Nya B: 5 Things You Need To Heal After a Dramatic Loss Or Life Change
An Interview With Heidi Sander
Forgiveness: Forgiving ourselves and others for the things that weren’t said, or tasks that weren’t fulfilled, is very important when trying to heal. If we are perfectionists, we can easily beat ourselves up over the “should’ve-could’ve-would’ves.” We must make peace with what didn’t happen. We must make peace with what God has put into place so that we weren’t grow bitter and angry.
The world seems to be reeling from one crisis to another. We’ve experienced a global pandemic, economic uncertainty, political and social turmoil. Then there are personal traumas that people are dealing with, such as the loss of a loved one, health issues, unemployment, divorce or the loss of a job.
Coping with change can be traumatic as it often affects every part of our lives.
How do you deal with loss or change in your life? What coping strategies can you use? Do you ignore them and just push through, or do you use specific techniques?
In this series called “5 Things You Need To Heal After a Dramatic Loss Or Life Change” we are interviewing successful people who were able to heal after a difficult life change such as the loss of a loved one, loss of a job, or other personal hardships. We are also talking to Wellness experts, Therapists, and Mental Health Professionals who can share lessons from their experience and research.
As a part of this interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Nya B.
Nya B, MA, NCC, LPC is an author, therapist and speaker who has made it her mission to advocate for mental health support and resources for all people. Since 2001, Nya B has taken pride in providing counseling and education to individuals in adverse situations, where she practices with a focus on being real, transparent and open. Her areas of specialty include sexual/physical abuse and trauma, eating disorders, anger and behavior management, personal growth and development, professional growth and development, distress tolerance and other maladaptive coping skills.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
Of course! I grew up on the south side of Chicago, 94th & Racine to be exact. My parents were not married, and I was the middle child on both sides with an older brother and younger sister on both. My family was large. While my grandmother was an only child, she had 7 children and they all had children, minus one who passed when he was a toddler. My mother was a beautiful woman, very stylish, smart, taught me everything I needed to know about being a woman, dating men, and relationships. She was also a hurt soul, self-medicated with alcohol and struggled with depression. This made her a violent woman. A very hurtful woman and in turn, made me angry, sneaky, and defiant. My mother’s pain became my pain. I took my anger out on everyone. Constantly fighting, talking back, the mouth of a sailor and the most fearless attitude for a tiny young lady. Because I was chocolate, men weren’t very nice to me. As a result, I didn’t learn to love them, I learned to mistreat them, for myself and symbolically, as a result of the pain, they caused my mom. I learned early how to have sex and used it as a weapon. I played so many games and hurt so many sons. Until I had a son of my own. My first born I birthed at 16. My life changed. Being pregnant and experiencing trauma after trauma, I was forced to tell my story to someone that I knew could help. I went to school one day and broke down to my school counselor. I told all what I have been going through at home, with the abuse from my mom, my son’s father, my anger, my attitude, and the self-destruction. In that moment, she reminded me of how bright I was. She read off my grades and my GPA. She said she was in shock to learn what I was telling her because my grades were perfect. She encouraged me to get a mentor and suggested that I leave my environment and consider college. Best advice I was ever given. I listened to every word she said that day. My life hasn’t been the same since.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My favorite life lesson quote is, “Never slow down, so others can catch up.” My dad told me this when I went away to college, and I was battling loneliness. I felt guilty about leaving my friends behind, my little sister and all these people I felt responsible for back in Chicago. He told me that my life was destined to be different, and I’d never know what was on the other side of pain, if I continued to worry about other people. He told me to make a list of the people I’d die for and if they weren’t on that list, I couldn’t slow down for them.
You have been blessed with much success. In your opinion, what are the top three qualities that you possess that have helped you accomplish so much? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
In my opinion, the top three qualities that I possess that have helped me accomplish so much would be:
- Being vocal…Speaking up has helped me so much. They say a closed mouth doesn’t get fed and that is the truth. Any time I’ve been in a bind or complex situation, talking about it, asking for help, or communicating my intentions has helped me tremendously, whether it was saving me time, finding someone who could help or just making me realize that things are not as bad as I think they are. Talking to my counselor in high school would be a great example of that.
