Surviving Grief

stages-of-griefI received one of those phone calls, you know the one that makes you stop in your tracks and think.  A few years ago, a lady phoned me.  Her father had been diagnosed with Cancer and she was struggling to cope with everything she was going through.  She had read “my story”.  She asked me how I had managed to get through my own father’s death so bravely and strongly.  I answered her to the best of my ability, yet, long after I hung up, her words still lingered in my heart and I felt like a fraud.

The truth was I didn’t cope with my dad’s passing.  I was battered by it, wounded in a big way and drowned in it.  It resulted in me suppressing a lot of the pain I was suffering.  I guess it’s an Irish thing we learn to endure, pick up and move on but maybe it’s worldwide – I pulled my socks up and I struggled forward.  Step after step, putting one foot in front of another.  I kept myself busy.  I filled my life with movement, projects, plans, anything bar sit down quietly in the pain of grief.  I faltered and fell on many occasions and I struggled to get back up and continue.  I kept my life busy, so busy I hadn’t time to stop or think.  I slowly burnt my body out.  Truth is I did everything and anything bar deal with the grief.

I found yoga and energy as outlined in my story and spent years in college training.  Travelling, learning and completing assignments meant there was little time for anything else to formulate within my mind so I continued to hide the true depth of my feelings from everyone, but mostly from myself.

Grief floors you, it crushes you and pins you under its weight.  On occasions the pressure on my chest was so bad I felt like I couldn’t breathe.  It felt like a tonne weight had been dropped on my chest and pinned me down. I was trapped, unable to move.  I struggled, the pain was so bad.

The greater the love you feel for a person, the greater the pain you suffer at their loss.  Grief for me personally is like an invisible tattoo etched on your heart, hidden, deep, and dark, it never goes away.  I always said it remains with you like a scar, camouflaged and hidden away.  I smiled to the world, put on a mask and headed out with head held high. But the wounds of grief are deep, they crust over, scars form and may in time fade but the imprint is forever lodged deep within you’re tissues like an imprint of DNA.

There were occasions I felt I had survived and lived to tell the tale.  It is then that something will trigger you and it all comes rushing back, just like it was yesterday.  Those are the days it feels like someone has taken hold of the scab on your wound and pulled it clean off with no mercy.

When Mum passed away I was very fortunate to have friends who supported me greatly, they kept encouraging me to feel my pain.  I learnt from Dad’s passing that suppressed emotions sooner or later make their presence known as an illness or dis-ease within the body and suppressing does affect your life and your relationships.  I was suppressing how I felt and it resulted in me temporarily becoming an asthmatic.  Fitting as suppressing the pain of grief meant I physically could not breathe.

Because of that phone call, I had a greater awareness dealing with grief.  I am by no means saying I coped better this time but I did keep track of what I did to help me deal with the trauma of my grief.  This is why I am writing this blog, for those of you who have asked me over the last few months as to what I did and continue to do.  This is raw and it is very real for me.  It is my personal experience and in some way I guess it is my way of acknowledging that I am in pain.  I am still hurting under the burden of grief.  I am not looking for sympathy or support.  This is something I need and will cope with on my own, this is my life lesson.  I just hope it may assist you or others to cope with your healing journey and perhaps give some ideas of outlets to try to ease that grief.  We all deal with grief in our own unique way there is NO right way or wrong way to deal with it.  It is as unique as each of us. The important thing as a wise friend told me is not to suppress it just try, as best you can to survive and cope with it.

I listened to bi-aural beats.  If you look it up on YouTube you will find numerous recordings.  I chose the option to deal with grief.  I played the beats night after night for weeks often falling into a restless sleep with the earphones still in my ears.  Bi-aural beats for grief are a deep low vibration designed to aid the healing process after a tragedy or loss.  The frequencies are designed to help meet your emotional and healing needs to help you cope with grief and to start your healing journey back.  I listened night after night in the hope that my subconscious would start to release and begin to heal.

A friend posted on his time line an article about Wailer’s, people who came specifically to a funeral with the sole purpose of wailing to help those in grief to freely cry and release their grief.  This put me thinking and I turned to yoga once more.  A breathing exercise caught my attention – Humming breath.  This breathing technique uses vibration to help clear out the heart, throat and middle eye chakra.  It is a very simple technique; you breathe in and gently hum on the exhalation.  This was difficult, on occasions as I broke down and I cried sometimes unable to continue as sobs left me on my knees.  It helped me to release the energy of grief locked deep within my heart and when I couldn’t continue I would start again the following day.  Months later I still use this practice as grief comes in waves and can strike when you least expect it.

