complete the grief process. Vow to yourself that for your own benefit, for the good of others in your life and for your future happiness, that you need to get through your loss completely and in a healthy way. This means opening yourself up to all of your feelings and thoughts, both positive and negative, and letting them happen.

– Accept the help of others and let them know what you need. Don’t try to do it alone. This is the cardinal rule in grief work. Isolation is bad for most people, and it is especially harmful to a person who is grieving. Research shows that people who have social support complete the grieving process better than those who try it in isolation. Social support should be available to you during the entire grieving process, but especially initially after the death. Find people who can be trusted absolutely and can listen well. We need to share the intense thoughts and feelings that we experience when we are alone. It is during the time of grieving that many people look for the help of a professional therapist who is likely better prepared than most to empathize with you and guide the process productively. Other people give you a sense of security and reality when your life has been turned upside down by the loss of a loved one. Accepting the help of others during mourning is not a sign of weakness. It simply means that you can allow yourself to be comforted during a rough period, and this will contribute to your strength later. Sometimes other people may not know what you need, even if their intentions are good. In this case, it is important to educate them. If they say the wrong things, let them know. If there are specific things that you need, tell them. Assertiveness may be difficult during grieving because you have little energy, but clear communication is essential to getting your needs met.

– Be realistic in processing your grief. Read up on grief work or talk to a therapist who can describe the grief process. Understand what you are trying to accomplish, and realize that your pain will subside in time. There is a clear goal in sight. Understand what this death means to you and what issues it brings up for you. The loss may be there always, but you can come to understand it and feel comfortable with yourself in time. Accept the fact that you will have some reactions during the process which you may not like – angry blowups, ignoring other people, moodiness. Expect your loss to dredge up intense emotions, although these feelings will pass in time. Your way of grieving is particular to you and your individual loss. It is not helpful to blame or to be blamed for the unique way each of us grieves. Don’t let the personal judgments of others determine how or to what degree you should grieve. Your grieving is your own.

– Find ways to express your feelings. The expression of emotion is one of the most important aspects of the grieving process. Each of us has different ways of expressing feelings. Some of us talk about them, while others prefer to write them in a journal or physically act out the feelings (pounding a pillow or punching bag, running, or dancing). Look for trusted and nonjudgmental people in your support system who are able to hear you talk at length, cry until you can’t anymore, and review your experiences with the deceased. Expressing your feelings is a crucial part of the grief experience.

– Submit to the grief process and take care of your needs. Even though grieving is hard work, and we may prefer to avoid it, there is no way around it. There is a major disruption in your life when a loved one dies and this entails a period of re-adjustment. Here are some real-life concerns to keep in mind during the grief process.

•Give yourself some quiet time alone. Find a good balance between being around others and giving yourself some solitude so that you can reflect on your loss and process your feelings.

•Allow yourself to have some breaks from your grief. Grieving is difficult. As in any hard job, you need a break from it from time to time. Go out and try to have a good time with friends. Read a good book. Lose yourself in a good movie.

•If possible, avoid making long-term decisions. Times of crisis decrease our ability to make rational decisions. Put decisions off until things have settled down to a more stable pattern.

•Take care of your health. Grief is a time of high physical risk. Even though it may be difficult, try to get some physical exercise, even if it is only a daily walk. Maintain a nutritious diet, but don’t avoid indulging in special treats occasionally since self-nurturing is important during the process. Above all, avoid alcohol and drugs during this time. They may provide a temporary feeling of relief, but your goal should focus on grieving productively, not avoiding it.

Grieving is a very personal experience and one of our most painful to endure. It is also a journey into the depths of our lives that can ultimately reveal our strength of character.

“Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak whispers the o’er-fraught heart and bids it break.” – William Shakespeare (Macbeth, Act IV, Scene 3)


– Losses are a fact of life.

– Every relationship is only temporary.

– I need to be as aware as possible of what is happening.

– I will not always feel the way I do now.

– Tears are a sign of strength, not weakness.

– My loved one would want me to get on with life again.

– I am willing to give this all the time it takes.

– I need to do a lot of talking and crying – as much as it takes.

– My loved one’s departure allows me to find out more about who I am.

– My life has been disrupted, and now I will work to get it back on track again.

– I need to share my experience with other human beings.

– My grieving is my own – I, and not others, will determine what form it takes.

– Nobody else can take this life journey for me.

– I will be happy again.

4 Solid Predictors of a Relationship in Trouble

Did you know whether our marriage would survive? It’s a question couples have often asked me after they have experienced a positive change in their relationship. I think it is an interesting question.  However, if I were to allow myself to predict an outcome, I would be doing our profession a disservice.

