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Erika Mitchell

My Grandmother: An Inspired Role Model

My Grandmother: An Inspired Role Model

In remembrance of my Grandmother who died earlier this year, I wanted to reflect during this Women's History Month on just how much impact a seemingly ordinary woman can have. 

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She could be easy to overlook given her humble lifestyle, and although she never earned fame or notoriety, she was certainly well-known and deeply respected within her communities.  She had an impressive capacity for care, kindness, compassion, and endurance.  She was one of 12 siblings, 8 of whom fought in WWII, and she grew up in rural Pennsylvania fighting her own way out of a sometimes stifling small town. She imagined more for herself - a life with a far greater reach.  

She had many wonderful years as a student and a missionary, starting her own family on international missions. She had an amazing faith and ability to go with the swing of things. I think she was truly shocked and devastated when she found herself abandoned as a single mother of 6 children, at a time when her youngest was just barely starting school and they had all moved to a new city. Despite the many challenges that came with raising children alone, she managed to find a way to put herself through nursing school while working three jobs, and somehow maintained closeness and connection to her kids. 

It has always struck me that despite how hard she worked, she always seemed so emotionally available and generous with her time. She prioritized her family, and showed up in times of need.  I'm sure I also learned some questionable things from her including how to evade student loan debt (it doesn't really work), but it never seemed to keep her down and she was able to keep her relational priorities straight. I think she was truly happier for that, and for the risks she took. 

This is not an uncommon story, many women and mothers rise to their maternal duties. She lived her life as a member of the working poor and ultimately devoted herself to work with the church of the Salvation Army. This is not exactly a 'pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps' success story, but celebration for her comes from the fact that she carried on working diligently while never surrendering her values or losing her sense of humor, humility, or self. She managed to continually lift-up others and was an inspiration for the many women in our family to own their sense of independence, hold on to their opinions, and speak-up against those trying to keep them down. 

My Grandma certainly faced hardships that I will never know, and I can only hope that some fraction of her enormous strength has been passed down to me.  To some she may seem like just another lady who slipped through life unnoticed, but to me and to my family we know just how many lives she touched. She was an inspired role model of determination, sturdiness, and above all - love.  


Erika Mitchell, MA, is a Registered Associate Marriage and Family Therapist #109385, working under the professional supervision of Michelle Harwell, PsyD, LMFT 50732. Erika specializes in helping her clients bring mindful, attuned awareness to their sensations and emotions.

Failure is a Guidepost

Failure is a Guidepost

When faced with failure, I try to remember that growth is not linear, and success is not always so clearly measured.

I’ve experienced a sense of failure when the difference between where I am and where I would like to be feels much greater than I had hoped. The journey suddenly feels longer, and I become exhausted, ashamed, upset with myself, and I start to contemplate giving up or changing course. These feelings don’t help me reach my goals or accept myself for who I am when it gets to the point that I avoid the challenges or begin to let my inner sense of failure infiltrate the rest of my psychic being.  

When faced with failure, I try to remember that growth is not linear, and success is not always so clearly measured. I try to practice self-compassion without letting myself off the hook or continuing to avoid the painful feelings I must wrestle with to keep moving toward my goals. Maybe this time they are more realistic or appropriate and are not as concerned about what others think. Maybe more self-compassion and kindness will make me more open to feedback and help along the way.  

In the past, accepting failure and telling myself that I am just not “good enough” or “smart enough” has been a slippery slope when it comes to having the confidence to move forward in areas where I am indeed better suited. I still feed this struggle sometimes, feeling like I have failed if I am still suffering from some of my same old defenses that no longer serve me. Rather than feeling consumed by guilt, shame, and inadequacy when I recognize my growing edges, I must have more compassion for my own healing journey and know that I am committed to the process with all its inevitable failures and follies. Failure is never easy, and some failures hurt more than others, but failure can also serve as guideposts to where real growth can begin as long as we keep our heads up high enough not to miss the trails. 


Erika Mitchell, MA, is a Registered Associate Marriage and Family Therapist #109385, working under the professional supervision of Michelle Harwell, PsyD, LMFT 50732. Erika specializes in helping her clients bring mindful, attuned awareness to their sensations and emotions.

Women are Bold

Women are Bold

All humans are capable of bold acts, but being a woman requires it daily.  

Being a woman means many different things to the wide-world of self-identifying women. For me, being a woman takes a certain amount of boldness to be oneself and to honor the unique value of our more feminine traits, even in the face of misogyny and patriarchal structures. Bold may not be a word that readily comes to mind for some people when they think about women, especially considering that historically women have been considered more submissive, polite, and accommodating. However, inherent in being bold is a courage to take risks and be seen.

Without getting too political, I must say that bold was a word that came to mind after listening to the Kavanaugh hearing as I considered the enormous risk that Christine Blasey Ford was taking to have her voice heard. As a therapist and someone who has made a career of listening to people’s stories, I was particularly struck by the bold conviction she had to be heard and to voice injustices against women that can be all too cavalier. To speak of justice at the hearing of a supreme court justice nominee was a bold decision. Despite facing public ridicule and overwhelming threats on the safety of her and her family, she boldly went forward in a room full of predominantly high-powered men and spoke her truth.    

This act of boldness reminded me of the everyday struggle for women to be heard, to be accepted as ‘credible,’ and to be themselves in a societal structure designed to make them fight for their rights time and time again. The risks we take every day even in deciding what to wear in a world that has been known to blame survivors of sexual assault based on their personal expression of style, takes an inborn boldness to carry on and demand that we be treated fairly.  All humans are capable of bold acts, but being a woman requires it daily.  


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Erika Mitchell, MA, is a Registered Associate Marriage and Family Therapist #109385, working under the professional supervision of Michelle Harwell, PsyD, LMFT 50732. Erika specializes in helping her clients bring mindful, attuned awareness to their sensations and emotions.