- Being transparent…my truth is my truth, and no one can take that from me. When I first found out I was pregnant, people tried to shame me for it. Once I decided to own it, I felt liberated. It opened the door for me to be even more honest and I think I became too honest to the point that it made people uncomfortable. There was no shame and that to me was everything.
- Being tenacious…I am focused. I have a hard time letting things fall by the wayside. Especially when there is a goal in mind. I don’t care what it is, getting over a heartache, finishing a task, cleaning my house. I won’t rest until it’s done.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about ‘Healing after Loss’. Do you feel comfortable sharing with our readers about your dramatic loss or life change?
Yes, I feel very comfortable sharing. Before 2021, I thought my greatest loss was having a traditional childhood. Considering I became a parent early and didn’t get to experience traveling with my friends, partying, etc. I thought I truly missed out on things that could’ve made me warmer to the environment or those around me. I realized that I was wrong. My greatest loss would be the loss of my mother. She died June 1, 2021.
What was the scariest part of that event? What did you think was the worst thing that could happen to you?
The scariest part of losing my mother was having to step up for a woman who spent the majority of my life cursing me out and mistreating me. How did I get the assignment of caring for my abuser? Where was everyone else who she treated so much better? I had the strength, the resources, the time, and I was there. No questions asked. That shocked the hell out me. The worst thing I thought could happen to me would be me losing everything I worked hard for, going back into an environment in which everyone believed I thought was better than them. Being around people who had heard the worst of me because of things she said. While I knew how to adapt to that environment, I spent decades learning how not to.
How did you react in the short term?
In the short term, I handled business. I was tenacious. My mother needed care. She needed a nurse, a meal plan, to get to her appointments, someone to be there for her while she faced this illness. I don’t think I tapped into much emotion at all. Then when she transitioned, I had to make another decision to take her off life support. Then make another decision to bury her. Then make another decision to close out her affairs. I never had a chance to sit in her apartment, go through her things or even get anything valuable that belonged to her, outside of her phone.
After the dust settled, what coping mechanisms did you use?
The dust is still settling and so far, crying when I need to, participating in counseling, being honest about missing her, accepting what I didn’t get from her by embracing the things I did get, surrounding myself with people who love me, creating memories with my sons, separating myself from the matriarchal side of the family, writing, working, changing the meanings of a lot of things such as important dates, what I thought she felt about me, etc.
Can you share with us how you were eventually able to heal and “let go” of the negative aspects of that event?
The greatest factor in helping me heal from the negative aspects of my mom’s death, was going through her phone and reading her messages on social media, her text messages, and exploring her search history only to find that she was my biggest fan. She listened to my podcast, followed my work, sent pictures of me and my sons, and our accolades to her friends. She idolized me and she was very proud of me and that brought me peace. I thought she felt differently, maybe disappointed in me because I left. To know that she left me in charge said that she trusted me. To know that she shared and paid attention all the time, said she was proud and that helps my healing every day.
Aside from letting go, what did you do to create an internal, emotional shift to feel better?
Aside from letting go, to create an internal, emotional shift to feel better, I embraced the changes. I allowed myself to change. When death of a loved one happens, most of the time people feel stuck because of what trauma does to the brain. Knowing that, I knew that I had to create new memories, new events, embrace new people who wanted to be there. That helped tremendously. While I didn’t discount the life that I had before, I looked forward to the life and times to come.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to cope and heal? Can you share a story about that?
Yes, absolutely. I was in the early stages of dating a man when my mom became ill. I told him that I needed to focus on her and that I wasn’t going to be as attentive. He could’ve easily said, “I’m sorry to hear that…or…talk to me when you’re ready,” but he didn’t. He said, “Ok, what do you need me to do? How can I be there for you?” He made himself available to my every need. He made sure I had room and board while in Chicago caring for my mom. He made sure I had a sense of normalcy. He talked to me on the phone while I drove hours to be by her bedside. He sent me flowers, bought me gifts, took me on short trips, made sure I celebrated my birthday, created moments for me to spend time with my friends and gave me hugs and kisses as necessary. No matter how much work I put in with her, he made sure I had him to fall back on. I will forever be grateful to him for that.