I believe in the process of therapy and that change is possible! I have observed when couples identify where they learned much of their behavior patterns. It serves as an awakening and an opportunity for them to decide to do things differently. I hold the belief that when couples do the necessary work, their relationship can be stronger than before therapy. But it is important for me to state, when abuse (of any kind), addictions, affairs or agendas are present these behaviors need to be assessed for severity, then addressed and eliminated for a relationship to be healthy.

When a relationship is in severe trouble there are four communication styles that The Gottman Institute research identifies as predictors that a relationship will end.  John Gottman calls them The Four Horsemen – Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness and Stonewalling.

  1. Criticism is distinctly different than stating a complaint. It is an attack on the partner’s character, with the intent to harm. It is crucial to learn the difference between complaining and criticizing.
  2. Contempt is treating the other with disrespect, ridicule, name-calling, and sarcasm. Its intention is to make one feel worthless. Contempt is the single predictor of divorce. This communication style needs to be addressed and eliminated.
  3. Defensiveness is typically a response to criticism. It happens when a partner feels wrongly accused and finds excuses. The intent is to get the partner to back off. Defensiveness is necessary at times but, when used in a stressful situation, may increase the conflict.
  4. Stonewalling is typically a response to contempt. The partner stops listening and responding. They back off or shut down from any interactions with their partner. The intent is to avoid addressing a difficult issue. It is crucial during this time to recognize the behavior, ask for a break, and return with a more open attitude.

I write about the Four Horsemen because they are the most common indicators that therapists use to identify a relationship in trouble. These communication styles are not difficult for therapists to identify when working with a couple and yet they can be the most challenging to change. Fortunately, when a couple comes in wanting to improve their relationship and does what is necessary to change, they can create a new relationship.



Dr. Laura L. Bokar                  LMFT, LCPC, ACS










Dr. Laura Bokar can be reached by phone at 630.718.0717, ext. 202 or email For immediate assistance to schedule an appointment, please connect with one of our Client Care Specialists at 630.718.0717, ext.240.


Resource: The Gottman Institute



Why “use your words” isn’t a Helpful Phrase in Parenting

Your child comes running to you. They are crying. They throw themselves on the floor and flail
their arms and legs. You don’t know what happened or what started this behavior. You pick them
up, pull them to you, and they continue. At this point, you utter one of the most common phrases
a parent knows, “use your words”. The intent of this phrase is to better understand what your
child is experiencing so can better attend to their need. Unfortunately, when this behavior is
occurring, your child is not able to use their words as they have moved from their thinking brain
into their emotion brain (limbic system). In this emotion part of the brain, logic and words hold
no meaning. Instead, connection and validation is the language that needs to be heard.

Importance of Co-regulation
During a tantrum, there are two main tasks for parents; 1) keep yourself calm and 2) help your
child get calm. What’s even better than only having two tasks, if you can complete task 1 often
task 2 will happen automatically. This is called co-regulation. Through co-regulation you are
actively showing (not telling) your child how to calm their emotions. The reason co-regulation
works is because of mirror neurons in our brain. In a general sense, the mirror neurons take on
the behaviors/actions of another person and makes it their own. For children, if they see their
parent taking slow deep breaths, they will begin to take slow deep breaths as well. On the flip
side, if our child sees us become increasingly frustrated, this will only feed into their tantrum.
Co-regulation needs to continue until your child is fully calmed down. This can take a while
which is why task 1, keep yourself calm, is so important. You will know when your child is and
calming down (and moving out of their emotion brain) when they can follow a small, benign
direction like “can you grab a tissue for me?”. Once your child is calm (regulated), a discussion
about what happened and the emotion they were experiencing can be had. This is a good time to
start planning with your child behaviors they can do when experiencing different large emotions.
Many times our children do not know options for behavior around large emotions which is why
tantrums occur.

