Kerry L. Malawista, PhD is a psychotherapist and psychoanalyst in private practice in the Potomac area. For the past 30 years, she has been successfully helping adults, adolescents and children move through difficult moments and transitions in their lives. One such transition is the loss or death of someone important, and addressing this grief has become a crucial area of Malawista’s work. She says, “Ultimately, my work is to understand my patient’s experience and, together, discover a pathway through painful and challenging times towards a more fulfilling and positive future.”
In addition to her one-on-one with patients, Malawista writes as a way to give voice and process the joys and pains we all share in bring human. Her essays have appeared nationally in newspapers, magazines and literary journals including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Baltimore Sun, The Boston Globe, Zone 3, Washingtonian Magazine, The Huffington Post, Bethesda Magazine, Arlington Magazine, The Account Magazine, and Delmarva Review, which nominated her for a Pushcart Prize. She is the co-author of Wearing my Tutu to Analysis and Other Stories, The Therapist in Mourning: From the Faraway Nearby, Who’s Behind the Couch, Stories From the Couch, and When the Garden Isn’t Eden: More Psychoanalytic Concepts from Life.
Earlier this fall, Malawista released her first novel, Meet the Moon. Take a peek at the storyline:
In 1970, 13-year-old Jody Moran wants pierced ears, a kiss from a boy, and more attention from her mother. It’s not fair. Seems like her mother is more worked up about the Apollo 13 astronauts, who may not make it back to earth safely. As it happens, the astronauts are spared a crash landing, but Jody is not, for three days after splashdown, her mother dies in a car accident. Now, Jody will never know if her mother really loved her. Jody’s father has taught them to believe in the “Power of Intention.” Announce what you want to the world to make it happen. But could the power of Jody’s jealousy and anger have caused Mom’s accident? To relieve her guilt and sadness, she devotes herself to mothering her three younger siblings and helping Dad, which quickly proves too much for her, just as persuading quirky Grandma Cupcakes to live with them proves too much for Grandma. That’s when Jody decides to find someone to marry her father, a new mom who will love her best. Jody reads high and low to learn about love, marriage and death. For her adolescent firsts—kiss, bra, and boyfriend—she has the help of her popular older sister, her supportive father, and comical Grandma. But each first, which makes her miss her mother, teaches her that death doesn’t happen just once.
In her own words, Kerry L. Malawista shares the inspiration for writing the novel: "I lost my mother at the age of nine, and many patients in my psychotherapy practice come to me struggling with loss. I recognized my own experience in a teenage patient who was devastated by the loss of her mother to cancer but also guilt-ridden by memories of moments of anger, and wishing her mother dead... I had to write this book because I was the child left behind, I was the teen wracked with guilt and sorrow, and I am the adult helping others through it."
Malawista’s work with grief is ever-evolving. She recently founded the Things They Carry Project, which is designed to promote resilience, healing, and self-care. Writing workshops offer participants the opportunity to write, to share their writing with others, to listen to others' stories and to experience a sense of community. Recent research has shown that writing about distressing life events promotes emotional and physical health and fosters a sense of hope.
The Project provides a confidential, supportive environment in which a psychotherapist or a psychotherapist partnered with a writer offer writing prompts that invite participants to put into words the troubling experiences they have had in the course of their work. The small groups provide the opportunity to explore the meaning of these experiences, to express their past and current feelings, and to record the insights they have gained through these challenging, distressing, and moving encounters.
Initially, the free writing workshops were made available to Healthcare Workers and First Responders. Partly due to the success and partly due to need, the program has expanded to include K-12 teachers, librarians, school counselors, and other school personnel. The past few years have been a time of unprecedented stress and anxiety, and this group also needs a vehicle for processing traumatic memories and make sense of their experiences.
To learn more about Malawista and her writing, please visit kmalawistaauthor.com.
"Many patients in my psychotherapy practice come to me struggling with loss."