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Let’s talk about grief.
The grief journey has a lot in common with the motherhood journey.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve experienced immense joy since my little one has come into my life. But I’ve also had challenges and sad days.
Grief, unlike sadness, is not a passing phase—it’s actually a transformational journey we go through.
In my experience, I have learned that there are three things that the grief journey and the motherhood journey have in common:
>> They both require full commitment. There is no “half-assing it” when it comes to both—you are in it, and in it good!
>> There is a feeling of “losing oneself” in the process. This is actually the transformational alchemy doing its work, so if you’re feeling like this, Mama, you’re on the right track. Surrender and letting go of who we once were is part of the process.
>> We emerge different than when we started. “Emerging” is a state of evolution, not a plateau. Our children are with us for life. They are not the latest project or goal to be achieved. Similarly, a profound loss is with us for life, too. But there will be milestones at which we know we have changed profoundly from the inside out.
Sometimes, motherhood can feel like wandering around in a new, unfamiliar, and empty house. It can be lonely when we are possibly spending a lot of time alone and also not sure of the person we are becoming.
If I know anything from my journeys with grief in the past, it’s that it is totally safe and okay to surrender to this process.
When my mother died of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in 2015, I was left totally at a loss of who I was and where I was going. Even though her death was not a surprise, I still felt rocked to the core.
When she was sick, I had taken the approach of holding on tightly to the things in my life I felt could keep me tethered and stable—things like my career, schooling, home, and interests. I wanted to keep a sense of who I was, even though, deep down, I knew that I was going through a profound change.
When she died, I realized I no longer needed to hold on so tightly, and although it was frightening to wander into the unknown, it was necessary, and I believe it was the appropriate way to honour her life and passing.
Wandering into the unknown takes great heart and guts. We need to be the ones to give ourselves permission to not feel like ourselves from time to time.
This can be a sign that we are transforming and evolving.
In yoga traditions, we ask the question, “What is the ‘self,’ really?”
In our culture, we are used to defining ourselves by what we do—not how we are on the inside.
When we take extended breaks from the things we typically use to bolster up the self, we are given the opportunity for expansion.
Motherhood is an excellent time to reflect on what was or wasn’t working in the past and to ask what we want to bring forward to the future.
Birth—like death—opens us to the portal of spaciousness that is actually around us all the time. In this space, we are given the tremendous gift of impermanence. We are taught that things we thought were solid or stuck don’t have to be.
Motherhood also provides many opportunities for grief because our little ones change so fast, and it’s so hard to not want them to remain beautiful, little snuggly babes forever. At the same time, if this were to actually happen, they would never grow and thrive. So in motherhood, we are constantly offered the opportunity to let go, surrender, and greet the next stage with an open heart and mind.
A practice that can help with grief and letting go is simply paying attention a little more to the exhale in our meditation practice.
You can say, “I am now exhaling,” and then allow the inhale to happen naturally. When the exhale comes around again, you can say, “I am now letting go.” By simply drawing awareness to this natural process that happens right under our nose, we can shift our awareness from one of taking in to one of letting go.
This will allow more space to open up in our hearts for that next stage of our journey.
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