Fall is upon us. That means, according to Eastern medicine, it is the season of grief and the lungs. I've been learning a lot about how to hold my own grief in the last year after the passing of my father. I've also been noticing many of my clients facing variations of grief in their own life lately, so I thought it timely to write on this topic.
Firstly, feelings of grief can arise from to a variety of experiences. There are the obvious losses like the passing of a loved one. Then there is disenfranchized grief: losses that aren't widely recognized or supported by society, like the loss of a loved one to suicide, or addiction; loss of a pet, or patient; letting go of an idea of and connection to family due to abuse; loss of an identity, job, or home; loss of hopes and dreams (miscarriage, infertility, divorce, lay offs, the childhood you wish you had had), and more. We might experience anticipatory grief as a loved one declines from illness, or addiction, before the "official" loss actually occurs. There are many shades of grief, contexts of loss. It's helpful to remember that our experience with each scenario will be as unique and multi-faceted as our relationship with that being, dynamic, or aspect of our life.
Our American culture doesn't really create much space for grief in our day-to-day life. The support structures that many of us need aren't woven into the fabric of our social spheres unless we are a part of a community that consciously acknowledges and tends to that aspect of living and dying. It can feel lonely being in a process of grieving, and we may judge ourselves that we should be over it or move on, or that our feelings may not be warranted because it might not compare to someone else's loss/experience. I can't tell you how many times I've heard someone grieving say that once the funeral is over, or a few weeks have passed that many people stopped asking them how they are doing. Most workplaces only offer a few days of time off for bereavement, and some may not offer grace for the sense of "nonfunction" that some people experience following a loss. Not to mention, the alienation that some feel for having a disenfranchized loss, because lots of society doesn't know how to hold the mixture of uncomfortable and conflicting feelings that can arise from a loss related to suicide, or abuse, for example. It's easier for some to not look or talk about it. In turn, it can create a weird feeling in griever, a sort of cognitive dissonance, and a need for someone to "Please, acknowledge the elephant in the room!"
I could go on, but for now, I will offer a few final thoughts and suggestions. Take what resonates, and leave the rest. Since grief is so unique and personal, not everything may speak to you.
For the Griever:
For Those Who Care for Someone Who is Grieving:
Hope this helps if grief is showing up in your life these days. If you are grieving, is there anything else important that needs mentioning? Share with us in the comments.
Lots of care and comfort for you,
Listen to your inklings and you just may save a life.
Last Wednesday was one of those rainy days where it gently, and consistently pours throughout the day. I've always been fond of the rain. There is something about it that invites reflection and comfort for me.
After receiving a liberating and joyful Alexander Technique lesson with my friend and colleague Xochi John, I had a short window of time before my next client. There was a break in the rain, and something was subtly beckoning me outside for a stroll. I debated the amble as I wouldn't have enough time to make it to the woody savanna that I like to visit. It would have to be a short jaunt around the creek behind our office, then right back. Maybe my time would be better spent integrating the lesson with a brief rest on the couch, I contemplated. I let my hesitations go, put on my coat, and ventured to the creek.
It felt soothing to get outside, and take in the happenings of the creatures out and about. As I passed under a bridge, I saw a family of ducks skimming along. The mother leading the way with the fuzzy little ducklings scuttling behind in a row, two by two, rotating who was in the front. I stopped to admire them for a bit, and counted nine little ducklings. Gosh, they were adorable. They found a patch of vegetation, scattered to their posts, and began to feed. I carried on.
I reached the turn around point for the path, and saw a muskrat swimming along. The furry one eventually disappeared from sight as it neared the bushy plants draping over the edge of the waterway. I relished in gratitude to work so close to this haven for wildlife, and began my return trip on the other side of the creek.
After passing under the bridge, I eventually came upon the family of ducklings again. They hurriedly darted among the watery weeds feeding further along the shore. I checked my watch; I still had enough time before my client would arrive, so I decided to wait and bit longer and watch them. They didn't seem to notice me, though I was only about 15 feet away on the edge of the bike path. These poofy little beings were so eager to eat, it's as if I existed in a completely different dimension outside of their reality. Their ease allowed me to marvel in how adorable they all were, without fear of startling them.
Then, all of a sudden, I realize something is awry. The mother frantically darts back and forth squawking. She is searching for something. The little ducklings move to the side. One, two, three...eight. There are only eight! Where is the ninth?! I hear a little, "peep, peep, peep," but can't see the other duckling anywhere.
The mother seems to have found her lost little one. She plunges her head into the water trying to pull her beloved up with her beak. I can see the small orange beak break the surface for a moment, before it plunges back underwater. Again, the mother attempts. And, again, to the same effect. Frantic desperation fills the air. The mother, unable to help her little one, quickly shepherds the other ducklings away to the other side of the creek, shielding them from a similar fate.
I cannot see the little duckling from where I am standing. I move to the edge of the creek where I saw the mother's urgent attempts. There, shrouded within the weeds, I spot the little duckling's head pointed outward, completely underwater, yet only a mere couple inches from the surface.
I crouch down, and lean in to gently scoop up the little one, but it is dreadfully tangled. I am able to lift it enough so it's head is out of the water, but if I let go, it will sink again. I must work at freeing it. As I carefully pull the plant matter from its right wing, the mother realizes I am holding her baby. She flies from the other shoreline straight toward me, her alarm shrieks ringing in the air. She lands in the middle of the stream, and becomes quiet, though vigilant.
