Fall / Winter 2021 | A conversation with Dr. Ivy Margulies

 

Dr. Ivy has a unique way of blending psychology, ritual, mindfulness techniques, and guided meditations to help guide and support women, couples, and families through the grieving and trauma process. In this episode, Dr. Ivy shares her fascination with psychology as a result of her own journey following three very significant deaths in her life.

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A conversation with Dr. Ivy Margulies

Who is Dr. Ivy Margulies

Dr. Ivy Love Margulies is a licensed clinical psychologist, who specializes in grief, loss and trauma

She primarily works with women (and their husbands or partners) struggling with (in)fertility, perinatal and postpartum adjustments, perinatal and postpartum mood and anxiety disorders, pregnancy releases and/or terminations for fetal anomaly diagnosis (or any reason), miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant loss.

Dr. Ivy has a unique way of blending psychology, ritual, mindfulness techniques and guided meditations to help guide and support women, couples and families through the grieving and trauma process.

In this episode Dr. Ivy shares her fascination with psychology as a result of her own journey following three very significant deaths in her life. After losing both her father, and best friend to suicide at the age of 15 and her husband 6 years later in a car crash, she details her own experience of  PTSD, greif and trauma and her continued search for support through therapy. Her drive to understand family systems, child development and parenting further pushed her towards a career in psychology, away from fashion, making her a renowned clinical psychologist.

Grief

Grief is not something that only happens when somebody dies. It is something that happens at any kind of loss. So whether it’s the loss of a relationship, whether it’s a divorce, loss of a job, loss of health, of dreams, of opportunities; whatever it might be. If we have loved something, then we are going to grieve that loss. It’s really critical, especially now when we look at the state of the world over the last 12 to 18 months. There isn’t a single person on the planet that has not grieved the loss of something.

We have all been impacted in some way by the pandemic and the change in how the family system looks at home. For people who have children at home, to jobs and how we now are so much more isolated from people and from connection in society to just panic and fear of the unknown. So it all depends also on our temperament and personality. And how we handle stressful situations. How we handle transitions. Whether they’re sudden or they’re anticipated. It has a lot to do with who each of our us are as individuals. If we have something happen in our lives, we are absolutely going to grieve that loss. Whether it is over a job, or loss of dreams, or anything. Not just death and trauma, although we tend to think of grieving associated with death.  It’s not. It encompasses so much more of our lives daily. We immediately go to that place of grief when something really tragic has happened, but, and it can be on that deep cellular emotional level as well, which will then manifest in some form of the physical. 

 

PTSD and Vicarious trauma

We don’t often think of PTSD, through some of these other events that happened vicariously through the death of our loved ones. We often think of war veterans or people in the ICU.  Or if we’ve been in a horrific car accident.  Anyway, this is vicarious trauma and this is PTSD. 

Family systems is the dynamics that happen inside the home between parents and children. Maybe we had a traumatic birth, but a healthy outcome. Or we got pregnant and had multiple losses and we don’t know why.  Or we’ve had to go to infertility doctors to get pregnant. So as women in our society, we’re brought up to believe, ‘we have sex, get pregnant, we’re going to have a baby.’ Yet we can have sex, get pregnant, and baby dies. We’re not neck up or neck down that only takes us so far.

 

Energy

We’re all energy. Everything’s energy. Everything around us is held together by chemical reactions.  From the computer screen we’re staring at, to the chair we’re sitting on, to the clothes we’re wearing. Everything is held together by chemical reactions that we do not see happening. But that’s why we have things. We live in the conventional world.

 

Sound healing

Sound is vibration. We can heal through sound. There’s so much science out there on sound healing. Humming is good for your heart. And your heart has a bigger electromagnetic field around it than your own body and how we need to really tend to our heart centers with love and passion like a garden.

Helping people realize there’s more to the events in their life.  They don’t need to define them. They don’t need to be in the driver’s seat to transform trauma into something that they can use to help themselves. 

 

Everything is a lesson

 Everything that we experience is a lesson. We might not see it at the time and it might take us 20 or 30 years before we get to that place where we can look back with a different lens and say;- ‘I really did learn this because without that experience, I wouldn’t be where I am right now doing the things that I am doing.’