Were you able to eventually reframe the consequences and turn it into a positive situation? Can you explain how you did that?
Yes, while it is still a process, I was definitely able to reframe the consequences and turn it into a positive situation. The hurt I endured from her — I told myself that it was her way of saving my life. If it wasn’t for her abuse towards me, I would’ve never left Chicago. I wouldn’t have worked as hard as I did to be where I am. She made me strong. It’s easy to focus on what someone has done to you or how poorly they made you feel. It’s hard to focus on the results. I wanted to focus on results.
What did you learn about yourself from this very difficult experience? Can you please explain with a story or example?
Believe it or not, my mom’s death taught me that I am just like her. We are both Aries. We had the same blood type, passionate about the things and people we love, fighters in our own right, stylish. We are both givers. I learned that behind my anger was pain. I just didn’t use alcohol to cope.
Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experiences and knowledge, what advice would you give others to help them get through a difficult life challenge? What are your “5 Things You Need To Heal After a Dramatic Loss Or Life Change”? Please share a story or example for each.
The Top 5 Things I Think People Need to Heal After a Dramatic Loss or Life Change are:
- Time: When we lose something, it’s going to almost always come as a shock. That shock will lead to anger, which leads to blaming and so on. We need time to let those stages take place. Rushing pain doesn’t make it heal any faster. It prolongs it. I feel what I need to feel when I need to feel it. I don’t apologize for feeling it either. I am intentional about taking my time.
- Space: Sometimes people tell us how we should feel and how we should grieve. They ask questions that we may not know the answers to. They tell us how to move forward. During my mom’s transition, people constantly imposed with how long to leave her on life support, what I should do with her body, etc. Everyone had an opinion and I just needed my space — space to be alone, space to think, space to make decisions that weren’t emotional.
- Support: A lot of times people think support looks like telling you what to do all hours of the day. Reality is, support is sometimes sitting with me in silence, bringing me a meal, or sitting at the hospital while I go for a walk. I am very grateful for the support system I had during my mom’s transition. My brother on my dad’s side drove me around to make funeral arrangements, he made sure I ate, my friends sat with me in the cafeteria of the hospital, my significant other made sure I rested. Support is very crucial.
- A Plan: No one wants to face the obvious that after a loss, life must go on. I needed a plan for how I was going to protect my peace and mental health going forward. I planned to get more involved with creating memories for me and my sons. I planned to be more intentional about seeing the purpose as opposed to the methods. I planned to stay in counseling. I planned to allow God to use me in any way he saw fit because my life was forever changed, and I didn’t have a “say” in any of it.
- Forgiveness: Forgiving ourselves and others for the things that weren’t said, or tasks that weren’t fulfilled, is very important when trying to heal. If we are perfectionists, we can easily beat ourselves up over the “should’ve-could’ve-would’ves.” We must make peace with what didn’t happen. We must make peace with what God has put into place so that we weren’t grow bitter and angry.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
If I could start a movement that would encourage people to heal properly, I would. It would be called a Moment to Heal. People would take a day off work, participate in group therapy all over the world and vent. It’s very similar to the movement I did on New Year’s Eve except I didn’t have enough time. I created a platform via IG Live for people to come on and just get their grievances off their chest. You’d be surprised the number of people who’d feel better if they were heard and validated.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them. :-)
I’d love to have a private breakfast or lunch with Michelle Obama. I saw her on tour for Becoming and as she spoke about her journey to becoming the woman she is today she brought that courage out in other young women. I couldn’t help but wonder how great would it be to be a symbol of that or be a part of that? These young women had stories just like me. I admire anyone, especially from Chicago, who could influence people to be their best selves.
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!