An email I wrote to a friend shortly after the death of my grandma and father …

By Sarah Cronick

These last few months have been hmmmmm, how to describe…heavy, beautiful, unnerving, expanding, graceful, divine.

I was home in Alaska visiting family early March. During that time, we received a call that my dad was in the hospital and very sick. Not sure with what, but important we make our way to him in NH. So my siblings and I headed out there, not sure what was happening or how long we had with him. Upon arriving, he was on a ton of oxygen, in a lot of pain, and not doing well. But he hung on. It took the docs 10 days to finally diagnose: terminal pancreatic cancer that had spread everywhere. Days, weeks, months at most. Shock.

I spent the better part of the last 4 months back east with him. Taking care of a million loose ends that he had (this was not expected nor planned for) and doing my best to love him in spite of all the things that drove me mad (our relationship, like any, has its twists and turns). It was, overall, a sweet, challenging, beautiful time. To be together with family in that capacity and see how we are as a unit is a special thing.

I went to Boulder for about 3 weeks in this time period, to try and restore and work a little. In that time, my grandma Baba (the one with dementia- who yes, I am very close with) began her dying process. I was alone with her as she took her final breaths. It felt like a huge, beautiful, all-expansive gift of unconditional love as she passed. I seriously felt ecstatic. Intense nonetheless. It was such an honor to be with her and guide her in the process of letting go. All the while during that time I had a strong feeling that I would be in a similar situation with my dad- sooner than later.

Well, I was. My dad’s health declined rapidly while I was in Boulder, and it worked out that my siblings and I would drive out to NH immediately following my grandma’s funeral. So that is what we did. It felt so heavy, like I couldn’t celebrate my grandma and her incredible legacy (she had 8 kids, 28 grandkids, and 3 great grandkids- we were all there!) because I wanted to get to my father before it was too late.

When we arrived to my dad, he didn’t look well. We were told he was hanging on for us and not sure what to expect- was he going to die the minute we got there? What do we do? So many questions and unknowns.

He hung on for about 8 days. It was an interesting, funny, heartbreaking, and beautiful time. Song, loving touch, tears, laughter, anger, all of it. Seems so surreal, still.

I was alone with him as he passed. Unlike my grandma, he was in a lot of pain, and had a very hard time letting go. That morning, I did not want to be awake and taking care of my other grandma (there is a whole backstory I won’t bore you with), but I was. When I checked on my dad, it was clear it was time for him to move on. After getting out of my own willful way, I let go to the flow of it and let the divine work thru me- lighting candles, calling in his guides and ancestors, and asking god outloud (something I never do) for help. “coaching” him, saying words like “it’s time to go, it’s ok, you are doing great, and just keep exhaling.” he left shortly thereafter. Whew. I felt traumatized and full of adrenaline. Went to the woods to shake and cry it off. Felt his presence there and assured me that he chose me to be there with him for a reason- that I had the tools and could handle it. I trust in that.

Sooooo, that’s what’s been going on. He died a month ago yesterday. The “honeymoon” phase of the grief seems to be transitioning into something else, another heavy slow weighted sadness. I need to constantly remind myself that this is a process and to be gentle with myself. Again and again. Right now I want to not do the work I do, and leave the country to retreat to other worlds.

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Here is a photo of him when he was younger, as well as a picture of me holding him after a terrible coughing fit that he experienced regularly towards the end. It was such a gift to be able to do that with him- so tender and loving, so this picture is very special, powerful and sacred to me.

Grief – You are Not Alone

image1By Jill Emich, Spirit Warrior and Owner of Shine Restaurant and Gathering Place, www.shineboulder.com

Grief is a word that invokes emptiness inside. It conjures loneliness and feeing forsaken, forlorn, lost – a sadness so deep that it feels palpable and overwhelming. But as I have also learned, grief is one of our biggest teachers. It is a gift to dive deeper and to heal and in turn help other to heal.

Most of us have felt grief at some point or another in their lives either from personal experiences or from witnessing another in emotional pain. The first time I experienced grief was when I learned that my dear brother Dennis was born a twin and that my mother had lost one at birth. I hadn’t known this until my early teen years when my mom shared her story. Being a triplet myself (yes my mom was just very, very fertile), I felt such a sense of grief for my brother and my mother’s loss.

The fact that my brother shared a womb with another spirit and another body and then surfaced into this world alone was heartbreaking. What affect did it have on his little soul then and what affect does it have now? I will never truly know because my brother is mentally and physically challenged. The only way he communicates is through his powerful huge smile, through his facial expressions, his tears, and those eyes…..