I dug out my knitting needles and crochet hook and found huge solace in creating beautiful blankets, scarves, poncho’s, tea cosies, coasters anything really that didn’t involve a large attention span as that is one thing I did become aware of, I couldn’t concentrate and I found I had no patience for reading.  Knitting and crochet offered me an outlet of peace and creativity.

I turned to natural remedies to help me face fear, cope with feelings of being over whelmed.  Rescue remedy got taken by the bottle full.  I took Ivy Thyme, Tissue salts anything that would benefit my system.  Seek professional advice on this.

I kept a diary of how I was feeling, I wrote and acknowledged exactly how I felt on each passing day.  Some days all I felt was numbness and this was ok too.  I knew shock had played a part in this.  Some days all I could write was a simple word. In this small way I was acknowledging how I felt to me at least.

Anger arises also, and on one particular occasion I stood facing an empty bed screaming all the hurt and anger that was in me to someone who was no longer there.   It needed to come out and I expressed and let it out.  I spent three days with no voice, but better out than in.  Anger also comes in waves.  I projected anger, I suppressed anger, I even felt angry that I wasn’t coping.

One thing that became very obvious months after Mum passed was my inability to be around people.  I sought solitude over company, peace over noise.  I felt the energy of groups over whelmed me and I was unable to cope. Again I honored that need and this year I spent a week alone with myself, my thoughts, and my emotions.  There is nothing like the wild Atlantic Ocean to help clear out.   This for me personally was the greatest healing I got and I did return back home a different person.

Something which caused me great upset was my inability to enjoy being on my yoga mat.  Yoga has pulled me out of the depths of despair on numerous occasions, when I couldn’t bring myself to get on my mat I got really concerned and this was acknowledgement to me that something was not right. There was a period of months where I felt I wanted to give it up and not teach anymore and this was very real at the time.  It led me to finishing up classes early for the summer and I ended up taking the longest break I had ever taken off from yoga.  I needed this though and found it very beneficial to me.

I put my back out a couple of months after mum passed, so I was getting help to ease the pain of that, my therapist described all of my body as being super toned but my lower back she described as “soft”.  I spent time wondering why.   I’ve learnt that my stomach and back are my emotional centre, the place I send everything I do not wish to deal with.  It became nicely padded over the months and I would easily have passed for a pregnant woman of five months.  In an attempt to start dealing with these emotions I returned to yoga and plank has been the theme of our classes these past couple of weeks.

Sometimes, it is difficult to cope with grief on your own and if you feel the need to seek help you should do so.

In recent months I now find myself in a vulnerable and fearful state a lot of the time.  It is obviously something I need to work through.  It is challenging and it is difficult as when in these states my instinct is to shut down and close off for fear I will allow myself to be hurt.   I don’t know if I will manage to work through this one as the need to feel safe and not get hurt rules me presently.  Playing safe though doesn’t allow you to live life to the fullest, so an internal battle takes place.

Death made me re-evaluate my life and Mums sudden passing made me realise how precious and short life can be.  Mum went to bed, knowing that we had a family party planned to celebrate her 70th birthday. She fell into slumber wondering what gifts would be bestowed on her the following day not realising she would never wake up.

I may not make it in an energetic sense, I have too much growing up to do and self negativity to battle but I can make it in a life sense.  My bucket list got pulled out and I am ticking another item off the list. So, this winter I am travelling to Bali for three weeks on my own.  I am travelling on the wind and going where the wind takes me.  It is my way of learning to trust a force bigger than myself.  I shall meet those I am meant to meet, will experience what I am meant to experience and I shall see what I am meant to see.

This is a huge chapter for me and I know it will change my life forever.  Death changes you forever anyway.  The flights are booked and in five weeks’ time I will commence the first leg of my journey by spending a week in Quatar with my sister before heading onto Bali for three full weeks of adventure.  Am I nuts?  Yes.  Am I avoiding issues here rather than facing them? Absolutely! But I need time out and I am honoring that need in me right now.

Grief floors you without a shadow of a doubt, but life will pull you back up, if you allow it too.

Whether or not I allow life to lift me fully back up remains to be seen, time will tell.  I need to work through my fear and my safety issues, I need to change my mode of thinking to that of more positivity,  I need to learn to believe in myself and grow greater self esteem.  Healing starts within, so remember, whatever you are going through right now, it is ok, cut yourself some slack, nurture and care for yourself and honor what feels right for you in this moment. Then find something that will make your heart sing and follow it.

Om shanti, Noreen.