Terry Karmel

Making Spirits Bright



By NancyLee Honey Marsh
Photography by Christian Lee


As the pace of the holidays picks up, it’s time to practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty to cheer those around us in need.

The air in the busy coffee shop was infused with energy, and it wasn’t the caffeinated coffee! It arrived in the form of the lovely, blond-haired, Terry Karmel, a licensed marriage family therapist. Her vitality and obvious enthusiasm for life made our conversation concerning holiday blues and respect in relationships most informative.

A period of elevated emotions and expectations, the Christmas holidays are a time for remembering and honoring the Christ child, for experiencing the sentimentality of silver bells and the merriment of Santa Claus. More importantly, it’s a time for all of us to reach out and touch those who may be struggling with grief, depression or even isolation. 

With a BA degree in Psychology from New York’s Stony Brook University, Terry guides clients in a multitude of situations toward positive solutions. “The holidays not only stimulate joyfulness, but accentuate feelings of grief. It could be the recent loss of a family member or close friend, the painful realization this current year may be the last one shared with a loved one, or maybe someone dear to us is fighting a serious illness.” She emphasized, “In whatever category the grief falls, we need time to grieve, honor and respect that person and try to allow ourselves to move on to enjoy the holidays as we would have with our loved ones. There are many ways to keep those we have lost near through shadow boxes, sharing joyful experiences and celebrating the spirit of our loved one.”

Terry entered her second career by earning her master’s degree in marriage and family counseling. “I was always good in math, but I truly love people, helping them and trying to figure out why they did certain things. After college graduation, I planned to run out and fix the world, but…could not find a job,” she said.

Twenty-five years later, after an accomplished career in human resources with Lockheed Martin, “I awakened one day and felt bored!” Terry said. “I talked with my husband, David, of 32 years, and we agreed on beginning my new career in the Lowcountry, which we both loved. Neither of us had a job, but we took a chance. I was so very blessed in finding an opening in counseling with St Andrew by-the-Sea [United Methodist Church on Hilton Head Island], which allowed me to fulfill the final part of my training.”

Terry’s long career in human resources, her solid family background and her experience light the way for those trapped within darkened spaces, entangled in emotional stress and struggling with misunderstood feelings. Her well-educated ear, compassion and infectious personality signal open arms for those suffering from a variety of illnesses and situations. It’s understandable how so many find it easy to pour out their dreams, stumbling blocks and hidden emotions to her.

“Sometimes the stress of the holidays heightens disagreements in marriages. When couples experience a crisis, I recommend they read, The 5 Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman and Hold Me Tight by Dr. Sue Johnson. Stress of the holidays can cause problems to erupt and then be stashed away. While love and communication are foundational fundamentals in relationships, respect teaches us to treat others as we want to be treated,” Terry said.

Statistics prove there are more illnesses, suicides and emotional disorders during the holiday season than other time of the year. In a rushed environment, sometimes we forget to focus on our blessings and to think of others. In the midst of so much happiness, many are suffering. Visit a lonely elderly person, help decorate a tree, spread hugs and holiday cheer, and remember, the greatest gift in the world comes not with a price tag, but with love.

Up Close:
Renaissance gal: Terry sits on the board of Lowcountry Human Trafficking Coalition, helps the Red Cross and is involved in Justice Works, which assists families in crisis.

Relaxation: Tennis three times a week; walks with her Yorkie, Candy; working out and reading.

Oops: “My name is spelled like a boy. Once on a ski trip, I was assigned to a cabin with 8 other guys! Fortunately, my husband was one of them.”

Fulfilled Wish: “I always wanted to skydive, so on my 40th birthday, I jumped from 3,000 feet. The fellow strapped to my back made sure I did not chicken out!”

Forever Inspired by: The Serenity Prayer: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change…”