So I grieved for him and with him. I felt all those overwhelming feelings and then I decided to shift it. I started to recognize the gifts. First and foremost my brother Dennis is still here with us and he has taught me and my family about compassion, patience, acceptance and unconditional love. His story and his existence has made me a better person and I want to share that love and compassion with others. I also know Dennis has a powerful twin angel on his shoulder, protecting him and whispering sweetness into his ear. And, my brother is the glue of our family. He has kept the love stroimage2ng between all of us and has kept us united. The very rare disease he has gives a life sentence of approximately 25 years. My brother is 44 and his doctors attribute his liveliness to his amazing care, love and his inner strength. His loss has made him strong, it has – this I know. It has made my family strong.

The other way I am able to transform this feeling of grief is by reaching out to others, sharing the story and hearing other peoples story of grief and how we can transform it through community and family. This is why I know the Grief Support Network is such a powerful and important organization.  It is something I am so proud to help support.  We need one another to heal, to grow, to share, to see a new perspective.

Thank you for taking the time to read this and to learn more about Grief Support Network.  We hope to see you at Shine on September 12h for GSN’s Gratitude Celebration & Fundraiser!  

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GSN Article in the Boulder Daily Camera

Boulder’s Grief Support Network helps people put their lives back together

Losing, then finding

By Cindy Sutter  Staff WriterLast week, Wendy Stern marked the eighth birthday of her son, Noah, quietly at home.

Noah Stern

As with every child, each birthday is unique. With Noah, however, the differences come not from the party he chooses or getting a new Lego set. Noah died seven years ago when he was 9 months old as his mother was feeding him, cuddling with him in bed.

“It shattered our entire life,” Stern says.

No cause of death was determined. He just stopped breathing.

Stern and her husband found themselves on a journey no parent wants to take, a journey without your child.

What do you do with the knowledge that your child will never drink from a sippy cup, say his first word, go to kindergarten, read a book, graduate from college or fall in love? The list goes on.

For Stern, one of the answers was to seek help in community. The solace she found there led her to, in turn, give help in community: She started a nonprofit, the Grief Support Network, to reach out to people like herself who found themselves bereft and without a feeling of purpose after a devastating loss. In addition to her understanding of grief, she brought another resource, the knowledge gained as a yoga teacher about how emotions live in the body.

Wendy Stern, founder of the Grief Support Network, says yoga has helped in healing her grief over the loss of her son.

Wendy Stern, founder of the Grief Support Network, says yoga has helped in healing her grief over the loss of her son. (Jim Campbell / Courtesy photo)

Studies show that grief has measurable effects on physical health. A study published in the journal Circulation found that heart attack risk is 21 times greater in the day after a loved one dies and six times more in the week after. Similarly, studies have shown decreases in immune system function among people grieving the loss of a loved one.

“The reasons we have health problems after going through the big experience of grief is that our culture hasn’t taught us how to move it through. It gets stored in the body,” Stern says.

She believes the effects of grief are worsened by the culture in which we live, where any mourning after the funeral is done quietly and often alone. Stern says her body felt frozen, and she felt anxious and unsafe. Thus, shortly after Noah died, she and her husband left the country, going to Southeast Asia and Bali.

There, they found people with a concept of death that was more integrated into life.

“They really rally as a community, honor the journey of it, hold the grief and talk about it,” she says.

They are also OK with not resolving it.

“They don’t pretend to know the answers. They have rituals in place that help them mark the milestone and hold it,” she says. “It doesn’t have to be as lonely as it is if you hold each other in community.”

When she started the nonprofit, she wanted not only to create that community, through a support-type group — it meets monthly at Shine restaurant — but also to give people resources to help them deal with the physical, psychological and spiritual aspects of loss. She assembled a group of specialists in different fields such as acupuncture, massage, reiki, psychotherapy, chiropractic work, intuitive communication, traditional medicine and, not surprisingly, yoga.

“Being present in my body where grief lived, I see grief and how we hold it. It’s almost like water,” Stern says. “It will move through us if we let it.”

Letting go and holding on..

Read the full article HERE …

 

Harness Body Wisdom – Capture the “Ahaa…Moments”

Written By Michael Lee

Michael is a master educator with 49 years of teaching experience. He founded Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy in 1985 after many years of deep yoga practice and work in the areas of personal growth and transformation.

Ever had one of those ahaa… moments during your yoga practice?  You know, the moment when you get sudden insight or awareness that has life changing potential?