Being able to help so many other people go through situations and experiences which we have gone through ourselves gives us more of a platform to come out from a truly compassionate side of things. And to really have a different connection.  Being able to utilize our experiences from the past, our own personal grief and trauma gives us a completely different perspective. There is so much more to healing than just talk therapy and working with the mind. Knowing that the holistic side is so much more important, looking at the emotional body and working with the nervous system and really helping to unravel the damage that has been done.

 

Meditation and gratitude

To know that we store emotion on a cellular level in the body, that is also everything. We do have studies that are showing the benefit of meditation and of gratitude. It’s now part of our vernacular.

When we are working from that space of gratitude, and we are working with that grateful heart and that being grateful for everything good and bad, because they’re all experiences. They’ve all helped to shape us and shape our life. We are raising our vibration because that gratitude does vibrate on a much higher level and frequency than fear, shame and guilt. So when we are in that state, of course it’s not rocket science, it will affect everything else around us just because of that state of being.

 

Death ends a life, not a relationship

Death ends a life, not a relationship and we continue to create connection and relationships with people even after death. And so there are gifts in loss. One day we’ll understand that we’re still birthed even to someone else’s death. Or some other terrible event in our life. There are gifts in loss.  What have we learned? And usually it’s a deeper appreciation for life.

The things that we thought were important aren’t. People, relationships always change. There’s something called secondary losses in death or around loss of any sort or grief of any sort.  And that is what happens to all our friendships. What happens to relationships at work? What happens in all sorts of different ways. We never thought the world would respond or not respond to us and show up or not show up for you. So it’s complicated. 

But there are gifts in it. We realize that there is so much to be grateful for. These are even the simplest things in our lives. Just start with the food we eat, the air we breathe, and the water we drink,  to the bed we sleep in, to having a roof over our head.

It doesn’t need to be some complicated concept of gratitude.  And then also before we go to sleep, let us think about what went well and right today. Because we’re always talking to ourselves about what didn’t go well. Or what didn’t we do today, or what’s my to-do list for tomorrow. Write that out. Part of our sleep hygiene is to write out our to-do list. Put it on our bedside table and say, that’ll be here tomorrow, we need to rest.

 

Sleep hygiene

We all have a certain way in which we wind down in our evenings.  And a lot of it revolves around social media and television, something to do with the screen. It’s really important to know at least 30 minutes to an hour before, put it down. Don’t watch the screen. Reading is underrated. Grab a great book. Journaling. We don’t have to make it complicated. People hear journaling and they say we don’t have time for journaling. It’s not about journaling. How about bullet points? Just bullet point it out. Just bullet point out your to-do list. And, and then the three things you’re grateful for what went well and right. And an affirmation of some sort for ourselves that is incredibly positive. And we may not believe it, but write it out anyway. ” I love myself. I am incredible. I attract really good people in my life. I am abundant.’

So start out with the simple but really great affirmations that put us in a higher frequency. When we fall asleep, the frequency we fall asleep in is the same frequency we are going to wake up in. So let us elevate our emotional frequency so that we now sleep better. We will wake up in a better space in terms of our mental frequency. 

 

Write it down anyway

Even if we don’t believe it, write it down. Even when we don’t believe what we feel.  Even if we don’t feel beautiful, or if we don’t feel successful at the end of that day, write it down anyway, because what we think we will become. And eventually the more times we say it, and the more times we write it down and start to think it. We automatically train our brain to believe that way too. 

Our brain actually believes what we tell it but we forget that. We don’t realize how many hundreds of thousands of thoughts a day we have, but each of those are opportunities to reorient ourselves. So if we have our first thought and it’s not so positive, or it’s not a good high frequency thought. So we can have our first thought, which could be judgment or criticism or something, not as positive as it could be. But what’s our second thought? What could be our second thought? And our second thought can always be a place where we can elevate our emotional frequency.

 

Practice

It’s truly about a practice. Do we have a practice?  A meditation practice, for example. Our phones have timers on them. Let us first set our timer for one minute and see what one minute feels like just to sit and breathe.