By now, I realize there is something from below weighing the duckling down. I reach deeper, and feel a woody stalk that was laying horizontally, wedged over the little duckling's foot. As I raise the stalk from the depths, the duckling now has enough wiggle room to free itself. It darts out of the mess of weeds in my hands, runs along the shoreline, then zooms through the water reuniting with its mother. Salvation! They rejoin the eight siblings, and go back to feeding in a more sheltered spot of the creek.
I burst into tears, overwhelmed with emotion. Waves of feelings and sensations moving through me, which I am unsure if words exist to describe. All I know is that this experience was as much of a gift to me as that little duckling, and its mother. After letting the reality of what's just unfolded settle a bit, I head back into the clinic to prepare for my next client.
A couple hours later, I have another short break, and decide to go out and see if I could check on this duck family I now feel inexplicably close with. At the far end of the creek, near Lake Monona, I spot them. Again, feeding along the rocky shore. All nine ducklings and mother. They all seem to be moving about just like normal, happy ducklings. My heart smiles. They are all okay. We are all okay.
As the ripples of this experience have had sometime to soak into my consciousness, I feel the layers of meaning and lessons so intertwined, gently peaking their heads up. The possibilities that arise when we listen to the inklings we have. How something larger than ourselves sometimes uses us to be "guardian angels" for others, guiding us to be in the right place at the right time. The life-saving power of being present, aware, and seeing what is; had I just continued walking, or not taken a closer look, I would not have noticed that little duckling trapt underwater. That having an outside perspective, and the right tools for the job is essential; no matter how much that mother tried to save her beloved, she didn't have what was necessary to untangle the little one. When we move from a place of connectedness, love, and willingness, knowing that we are a part of the whole—not a separate, outside observer—miracles can happen. Yes, sometimes it may come down to "little old me" or you to act, there may not be anyone else there to swoop in. So many universal lessons to contemplate.
Finally, on a personal note, I know this experience is an incredible gift, and sign. I have been diving deeply in recent months, healing core layers of wounding of my inner child. A part of me that was so tangled in thoughts of illusion and darkness, that attempting suicide seemed the only way to be seen in my pain. Fortunately, I too, had guardian angels. My dear childhood friend Mikaela's love, and witnessing pulled me out of the depths at that time, and I have not been caught in that seemingly inescapable grasp since. But there were remnants of that pain that still needed healing. Over the last decade, I have nurtured trust with this ten-year-old me, and offered her healing with the gift of Reiki, and other support I have uncovered on this journey. In the process, those wounds have dissolved, bit by bit. Now that I am an adult, I have the right tools, I know I have friends "in the light" I can call upon, and, damn it, young Sarah, I see you, just like I saw that little duckling, and I will never leave you tangled in darkness again. I love you. This experience was a sign to me of the progress I've made, and, perhaps most moving for me, a completion of the cycle; gratitude for my life that was saved, and the gift to return the favor, and free another from a similar fate.
Dear friends, thank you for reading my story. I hope it offers some medicine for you, which will no doubt be unique to your own life. If you feel inspired, I would love to hear what this evokes within you. Feel free to comment below.
No matter where this finds you today, may you know there are "angels" around every corner, and if you need someone to walk with you, all you have to do is ask.
With so much love for you,
P.S. Okay, Brené Brown... How's that for daring greatly? I'll admit, I was tentative about sharing my personal note, but I hope that in the sharing it has been helpful for some.
P.P.S. I will be away from the clinic June 22–30, 2019 to rest and recharge. Please reach out to me before if you need support, otherwise I will be getting back to you when I return at the beginning of July.
My heart is in a rock tumbler, but don't feel sorry for me...
Embracing the process, the ripening of the soul.
Over the last few months, a series of events has catapulted me deep within, experiencing the fabric of the universe. Something within me is shifting in a very significant way. And, at the moment, I am not quite sure what it is and which end is up, but what I can tell you is that it is needed, and growth is eminent. I can feel the process churning within me.
Why am I telling you this? Because, perhaps now, sometime in the past, or someday in the future you have or may find yourself in your own unique version of this, triggered by the perfect moment to stir your deeper awakening. Something subtle, but entirely profound operating beneath the surface. If we don't remember to breathe while we hold ourselves and our experience in gentle awareness, it can get painful quick. But if we allow it all to unfold without making anything right or wrong, we cultivate a ripe environment for wisdom to reveal itself to us.
I could disclose the details of the story that has led me here, but that feels like a distraction right now. Perhaps it is something I will share at another time. What I will share with you now is this, a poem I wrote earlier this week that captures the experience emerging within me. May there be something here that feeds your soul.
My heart is in a rock tumbler
but don't feel sorry for me
My heart is breaking open
the zagged edges chipped away
intimately acquainting with the depth of experience
the fabric of the universe
the profundity that is often skimmed over in the day to day
My heart is breaking open
but I do not feel pain
the softness, the compassion, the cradling that accompanies grief
Without fear I surrender myself to the process
that is my grace
I let my head fall back, chest unfurl to the sky, and fully collapse my trying, my "strength"
and find I am held
gently lifted by Grace
That, in time, the lessons within may seep in like rainwater gently trickling through the earth to the reservoir
That I have and am enough
I am that which is beyond love
benevolence, humility, compassion
My heart is breaking open
but do not feel sad for me
Within is revealed the goo of my center, the Truth of my Nature
that which I am becoming
that which we have always been
Blessings Dear Ones,
Reiki Master Teacher and Owner of Embrace Your Essence