Paulina Isabel Almarosa is a bilingual, Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) in the state of California. She was born in Morelos, Mexico and lived most of her life undocumented, an experience that has greatly shaped and influenced her work as a mental health therapist. Paulina holds a B.A. in Psychology & Social Behavior from UCI and a Master’s degree in Social Welfare from UCLA. She has over 10 years of experience in the mental health field. She has worked in schools, hospitals, jails and community mental health clinics serving a wide range of populations including children and families; residents of the community of Skid Row; incarcerated men and women; and end-of life patients in hospice. Paulina is the founder of Latinx Grief a space dedicated to demystifying and amplifying grief in the Latinx community through grief education and grief support services. She is also the founder of Counseling Contigo, a private practice that offers mental health therapy that is culturally attuned and rooted in honoring a person’s story. Paulina’s work is guided by her ancestors, chief among them her father Mateo who died of lung cancer in 2015. She is an avid writer, a mother and a creative who enjoys connecting with others through the use of humor, compassion and authenticity.
Tell us: what excites you about your work right now?
It's hard to pinpoint what excites me about my work because everything that I do feels energizing. I would say that I currently entering a new frontier that has allowed me to branch into helping others with healing trauma. I am also excited by the creative possibilities that will bloom spaces of grief via Latinx Grief. I am looking forward to following my creative heart in the direction of demystifying grief in our communities.
What feels rich and abundant in your work right now?
Curiosity is one the elements that has often felt scarce in my work. Tragedy, loss and trauma take many things from us, it can take away our safety, our peace and often, it will rob us of our ability to practice curiosity. But curiosity is what often leads us to healing; curiosity allows for shame and grief to be met with compassion and care. It is also in this space of curiosity where dreams take up residence. As of right now, I am happy to say that my work is rich with curiosity, an element that has allowed me to continue moving in the direction of my dreams.
Who do you dedicate your work to?
My work is directed to my father, Mateo Ocampo who died of lung cancer in 2015 and my son who was born two years after his death in 2017. The death of my father and the birth of my son symbolize the circle of life, they are reminders that endings can also be portals for healing, and that life is an ebb and flow of endings and beginnings. These two spirits, my son's and my father's, are guiding lights that illuminate my path. On the days that feel impossibly difficult, I find comfort in their guiding spirits.
Who inspires you, who are you learning from, what books are you reading? We are really excited to learn this about you!
For the past 2 months I have been involved in and EMDR training that requires mandatory reading, all of which I have enjoyed. But because of the latter commitment, I have taken a break from my regular leisure reading habits and instead, I have focused my energy on listening and learning from those that I serve. Listening to others' experiences and their inner wisdom has helped me become more attuned and aligned to the needs of others.
When my body feels ready to re-engage with reading, I will more than likely pick up a book I've read before, like One Hundred Years of Solitude or Sirens of Titan. There is a comforting feeling that comes from re-reading old books; it's like visiting an old friend or an old memory that makes you feel safe and at home.
How can people reading this support the work you are doing?
People can continue to support this work by interacting with my words and my work on Instagram via @latinxgrief or @counselincontigo But beyond engaging with my work, I hope that folks can also support my vision by seeking opportunities to engage with their or other people's grief either through organized events or through organic conversations.
I also hope that those who are financially privileged can continue to offer financial support to underserved and marginalized folks who are doing their part to support their respective communities.
What do you understand differently about wellness?
Over the last 15 years my wellness practice has evolved tremendously. I used to push my body and my mind to extremes, sometimes to the point of collapse; my idea of "wellness" was rooted in harmful extremes of deprivation and restriction. But over the last decade, I've arrived at the conclusion that wellness is about giving yourself room to expand, to grow and evolve into abundance; and in order to be abundant you can't deprive yourself of care or compassion. Wellness is about giving your body, your mind and your soul an abundance of self-compassion as you make your way through this complicated, and sometimes painful, life.
What is your own wellness practice? How do you find balance?
My wellness practice is rooted in self-acceptance and compassion; accepting myself and treating myself with compassion has been and will be a life long journey. The truth is, I make mistakes, I fail and I don't have it all figured out. I am an imperfect being but I no longer strive to be perfect. I spent years working towards perfection and society's ideals of success (which usually involves doing more). Letting go of the need to achieve more, be more and do more has allowed me to focus on my peace and my overall well-being. I make all of my decisions based on how they might potentially impact my definition of being at peace. I don't know that I have found the formula for balance and I am not sure I ever will, at least not under the current conditions of collective trauma and grief that we are experiencing. For now, I am content with embracing each day as it comes, resting as much as I can and allowing myself to experience joy.
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