I think we all have them from time to time regardless of the nature of our practice.  My belief is that when we engage our body and become very present to our whole being through the medium of our body – something magical happens …

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Read more HERE

Men Have Miscarriages, Too

By Ann  Zamudio 

Ann is a documentary filmmaker in the DC area. She’s currently working on a film called Don’t Talk About the Baby (support their Kickstarter campaign), which aims to change how we talk about loss. She has two children, one husband and an overly excited dog.

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Of the five stages of grief, I tend to linger in anger the longest. After I miscarried my first child, I simmered with anger for weeks, furious at the world for a variety of reasons. Infused with my old energy now that my pregnancy was no longer exhausting me, I attacked my home in an effort to clean my way to healing.

In all my furious scrubbing of baseboards, though, I never once stopped to ask my husband how he was handling the loss. After all my introspection and self-discovery, the one thing that escaped my notice in the weeks after the miscarriage was that it wasn’t my loss — it was our loss. I am not alone in making this mistake. Time after time, when a woman bares herself and talks about her miscarriage, the story is the same: I feel so alone, it’s like my husband doesn’t even care. He doesn’t say anything to me. It’s like this never even happened for him.

Even taking it outside the intimacy of a marriage, or even an extended family, let’s consider how society treats men whose partners have lost a baby. Men are rarely asked how they’re coping, and the focus is often placed on the recovery of the woman. How’s she healing? How’s she feeling? She’s fine? OK, let’s stop talking about it, then. How about those Wildcats? 
 

As an artist and a filmmaker and an activist, my goal is to take the taboo away from miscarriage and change how people talk about loss. Many other women share my goal, and share their stories with the world in an attempt to take the shame away. We have absolutely no hope of doing that if we leave out half of the population.

We simply need to start acknowledging that men suffer a loss when a pregnancy is lost. Women don’t have a corner on the grief market.

Our culture is rife with stereotypes about how a man should feel or should behave in the face of hardship. It’s enough to discourage most men from entering the conversation at all. We raise men to be strong, the emotional pillars of our families. They should “be there” for their wives when they cry. It’s hard for many men to show some vulnerability and admit that they mourn their lost child as much as their wife does.

Add in our cultural attitudes that tend to dismiss early loss, and it’s even more improbable that a man is going to raise his hand and say, “Hey, I’m hurting here.”

Does a man not get just as invested as a woman when those two lines turn pink? Does his mind not race with possibilities and anxieties and dreams? Just because a woman doesn’t have a living child, that doesn’t mean she’s not a mother. And just because a man doesn’t feel the nausea and the fatigue and the pain of pregnancy, doesn’t mean he’s not a father.

If we want to live in a world where miscarriage isn’t a dirty word, and families feel free to mourn the babies they lose, then we need to start including men in the conversation. We can’t try to normalize something while expecting half of those affected to quietly stand by.

As with most things, it starts at home. It should have started at my home. I should have asked my husband how he felt when we lost our first. I should have told him that he was free to feel however he wanted to feel about it, and he could share those feelings with me when he needed to.

When a woman tells me that she’s lost a pregnancy, I shouldn’t only ask how she’s doing. The question should be how her family is doing, and asking if any of them need support.

We need to start giving men permission to grieve when they suffer a loss. And make no mistake about it, they’ve suffered a loss just as surely as the woman has.

Many people would agree that our culture needs to stop treating miscarriage like a dirty secret. We have a long way to go on this journey of taking the silence away, but one of our first steps is clear. We need to take the burden of silence away from men.

Therapeutic Yoga

By GSN Provider Dr. Arielle Schwartz

How do you wake up?

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We can all wake up on the wrong side of the bed sometimes. The other day I had one of those days. I woke up feeling irritable and agitated without even know why. If I launch into the world too quickly from this space I could stir up unnecessary reactions creating a domino effect of negativity. This is not the kind of “pay it forward” that I want to participate in.

“It can be challenging to unveil ourselves from the socially conditioned masks that we wear to hide our emotions in the external world. In yoga we have an opportunity to ‘drop in’ and feel our experience from the inside out.”
-Dr. Arielle Schwartz

Those who know me well are aware that I build my daily routine around my yoga practice. My morning looks something like this: wake up, eat breakfast, attend to my children, husband, and household, go to my yoga mat…and then go to work. The pause on my mat is like pressing the reset button on the morning and offers me a chance to reflect on what I am bringing with me into my day. I feel grateful to have the opportunity to design many of my days with a built in mindfulness break. On the days that I cannot set aside time for a class I build in 15 minutes to sit, move, and breathe. I can then set forth into my day with greater clarity and attention to my impact on others.