Keeping Yourself Calm
There is no one right way to keep yourself calm. What one method works for you may not work
for your spouse or the parent down the street. A skill that worked for you on the first three
tantrums may not work on the 4th or 18th. Create a set of skills and practice during calm times so
that when your child builds into a tantrum, you are prepared and ready. Below are 7 common
skills to keep you calm:

  • Take deep breaths. This keeps your blood pressure low and gives the sensation of calm.
    Start with a breath in for 5 counts and hold 5 counts. Then breathe out 5 counts and hold 5 counts. Repeat as needed.
  • Hum your favorite tune in a slow and low tone. Lullabies are great for this as it mimics times that are quiet and comfortable.
  • Name what you can see, hear, smell, touch, and taste. This is a skill for when you really are trying to stay focused and thinking.
  • Mantras such as “I am relaxed, I am calm”, “Breath in, I calm my body. Breath out, I calm my mind”, and “This is only temporary” helps you to remember your primary task.
  • Grab a snack for yourself and your child. Staying calm takes energy. Food gives energy. When giving food to your child don’t ask if they want to eat it just hand them something you know they like. If they refuse that’s ok.
  • Do a body scan. Close your eyes and find where your muscles are clenched and purposefully un-clench.
  • Switch off with another adult. If this is a particularly long meltdown, it is okay to take a break, grab a glass of water, and share the emotional load.

If you fail in keeping your calm, just remember to give yourself some grace. No parent in the
history of the world has been able to stay calm for 100% of their child’s tantrums. When the
calm returns to the home, because it will, enjoy the calm and plan for next time. Work with your
child on developing skills to manage their emotions. Alongside teaching them “a cow goes moo
and a duck says quack”, teach them “when I’m angry I take a deep breath and when I am
confused I ask for help”. These are all skills to learn and learning takes practice and repetition.

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

Christina Maki, MS, LMFT

Social Media: Setting Boundaries with your Child

In today’s world, there is virtually no escape from technology and social media. From infancy to adulthood, there is an application for almost everything. Infants and toddlers are drawn to bright lights, vivid colors, and melodic tunes. Older children enjoy testing their skills and having opportunities to create, with more advanced games like MineCraft or FortNite.  Before you know it, your child is requesting their own social media account. They may want to join Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat, or one of the countless others. As a parent, what do you do?  

Set Boundaries 

As a parent, it is necessary to set boundaries for your child. Parents are responsible for making sure their children are appropriately dressed, clean, eat balanced meals, educated, and are taught to act responsibly. Responsible use of technology is no different, in that it too requires appropriately setting of boundaries.  

  • Model Appropriate Use: As a parent, we are models of behavior for our children. This requires demonstrating moderation and responsible sharing of photos and personal information.  There’s an opportunity here to have a discussion about what is deemed appropriate and reminding our children of the everlasting effects of what they share on social media. 

  • Supervision: Parents should be able to supervise their children’s use and interactions on social media. This will require the parent to have full access to their children’s usernames and passwords to all social media accounts. Children will often resist this boundary wanting to have their privacy. While their desire for privacy is valid, safety is most important.  

  • Obligations Come First: Any and all responsibilities should be complete before using social media. This includes homework, chores, and other miscellaneous tasks that are assigned.  

  • Respect: Demand that children always remain respectful on social media. Cyber-bullying is a real thing. Teaching children that the internet is not an acceptable place to put others “on blast” when they are angry or upset. While the internet may seem like a safe or anonymous place to vent frustrations, there are very real consequences for inappropriate postings. 

Now what? 

Now that you have set appropriate boundaries, it should be smooth sailing from here, right? I am afraid not. Adolescents are smart and crafty. They are notoriously gifted at finding loopholes to their parents’ rules and boundaries. There are a few things to remember when you are trying to monitor your tween or teen’s use of social media.  

  • E-mail: Signing up for an e-mail account is far too easy for a young person to do. They can easily lie about age for consent or access. This means that your child MAY be able to sign up for an e-mail account without your approval or without your awareness, and thus, may have access to content that is inappropriate. 

  • Second Accounts: So, what would a teen do with an e-mail account that mom and dad don’t know about? Sign up for other social media accounts that mom and dad don’t know about of course! It is not uncommon for a teen to have multiple usernames for various social media platforms. There is the “family friendly” account that is monitored meticulously by mom or dad that the teen can post most of their information.  However, there is often a second, separate, account that parents may not know about that is used for friends. These second accounts tend to have more personal information or thoughts, and can hold more concerning information, such as posts alluding to depression, drug use, or other unhealthy behaviors.  

  • Alternate Devices: Some parents will use their teens phone or electronic devices as a way to impose consequences. While this is often a very effective punishment, teens will find ways around these restrictions. Teens will sometimes turn to their friends to be able to access their social media accounts from their device, particularly if they have an account that mom and dad are unaware of and are unable to monitor.  

So, what is the Bottom Line?  

Bottom line, it is going to take a good relationship with your teen to be able to effectively monitor their use of social media. As a parent, you should be setting boundaries, meaning you should model good use of social media, have access to their accounts, make sure that their responsibilities are met, and ensure they are interacting with others respectfully. However, many adolescents thirst for their freedom and privacy and may feel that they need to have their own accounts. Given the ease of access, signing up for an additional account is tantalizing. 