Just one minute. And for someone who has gone through trauma, it’s better to leave our eyes open and gaze at a neutral object. If we feel safe and we’re in safe surroundings, take eyes and look around the space and room and know that it is safe and then close our eyes. We are always trying to pick up on danger. What is danger? Is there a possible danger in our environment? Close our eyes, push a timer and just sit and breathe for one minute and see what one minute feels like. And then can we do three minutes? And can we do five minutes?

 

Meditation

 People in trauma should use guided meditations. So follow someone’s voice. And what’s lovely about all the apps now that we have available to us. We can pick how long our guided visualization meditation is. And if we can’t stay with the voice, it’s too long, and so we should listen and be aware that we can still do it. We just have to start with less time. It’s about building up time.

 

The tense breath

 If the nervous system’s too activated, there’s something called the tense breath. The tense breath is for people who have overwhelmed nervous systems. Who can’t seem to calm down or shake off a thought, a feeling and people who have panic attacks.

For example, the worst thing to tell someone with a panic attack is to relax and breathe. The best thing to do for them is to use tension. We must tense up. So we put our hands in the fists.  Put our arms against our body. We tighten our core. We tighten our butt and thighs and breathe in through the nose and we go tight, tight, tight, and hold for five. And as we exhale through the mouth, there’s a reason. Breathe out through the mouth and let all the tension go. Take one normal breath and do it again. Go tight, tight, tight, and release to the mouth.

And we’ll do one more breathing in tight, tight, tight, and release, and then shake our hands, rub them together. Fill our feet on the floor.  We’ve just put our frontal cortex back in place. When we’re in trauma or anxiety, fear, all those negative emotions, we do something called ‘flip our lid’. And our frontal cortex leaves the room. And then we use our ability to focus. Concentrate, make good decisions, even take in new information. Our short term memory is impacted, and this puts us back. It contains us. It grounds us.

 So this tense breath is so key, especially for women who need to go back into medical settings or anything else that might be triggering or we’re about to see someone. We don’t know how the interaction’s going to go, or anytime we’re feeling a little anxious before a job interview. So we can just use that. 

 Also. the other wonderful thing to know is when we’re busy feeling into our body, whether we’re pushing on our fingertips or we’re moving our feet on the floor, we can’t think and feel at the same time. So it stops. It’s called thought stopping. It’s one of those rubber bands around your wrist and oh, and breathing out through your mouth is like hitting the brakes on a car. It stops the parasympathetic nervous system from taking, keeping, you, overwhelmed. It stops all our thoughts. So that’s why we breathe out through the mouth. 

These are so powerful.  Just that tense breath, just doing three rounds of it. We literally can feel our entire body completely calming down. Feel a shift.

 

 Temperature

So temperature is another great way too. Use hot or cold water. Cold water on our hands is great. Outside, just change the environment.

 

Choice

The biggest word for people with trauma is the word choice. Never say we don’t have a choice. That immediately puts us into a trigger state. We always have a choice. To illustrate the medical setting, we are choosing to go to the doctor because we need our body to be checked.  We are choosing to lay back down on that table where we found out our baby died with an ultrasound machine because we need the doctor to look at our body. We must always have a choice.

 And it also triggers the safety piece of it as well. When we know that we have a choice, we don’t feel locked or stuck. We get to choose to be present; to remain right here right now, because we know we cannot change what has gone before. And we have no idea what’s going to happen in the next five minutes, five weeks, five years. And there’s nothing we can do. All we can do is stay present and remain grounded. And remember that we have a choice. We can’t choose what happens to us, but we can choose how we react to it.

 

Respond not react

 If you’re reacting. You’re not thinking, you’re not present. You want to respond? Respond. We have choices.

 So just start slowly, take a minute, set our timer up with the device that we don’t want to be using before you go to bed. Think about our sleep hygiene. Think about the things that we can control because we have a choice. And remembering grief is not just something that happens when we die. It can be so many different things and acknowledging that doing what we can to move through it and seeing it as a gift.

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