Yoga is not stretching

therapeutic yoga Dr. Arielle Schwartz

The physical practice of yoga, or “asana” in Sanskrit, is not a stretching practice. Yoga postures exist within a context of mindfulness: an intention to focus on the present moment, and a willingness to be honest with ourselves, and an orientation towards self-compassion. Yoga involves waking up my body, deepening my breath, and clearing the cobwebs of the mind. My aim in yoga is not to achieve Eka Pada Rajakapotasana (one legged, king pigeon pose) and while I like to play upside down, my healing does not come in the form of a perfect handstand, flat abs, or a trimming Lululemon outfit. In fact, classes that emphasize the external look of a pose or body type can be a disservice or amplify a student’s already self-critical or perfectionist tendencies.

Yoga as Therapy

Dr. Arielle Schwartz Therapeutic yoga classes in Boulder

As a clinical psychologist, somatic psychotherapist, and certified yoga teacher with over 20 years experience I am immensely grateful for the tools that yoga offers. Research indicates that yoga is beneficial for emotional wellness and can help with depression, anxiety, or post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Students are increasingly coming to yoga with this healing purpose in mind. While many teachers are already offering the types of classes and cues that encourage students to work with the vulnerable places within themselves, here are some additional things to look for when finding the a therapeutic yoga class:

  • Attention to emotionsIt is normal for emotions to arise in yoga. However, it can be challenging to unveil ourselves from the socially conditioned masks that we wear to hide our emotions in the external world. In yoga we have an opportunity to “drop in” and feel our experience from the inside out. You may want to explore practicing in a space that does not have mirrors up or diving in with eyes closed. Attend to your sensations and notice your emotional tone especially as you deepen into hip opening postures and forward folds. When feelings arise or if you feel vulnerable take a moment to pause, listen, and honor your own pace. Seek out a teacher who holds a safe space for emotional process.
  • Connection to othersOne of the healing benefits of going to a yoga class is the reduction of isolation. It is common for most of us to feel disconnected from others sometimes. Bigger is not always better when it comes to a therapeutic yoga class.  A smaller class size, say 6-8 students, allows a teacher to get know who is coming to class and may create opportunities for you to experience meaningful connections with other students. A larger group can sometimes leave us feeling disconnected but depending upon the group can also amplify a sense of community. I enjoy practicing in larger groups when the teacher has a capacity to draw people together through intention, story telling, or opening our hearts. I sometimes enjoy the anonymity that a large group offers, allowing me to leave behind my personal story to be simply one in the crowd. Look for classes that encourage connection.
  • Explore your optionsThe breath is the foundation of yoga practice and it is the breath that has the capacity to regulate our nervous system. Deep slow breaths can help us relax when we are worried and quick energizing breaths can provide a profound pick me up when we feel down or fatigued. You have the capacity to alter your inner mental and emotional state through changing how you breathe. In this way, yoga helps us gain an increased sense of choice over the “out-of control” feeing states of anxiety, panic, or despair. Take some time to experiment with different breath practices and look for a class that includes “pranayama,” the practice of controlling your breath to optimize your experience of peace, clarity, and balance.

Therapeutic yoga Dr. Arielle Schwartz Boulder Colorado

  • Empowerment: Strength building engages muscular action and provides a sense of our physical abilities. Standing postures such as mountain pose or warrior poses can help us feel empowered and present; ready to handle whatever we meet in life. When holding a posture for an extended period of time we have an opportunity to watch our mind and the messages we tell ourselves. How I handle these moments on my mat gives me a great deal of information about how I handle these moments off of the mat. It is important to find a class that is the right level for you. A supportive class environment can sometimes encourage you to stay just a little longer in an uncomfortable experience. Sometimes we meet our “edge” through active physical practice; however, if you are someone who is constantly pushing yourself, your growth may occur in letting go.
  • Soften your vigilance: Releasing tension is the complementary action to strength building and involves the art of letting go.  Anxiety and post-traumatic stress create states of vigilance in the body and mind. Often the eyes become fixed on the world around us in order to scan the environment for potential risk. When you soften or close your eyes there is an opportunity to drop-in and away from this watchful stance resulting in greater ease throughout the body. Find postures that shift this watchful stance by supporting your head. For example, in child’s pose allow your forehead to make contact with the floor or on a blanket. When your neck muscles relax you immediately tell your body that you are safe and that it is okay to relax.

Therapeutic Yoge Boulder

Therapeutic yoga

Finding the right therapeutic yoga class for you can take time. Give yourself an opportunity to try a variety of classes. Notice your experience of the space in the class, how you felt in relationship with the teacher and other students, and whether the pace of the class was a good fit for you. Trust your instincts.

If you are in the Boulder, Colorado area click here to learn more about the yoga classes that I currently teach.

About Dr. Arielle Schwartz

Dr Arielle Schwartz Clinical Psychologist in Boulder CO

Dr. Arielle Schwartz is a licensed clinical psychologist, wife, and mother in Boulder, CO. She offers trainings for therapists, maintains a private practice, and has passions for the outdoors, yoga, and writing. She is the developer of Resilience-Informed Therapy which applies research on trauma recovery to form a strength-based, trauma treatment model that includes Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), somatic (body-centered) psychology and time-tested relational psychotherapy. Like Dr. Arielle Schwartz on Facebook to stay up to date with all my posts.

I can’t write about this.

Guest blogger Adrienne Meade, www.swallowedinthesea.com

I can’t write about the hole in my chest too big to wrap my arms around. I can’t write about how the pain grows too great, so my body’s reaction is to shut it down, to numb the wound, and refocuses it’s energy on everything else. I can’t write about the “lost cause” in my life.

I wish I could walk you through the timeline of grief, and show you the good, bad, and the completely unimaginable, but the funny thing about grief is it’s a disappearing act. It comes and goes as it pleases without a care for your life. It’s messy, and doesn’t reveal itself when you’re home alone and ready to invite it in. It waits. Festers. And sits just out of sight, waiting for the most inopportune moment to drip back into the forefront of your mind. Grief is fluid. Never dries up, just moves in and out of the shadows. When you’re busy at work with way too many untouched projects on your desk, it whispers a memory just potent enough to paralyze you. When you’re out with friends, it pricks it’s ears for a word to trigger a thought of longing to make you lose focus on the world around you to drown you in the past. It takes many forms from a slow drip in the faucet to a tidal wave, but no matter the strength, it’s always consistent. It manifests itself in tears that come and go, and holds your breath hostage. For the rest of time, it will be your companion. Pulling you in, swallowing you up, and spitting you back out.

And yet. As dark, as mysterious, as terrifying as it is. Grief isn’t good or bad. It just is. Loss is the cause, grief is just the effect. The aftermath that remains and reminds. But it sucks, doesn’t it? It’s an alarm set to wreck your world and leave you longing for the past, and dreading the future. Everyone grieves differently, and there are a million causes. Loss of a relationship, loss of a life style, loss of a job, a home, a pet, a loved one, an ideal. It’s the ache for something no longer there, or something that was never there, but should have been. If grief were an object you could hold in your hands, you could turn it over and over again, and still never understand it.

Grief is still a jerk. Grief pulls you out of happy memories by filling your mind with images of your new future. What tomorrow, next week, next year, the next 50 years will look like with a chunk of your heart missing. No matter how happy and beautiful the occasion, grief stains it by bleeding deep sadness into it. Like red wine on a white table cloth, it just keeps spreading, and can never fully be separated from the thread. It forces you to see everything through a dark lens.

When you lose something, grief moves in and takes up permanent residence. You can never again be free of it’s burden. You just learn how to carry the weight. Your muscles grow stronger, you learn how to walk straight again, you train your legs to just keep moving forward one step at a time. Grief turns you into a soldier. It trains you, but lets you choose which path to take when you reach the inevitable fork in the road.

You can take the path of callousness. Numb out the pain by whatever means necessary, refuse any offer to walk the journey with you, you go at it alone because no one understands your brand of grief. It’s a different language only you can speak, and it wouldn’t be fair to add extra weight to your already impossible load by having to teach it to anyone else. You don’t owe the world anything. You shouldn’t have to share what you feel, only to be let down because no one is strong enough to carry your grief. You’re a survivor, and this world is harsh. You don’t have any spare time, energy, or strength to warrant any added weight, let alone the thought of adding the grief of someone else to your shoulders. No, sir. Adding any more to your grief would consume you! You wouldn’t make it another step before being completely submerged under the weight. And don’t even talk to you about God. God allowed this to happen. He watched it, and do you think He wept with you? Do you really think He felt an ounce of compassion for your suffering? No, God turned His back on the wake He left when HE tore your world apart. God did this to you. And, you hate Him for it.

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Or. You can take the path of malleability. Come as close to understanding your grief, but ultimately accepting you can never be friends. You’re no longer enemies, but acquaintances. It’s the nosy, crusty neighbor harboring ill will towards your every move, but you choose to let it be. You ride the wave of it’s unpredictability, and take a deep breath of relief when it finally recedes leaving you just enough time to rest and prepare for the next attack. Because it will be back. You know this, but you don’t run, you don’t retreat, you just take it for what it is. You gladly accept the offer of others to carry the load because although they don’t, and could never, understand, you know you can’t carry it alone. Even if they eventually place it back on your shoulders because it’s just too much, you’re grateful for the reprieve they gave you no matter how short because a break is a break. You also see the beautiful burden you’ve been given in the ability to spot a fellow griever. You welcome them in with loving arms, and try your best to hug them so tight the hole in their chest closes just a little bit more. You’re in the club no one wants to join, and with that means your grief can be put to good use by ushering others in, helping them unpack, and get settled into the rest of their life. This will be the only good thing to come out of this, but it’s still a good thing. And above all else, you are thankful beyond understanding for a Heavenly Father who truly does understand because He felt the same loss. He knows exactly how you’ve suffered, and He just walks beside you, eager to carry you when you grow weak, ready to catch you when you trip, and holding your hand. Because if you needed Him before, and you did, it pales in comparison to how badly you need Him now. You will never again go a day without Him, because if you ever had to, you wouldn’t survive it. You understand God didn’t “do” this to you. You’re not angry with him for allowing it to happen. Your timeline doesn’t end with death, but stretches far into eternity. Only He knows why time was cut short this side of Heaven, but you rest in the peace of knowing He does know. His will is perfect, and He always does abundantly more than we could hope or imagine. And even on the days when the current of grief drags you down to the bottom, He reaches his strong hand down into the deep and rescues you. Every time.

So, I can’t write to you about my grief. I can’t allow it color this part of my life that has so far been kept pure. But, I can write to you about grief. I can write to you about the love of my life I’ve lost, and about how excited I am to hug her again, and run my thumb over the veins in her hands when I hold them again, and listen to her quirky laugh. I long for the moment I hear her say “Oh, precious” and “I love you, babe” again. I can tell you I’m not sure how I will make it through my wedding day, or the day I hold my children for the first time, or the day I say goodbye to another loved one without her, but I know I will.

Grief is a thief, but hope is the hero. Hope is a blinding light to cast away all the shadows. It turns the deep, terrifying waters of grief into a crystal blue ocean. It reveals the goodness in memories, and fills your senses with all the love and beauty of what will be again. It restores and rebuilds what grief tries to tear down.

I pray you have read this with absolutely no idea if any of this is true. That you’ve never had to open your door to grief. That you are peacefully oblivious for as long as possible. This is never a club I want you to join, but you’re still not completely free of the weight of guilt. You know someone who has a lifetime membership. Reach out to them. Ask them how they’re doing and don’t be discouraged if they’re not ready to let you in. Keep trying because it may not be today, but someday you could be the one who changes their life. Don’t let them try to do it alone.

If you have read this with grief colored glasses, I hope you have found hope. I want to tell you you are not ever, not even for a second, alone. And, though I will never, ever be able to understand your pain, I’m so, so sorry it’s there. I pray you will choose the right path, and I call it the right path because it’s your only option for survival. Numbing the pain won’t lead to healing, it will only widen the hole inside you. Emotions are not good or bad, so there is no guilt in being angry or sad. There’s zero shame in feeling as awful as grief is because the ache you feel is too much to hold inside. Just don’t allow your neutral emotion to turn into a negative action. Don’t let grief win. It’s already taken too much from you, and it does not deserve any more.

Remember we’re all in this together, and no one makes it out of this world alive.

Yoga Practice in the Midst of Grief

By Wendy Stern, ED & Founder of GSN

As I was healing after the loss of my son, Noah, my yoga practice became my sanctuary.  I learned to look within my body for the answers to my suffering, and I found that yoga is what gave me a way to stay grounded and connected to myself, let go of the pain that I was holding in my body and to actually love myself more.

We will all experience grief, tragedy and trauma at some point in our lives- for some sooner and others of us later – we can all touch these vulnerable spaces of loss within ourselves, and as yogis, we actively look to our bodies to learn about ourselves and to grow, this is why we love yoga!  It makes us feel more.  It helps us to feel connected, which is what we are all ultimately seeking, right?

But, as a culture, we are not really equipped to talk about or how to deal with grief when it happens to us.  I certainly was not.  Instead, most of us disconnect and isolate ourselves, because other people are uncomfortable with these big emotions. Yoga teaches us to connect with these big emotions without judgement, so that we can acknowledge what is true and have a container to express our feelings and allow them to move through us.  

I still feel the grief at times – it can still overwhelm me in moments, but it is my touchstone showing me my strength, vulnerability, and my amazing capacity to love and trust even in the unknown. Grief is a personal journey for each of us.  It is a journey that may have no end destination, but grief and my journey has created a power inside of me that makes me feel like I can accomplish anything. It gives me hope.  I can grieve and still feel that amazing love inside of me. I can be tender and sad, and still love my life and experience gratitude and joy.  They can coexist for a beautiful, rich, amazing experience.

When I look at my two beautiful daughters, Hannah and Layla, and my husband, Brian, I know that I am blessed.  My experience of Noah has changed me so that I can now appreciate my life more and the people that I love.  Noah opened my heart and gave me a purpose and a cause to believe in and to fight for.

Noah taught me through his example how to love completely and without judgment, to be authentic and to live a life filled with gratitude and peace.

wendyoga2

My Children My Teachers

A beautiful message and tribute from GSN Founder, Wendy Black Stern. 

Happy 8th birthday to my son, Noah. Thinking of you today, as I do every day, and feeling so much gratitude for the ways that you have taught me how to LOVE and live life to the fullest. I miss you, dear son, and as my heart breaks open again and again with longing to hold you, I also feel the peace of your wise spirit right beside me, reminding me to love and accept myself and others unconditionally and to live my truth. Your compassion and kindness light my way and carry me onward…

This poem is for you, Noah, and your beautiful sisters, Hannah and Layla Moon…

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My Children My Teachers

Each one of you,
My Children,
In your own special way,
Have opened the doors of my heart,
Making me feel more deeply than I had known a body could feel
And given me the Gift of Infinite – Unconditional Love.

For you, my loves, are my Salvation.
You give meaning to my life,
A Purpose,
Proud and Strong,
A way to give back to the world
And make a small, tender mark on the soil of our Great Mother.

For this,
Now and Always,
I am eternally Grateful.
I bow to each of you
and the Gifts that you have given.

Noah~
You came to me first and opened me to a Love
Much greater than I had known before.
You saw Truth and Potential within me,
With your piercing, light filled eyes
Your gentle wisdom filled me with courage and confidence,
As you taught me how to be a Mother.

For you, my dear son,
loyal teacher,
You changed me by loving me as I am,
Allowing me to be myself,
Accepting me fully,
With your twinkling lighted-ness and laughter.
You loved me as I have never been loved before,
So much – that at times it hurt,
A deep, aching hurt
That evoked fear in the impermanence of our fragile humanity.

Your lessons continue to show themselves.
For you saw the good in every being that you touched,
Teaching me to accept others as they are,
And most importantly,
To accept and Love myself.
Your gentle Strength and Contentedness,
Calmed my seeking Spirit,
And taught me how to be Present and at Peace.

And, then, when you slipped away,
Behind the Veil of Spirit,
Where I could not follow,
I crumbled without you,
A sloppy puddle on the floor,
Cracked open – Broken,
And you showed me in the depths of my pain,
How I could rebuild myself and transform my Grief into Strength and Love.

You have stayed by my side,
Through my anger and revelations,
Patiently coaxing me onward,
And loving me as a Spirit Son,
completely and tenderly as I have grown.

For you, my first Baby Love,
Are connected to my heart in a way that no other will ever be.

Hannah~
You came through my body,
Fast and brighter than any star could shine.
For you, beautiful daughter of my heart,
Saved my Life,
And reminded me that there is goodness in the world,
Giving me a reason to be Alive.

Your great, compassionate Spirit,
So much wiser than your years,
Grounds me,
And expands my closed and aching heart,
Opening me to Joy and Fun-filled moments of carefreeness and Beauty.

Each day of your precious life,
You teach me how to be Patient,
How to slow down,
And take in the simple pleasures of the physical world.
For you, dear one, possess a powerful Priestess presence
That grows in you
With more charisma each day
As you evolve into the person
That I have always dreamed of becoming.

You, love, are the dream of my Life,
The strength that I have always longed for
And you teach me through your confidence and grace
How to just be who I am,
Without excuses or apologies.
Your strong, curious intellect challenges me to access my own,
And to live within the balance between the Mind, Heart and Devotion to Spirit.

My lovely dancer girl,
Both delicate and fierce,
I am in awe of you.
You teach me through your own embodiment
The pure expression and deep knowing of your own Magnificence,
And as you continue to grow,
In your power and authenticity,
I am learning to feel my own.

For you, my daughter, are the embodiment of the Goddess herself.
And I humbly bow to you,
And thank her for bringing you to me.

Layla~
I await you now,
Dear moonchild,
Great Mystery of my Mind,
But not of my heart.
For I have known you for a long time.

You, child, I still long to hold in my arms
And know with my flesh,
But your essence has been whispering to me for a lifetime,
Teaching me,
Even before your earthly arrival,
Great lessons of letting go of old wounds,
Healing the past
And bringing balance to a Family
Once burdened with Grief and Pain.

You are the Light,
And your coming marks the beginning of a new cycle
Of Hope and Change,
The release of the armor surrounding my tender heart
And the gateway into a time of ease, grace and flow.

For you, my daughter,
Sparkle with the brightness of the Sun
And possess the dark, powerful mystery of the Moon,
All within my body still,
You share your gifts with me.

Your journey into this world has taught me Resiliency,
The shedding of old beliefs,
Layer upon layer
Releasing trauma and unresolved emotions,
I am finally set free.

For in my heart I know
That you are a change agent,
Peacemaker,
Both Gentle and Firm,
And I trust in the lessons that you will continue to impart
As you come into your Body
And show yourself to the world.

My daughter,
Great Moon Goddess,
I am ready to receive you now,
When you are ready,
In your own special time,

Please Come.

Dear Children,
Great and Wise Teachers of my Life,
I bless you,
I thank you,
I love you more than all of the sand on all of the beaches,
To the Moon and Back,
And I give thanks each day for your teachings and guidance.

Namaste~

bryce-dad

When ‘Being Strong’ Becomes a Burden

This is a guest post by GSN Member Lonnie Howell, a mentor to young men and a musician, who lives in Rollinsville, CO with his wife and three children.

From people to planets, from cells to stars, from gardens to galaxies; nothing is permanent. Many cultures of the past (and some surviving in the present) understood this and lived knowing that they too would return to the Great Mystery. They held rituals to break through the barriers of grief and to restore the community and continuity in relationships. They shared their grief often with others in order to prevent mental disorders. The bereaved were embraced and listened to. When one member of a tribe was suffering, all were suffering. Public mourning ceremonies were common in cultures from contrasting areas of the world. Death was a part of Life.

In our current culture, we fear death and hide or suppress pain. Often our lost loved ones are not spoken of or rarely acknowledged after they pass on. We use dangerous substances for temporary relief. We try to explain the unknown through religions and memes of separation, which attempt to place the souls of our loved ones “up there, looking down.” Often, we don’t take the time or find the havens to grieve in. Laterally, we have a difficult time knowing what to say or do for survivors; avoiding them, offering generic or cliche advice, or offending them with awkward comments.

Bryce - Lonnie Howell

Having lost a father and a son, I have been riding the waves of grief for half of my adult life. When I was 24, my dad was hit by a car and killed. He was 49 years old. My son passed away recently on 10/10/10. He was just one year and 10 days old, and losing him shook the very foundations of my soul. In addition to my own experiences, I have also been to an unfair amount of funerals and services, witnessing the agony and confusion of people young and old. What I have learned and seen over the years has made me realize that most of us grieve in very unhealthy and unnatural ways. We live in a time of isolation and distraction, where most of us no longer have the communities to embrace us and hoist us out when we fall into the deep chasms of grief…

Although I was fortunate enough to be blessed with a loving family and compassionate community, I was still very much lost when it came to being supported in my devastating grief. Writing seemed to be the only way that I could release the deep, dark emotions that I was feeling. I didn’t know where else to turn. “Being strong” became an exhausting burden, especially when things were “supposed to return to normal.” As I stumbled through my grief journey, I began to realize that we as a civilized culture have forgotten how to be human and support each other in so many ways. This is a crisis in my eyes.

The Grief Support Network has answers to this crisis and addresses this in their mission. GSN is a spark of hope in the darkness of the grief and despair that accompanies loss. For me personally, it has not only guided me to the many compassionate professionals that can help me as an individual, but it has provided me with a trusted outlet where I can share and reflect on my own grief process. This not only helps me, but will hopefully allow others to open up and reflect on their own lives.

Thank you for taking the time to learn more about the Grief Support Network.  We hope to see you at Shine on September 20th for GSN’s Gratitude Celebration & Fundraiser!  

To get your tickets for the VIP farm-to-table dinner and/or the live auction and entertainment, CLICK HERE.

 

I feel you in the wind
I hear you in the birds
I see you in the clouds
I write you in these words
I miss you deep and dark
I hold you in my dreams
I wish you in my arms
When will this pain ease?

I cry you every day
I watch your brother play
I see him miss you too
I don’t know what to do
I rage inside my mind
I blame myself and weep
I yearn to find out why
When will this pain ease?

I breathe with little air
I often blankly stare
I blink and you’re not there
I feel my heart’s flesh tear
I sit out in the woods
I search for peace in trees
I wonder if you’re here
When will this pain ease?

I constantly pretend
I fight to get through days
I fall and crawl back up
I battle with this change
I look up toward the skies
I watch the falling leaves
I die a little too
When will this pain ease?

~ Lonnie Howell