Additional Resources:


Emotional Responding


RespondingMost people do not listen with the intent to understand.  Most people listen with the intent to reply.”

– Stephen R. Covey

Do you know how to respond to the emotional needs of others?  Consider your relationships for a moment, your friends, family members, children or partner.  Do you feel that you are able to respond to their emotional needs?

Every person has emotional needs which they seek fulfillment for.  Some can be met on your own or with the help from someone else.  Consider the following needs both for yourself and for those you are in a relationship with:

  • To be loved, trusted, comforted, confident, respected, needed, believed, wanted, listened to
  • To belong, relax, trust, love
  • Spiritual needs
  • Intimacy needs

In responding to the emotional needs of others, the following would be unhelpful approaches:

  • Neglect “you can figure it out on your own”
  • Criticism “lighten up, it’s not that bad”
  • Advice “next time you should…”
  • Minimize “it’s really not that big of a deal”
  • Anger “that makes me so mad!”
  • Self-reflection “that happened to me once”
  • Complaints “that was so embarrassing”
  • Avoidance – using humor to change the subject

Responding to emotional needs in the following ways would be more helpful to those you care about:

  • Listen for their need- which one is are looking for to be met?
  • Listen carefully- give them your full attention, do not do something else at the same time you are attempting to listen.  This will make the other person feel dismissed.  As you listen be sure that you are understanding.
  • Listen more- take in what they are saying, do not formulate a response in your head as they are speaking.  Reflect back what they are saying, this will help them to feel heard.
  • Respond- show empathy, meet their need, do not make it about yourself! Use feeling words to communicate, “I am sorry you had to go through such sadness.”  Ask questions when appropriate; what do you need from me or what I can I do to be helpful?

These ideas just scratch the surface on meeting the needs of others in a healthy manner.  We will continue to look at this topic in depth in future blog posts.  For now, try to implement these techniques with a loved one and pay attention to the results!


Additional Resources: ADHD



Recognizing Postpartum Mood and Anxiety Disorders

Research tells us that about 80% of women will experience normal feelings of sadness and anxiety within the first few weeks of delivery. Some women may experience more clinically significant symptoms of anxiety, depression, obsessions and compulsions, and psychosis. One in seven women may suffer from more serious symptoms of depression or anxiety. Dads and other partners are also susceptible; one in ten men may experience postpartum depression. Postpartum mood and anxiety disorders can begin at any time during or after pregnancy; including in the case of a loss of pregnancy.

These symptoms may look unexpected:

  • Agitation
  • Anger
  • Insomnia
  • Hypervigilance
  • Drug and/or alcohol dependence

If you think you may be suffering from a perinatal mood disorder, please know that you are not alone, that you are not to blame, and that you can be well again.

Many of the mothers that I have encountered since becoming a clinical therapist have echoed the relief I experienced when we agree on the challenge of parenthood and the realistic toll that a newborn can take on one’s psyche.

When I was two weeks postpartum with my first child, I walked into a “Mommy & Me Support Group” hoping to see a handful of other mothers that looked just like me: sleep deprived, spit up on my shoulder, hair in a messy bun and yoga pants. I hoped that I would be validated in my struggle; to learn that I was not alone in feeling like I had just entered into the hardest time period of my life. Luckily, I was met with the warm smile of a social worker who informed me that although I had mistaken the time of the class, that she’d be happy to sit down and talk one-on-one with me. An hour later, I walked away feeling lighter and relieved to know that the range of feelings I was experiencing were all normal and to be expected.

After several weeks of attending my local hospital’s “Mommy & Me” support group as a new mother, I felt emboldened by learning from the collective knowledge of the group, validated by seeing others with bags under their eyes, and hopeful in seeing mothers with older babies who were getting more sleep. If you or a loved one has recently given birth or received a child by adoption, my hope for you is that you’ve found a place to be validated and encouraged. If you are struggling with more severe symptoms and think you may be suffering from a perinatal mood disorder, please consider making an appointment to begin healing today.

Kate can be reached by phone at 630.718.0171, ext. 223 or email



Additional resources:

Kate Spade’s Death Sparks Light on Mental Health Awareness

“She leaves a little sparkle wherever she goes”, was Kate Spade’s desire for those who invested in her brand and was the je ne sais quoi she hoped to inspire. Kate, herself, exemplified this in her many contributions.  

On Tuesday, June 5th, media outlets inundated the public with the breaking news: Kate Spade had taken her own life. As a designer, an entrepreneur, and a philanthropist, Kate Spade was a quintessential icon of classic style, vision, and grace.

The investigation into Kate Spade’s suicide is ongoing. Details are being revealed indicating that she suffered for years with mental health issues. It remains unclear as to the finite details of her mental health struggles, but the fact remains: the signs had been missed.

To many, she was a woman who had it all – money, fame, success, family – but it only goes to show that mental illness can impact anyone. In a world where it’s easy to become immersed in the fast-paced routine of life, mental health often takes a backseat. Over the years, attempts have been made to diminish the stigma surrounding mental health, but the stigma still exists. In recent years, we see more public figures and celebrities openly addressing their personal struggles with mental illness. Their openness reminds those who may be in a similar situation that they are not alone and encourages them to seek support.

Kate Spade’s death brings us back to a crucial discussion of mental health being as important as taking care of our physical health. Suicide ranks amongst the top ten leading causes of death in this country. Suicidal thoughts are not signs of weakness.  With the proper support and treatment, suicidal thoughts and behaviors can be reduced. With National Mental Health Awareness Month being observed in May; the work to break the stigma should not end there. Simply raising awareness is not enough; we need to center our efforts on what we can do to support and connect those in need to the proper services.  

In her life, Kate Spade created a legacy for individuals of all ages and backgrounds with exuberating passion, confidence, and optimism. In her death, her legacy sparks a call for action towards emphasizing the importance of mental health and working towards prevention. Let’s honor and celebrate her life in this way.


A Special Tribute to Kate Spade from the Writer:

Simron Sahoo – FVI Guest Blogger

I purchased my first Kate Spade handbag this past year during my senior year of college.  Had given me a gift card for my birthday, my friends knew how much I adored the elegance of both the bags and the brand.  When I made my first Kate Spade purchase, I relished in the excitement of the years I spent admiring her sophisticated and classy bags – where simplicity met style.  This purchase represented more than buying an accessory.  A Kate Spade purse was not simply just a purse – it was a symbol of venturing out into adulthood.   When I heard the news of Kate Spade’s passing, I couldn’t believe it. Not only was she my favorite designer, but she also embodied a feministic vision, becoming a pioneer for women in the professional world.

Her presence impacted my life.  She will be missed, but her legacy will live on.


For many survivors of suicide loss, the journey of healing can be lonely, painful, and confusing. At Fox Valley Institute, we understand this struggle and we are here for you.  We offer a Bereavement Support Group for adults who have lost a loved one through suicide that meets the second and fourth Saturday of each month from 8:00 am – 9:00 am. Please call 630.718.0717, ext. 240 to be added to the bereavement email list and click here for additional resources.

If you or someone you know is exhibiting any of the warning signs of suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Visit for more information on warning signs and suicide prevention.








Simron Sahoo, FVI Guest Blogger
B.S. Psychology 2018, Minors in Neuroscience, Math, and Biology
Loyola University Chicago


Additional Resources



What is Your Love Language?

Are you familiar with Gary Chapman’s couple’s resource, “The Five Love Languages?” This book is a simple, yet powerful tool for learning how to better communicate with your partner through each other’s love languages.  You can find more information on Chapman’s website:


Chapman will educate you on the five main love languages he has uncovered; words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time and physical touch.  First, you and your partner will be directed to take an assessment to determine your primary love language.  From there, you will want to read more on your partner’s love language, gain a better understanding of it, and learn helpful tips on how to fulfill their love language. Don’t be surprised if you and your partner do not share the same love language.

Words of Affirmation are validating words said to your partner to help them feel good and validated within the relationship.  For example: “I appreciate you.” “You look great in that new dress!” “You always make such a great dinner.”

Acts of Service are meaningful things done for your partner. For example, emptying the dishwasher because it is their least favorite chore, hanging up your coat when you come home, or making the bed every morning.  These may not be your most favorite things to do, but you are doing them for your partner so they feel loved.

Receiving Gifts, even small ones can go a long way to make your partner feel loved.  For example, a handwritten card saying I love you tucked in her purse or flowers you picked up on your way home ‘just because’ are great gifts that will help your partner feel loved.

Physical Touch, reaching out and grabbing your partner’s hand or sneaking them an unexpected kiss.  Physical touch may be important to your partner and being neglectful of this can lead to feelings of rejection or resentment.

Quality Time, is all about giving the other person your undivided attention.  For some people, quality time is their primary love language and if you don’t give them quality time, they will not feel loved. For example, your partner values when you put aside 30 minutes after a long day to spend time with them or simply putting your cell phone down while you are together.

Click here to learn your love language!




Additional Resources: