“[A]n emotion that rises from the soul.” Part IV of my healing journey.

Grief is alive, wild, untamed and cannot be domesticated… It is truly an emotion that rises from the soul.
– Francis Weller

Last week I began writing about my healing journey since losing my mom, then a pregnancy.

I am discovering it was easier to share with you the experience of the pain rather than the beauty of grief.

I want to tell you about the gifts that come from the wild, untamed, soul force of grief. But it feels wrong. It feels sacreligous.

I am re-learning how there are two sides to all experiences. Behind the dark is light. And even behind light is dark.

It still feels wrong to speak of beauty in grief. To exclaim the wondrous joys and gifts that blossom from healing. I want to say, but I would trade any of it to have my mom back or my pregnancy back. (And I would.)

And yet I can’t get them back. Instead I am left to make sense of a journey that twisted and turned through through dark corners and expansive fields with sunshine. 

I am still walking the journey and the parts with light are very recent memories on this journey. I am not prepared to draw full conclusions or to tell you even where this road will lead.

But I can share this: that beautiful and incredible things happened when I faced my deepest pain and my most vulnerable self.

When my small ego mind admitted it could not do it all, that it was not capable of finding the path out of pain, nor solving the problems of grief (as though there is a solution!), that it was, dare I say, FAILING in its job to fix, to be a hero, to stand alone like a mountain—that was the turning point.

I found out that none of us are alone in our suffering.  That instead of being pinpointed, picked up and punished by the universe, we are simply experiencing the very human pain of being alive on earth.

I found that healing can happen unexpectedly and rapidly when there is community and connection. That by standing in a sacred place among community transformed me. That the simple act of singing with a group of fifty, sixty, seventy and yes, eighty-year-olds, and looking out week after week and always seeing yellow butterflies, that this too healed me.

How long-buried gifts of writing, art, and music were not forever condemned to the attic of my life. That they were not merely childish passions that led down short stumpy paths only to be long forgotten. No, they were secret lockets waiting to be opened. 

I have opened them and I have delighted in them.

I cannot wait to decipher the many mysteries that remain. I have no idea where my creative urges will lead me but I know I will continue to be humbled by what can happen when you surrender to your heart.

Thank you also to you, dear readers, for supporting and encouraging me. You are part of the community and connection that has brought me to where I am now, and for that I am forever grateful.

Grief undermines the quiet agreement to behave and be in control of our emotions. It is an act of protest that declares our refusal to live numb and small. There is something feral about grief, something essentially outside the ordained and the sanctioned behaviours of our culture. Because of that, grief is necessary to the vitality of the soul. Contrary to our fears, grief is suffused with life force… It is not a state of deadness or emotional flatness. Grief is alive, wild, untamed and cannot be domesticated… It is truly an emotion that rises from the soul.
– Francis Weller

 

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Part III: Then it Will Become Buoyant and Light. (My healing journey after loss.)

The post I am going to share with you today –I wrote part of it six months ago but never published it. It turns out that was because I was meant to share it with you today.

I’ve been blogging about my healing journey from grief. In fact, this blog was born from grief.

On the one year anniversary of losing my mom I made a visit to a beach–amid stinking, rotting shells (nothing says peace and contemplation like rotting sea creatures)–and I went within and heard a small still voice that said you need to write. 

So I started this blog. Ok, it took me another year to actually publish the blog, because big steps that are often very good for us are also usually very scary.

Since that day I have been on an epic journey within. I figured, why not reflect on all that has unfolded in less than a year?

Would you like a recap?

  1. I created a flow chart. (WHO DOESN’T LOVE A GOOD VISUAL?)
  2. Part I–shared here–I explained how grief begets griefMy mom died, I healed, more grief surfaced, I healed some more, and then…
  3. Part II: life throws a curveball. Just as I emerge from healing and more healing, I lose a pregnancy. My mother (deceased) chimes in and reminds me to choose love and happiness.

Which brings me to today.

No animated GIFS today. Just tender-hearted love.

We are at Part 3: Love and Mercy.

So to set the scene: there I was, having a miscarriage. The baby whose due date was the date my mother died–this baby was not to be.

I was in so much emotional pain. So very much. 

I made a choice. I could hold these cards, these unwanted cards that had been dealt to me, and I could throw them down in bitterness and defeat.

Or I could take these cards and place them gently over my heart and weep.

Weep for the child who would not be. Weep for all the losses I had sustained and survived.

I also realized something else: that I did not have to do it alone. 

I could extend a hand out for another to hold. Because you see, when your hands are full of cards you don’t want dealt to you, there is someone else whose hands are free. And one day you will be that person with free hands and it will be your turn to hold another’s hand.

I will share my own words to myself written after this difficult passage:

There is so much I want to tell you, Sarah from months ago, Sarah from one, two years ago.

I want to tell you, it is ok that you could not grieve because you had to parent, because you had to manage so many life changes at one time.

I want to tell you to be gentle with yourself.

That this is so hard and heavy, and I see your pain.

I want you to know that it is so heavy for a reason.

That the pain is designed to be heavy—to become unbearable—because that is what makes us realize we were never meant to heal alone.

That the only way to release it is to join hands with others and form a circle around it. To lift it up into the sky together.

Then it will become buoyant and light. It will disintegrate before your eyes.


Tomorrow: Part IV of the journey

Join me on the journey – Twitter or Facebook

How do you solve a problem like more loss? PART II of the healing journey! (With Sound of Music gifs!)

It is DAY TWO of the blogging series about my healing journey – can you handle the excitement?! Do you have your coffee ready?!

I will recap yesterday’s post. The start of the journey, if you will, in one long run-on sentence:

My mom dies in 2013, I am very very sad (as one would be), a year later I try to get pregnant but can’t, I go to the acupuncturist, the energy gates open and I grieve every loss I have ever had (a lot of loss), I am on a road to healing…and BUM BUM BUM.

(Oh, and there is a flow chart! And Sound of Music gifs! Really you should take a look!)

That takes us to part two: we pick up at the bum, bum bum!

We are still at the top of the flow chart (<–here in full). BUT now we are gonna move to that section labeled SUFFERING. Hold on to your hats folks.

It is January, precisely two years, four months after my mom died. I am still feeling a lot of grief but it is flowing through me. This is good. But also, my husband has been witnessing the grief flow through me for, oh, two and a half years. That is a hard thing to do, to witness our loved ones in pain. (Psst, this bit is some foreshadowing, wink wink.)

As you may recall I was seeing an acupuncturist in the hopes of getting pregnant. I was starting to see shifts in my body, and I was also taking Chinese herbs and such.

And then in mid-January, I noticed all the signs I had noticed when I was pregnant with my daughter. I took a pregnancy test and I was pregnant.

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Sing it Maria! Tumblr.

Everything about this pregnancy felt miraculous. It is hard to explain. It felt like it came out of nowhere. I didn’t think my body was fully ready for pregnancy so I was a bit stunned.

I did the online calculator of when I was due: It was the date my mother died, September 18th.

To the day.

Now, I know due dates are estimations, but I got goosebumps. I mean really, how does that happen?

This feeling of disbelief–but also of something not being right, of it all being too easy, and not quite real–was with me from the start.

Seven weeks into my pregnancy I had a dream. It was a beautiful dream of huge cranes flying away into the night. I can still close my eyes and feel its beauty. But I awoke with a huge amount of despair and grief. I could not figure it out. I honored the grief -I figured it was new grief surfacing about how my mom would never meet this child, or something like that. I was so very sad though. I remember taking a day off of work, that was how much I was grieving.

Two weeks later I sat in an ultrasound room and saw there was no heartbeat. I had started bleeding the day prior. I knew that I had lost the baby, but I was not really ready to face it until sitting in that room. My husband’s eyes welled with tears and I sat numb. I knew it already on some level. But I hadn’t been ready to really know it, you know?

It appeared the baby had stopped growing two weeks prior – the day of my dream, I am nearly certain. 

This loss, this loss of a child that was supposed to enter our world on the date I lost my mom, it was the icing on the cake of so. much. loss. It was the tipping point. I had suffered up until this point, yes, but I was able to see light at the end, to which I was headed.

This loss was different.

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Maria understands. source.

Are you still with me? I now it is so sad but I will promise you, this big story ends well. It ends with love and connection. I think we need a reminder from Maria that it is going to be ok in the end:

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From TUMBLR of course!

But yes, what came next was suffering.

We have all suffered so what I will share I am sure you can relate to: I felt like I was being punished. (“Why me?”) I felt as though maybe it was true that bad things happen to bad people. (A favorite ethos of our culture. Not true however!) I felt isolated and alone in my grief, that there was NO way ANYONE could EVER relate to MY PAIN because it was SO UNIQUE. (Also not true.) I felt bitter and angry.

Remember my husband? Well, we both took it hard. And I wanted someone to blame and while it makes zero sense, I remember constantly being upset with him because he just couldn’t understand, he wasn’t being patient in my healing…and later, in therapy, I realized that really I just wanted HIM to make it better. Somehow. I didn’t realize it at the time but suffering does weird things to us doesn’t it?

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More gifs from here.

So, not only was I suffering from the miscarriage, I was feeling angry and bitter in my marriage…a bit of projection, if you will. Well that just creates more stress. A sh*tstorm of stress, really.

And then it all shifted.

If you were to ask me the turning point in my healing, if I could identify one moment in time, I can tell you. It was early March. I was talking to my sister on the phone. I can even picture the corner of my couch I was sitting on when I spoke to her.

My sister is often able to connect spiritually with my mother in intense ways that I am not able to. You know what she told me as we spoke on the phone that day in March? She said mom saw my intense suffering. And she said, “Mom wants you to be happy…to be able to enjoy your husband and daughter. She doesn’t want you to suffer any more.”

That, my friends, was the turning point.

I felt those words in my heart. I felt my mother with me, and I felt her pain at seeing me in pain.

It was like a light bulb went off. I thought, I do not have to choose suffering. Yes, I didn’t ask be dealt these cards. But I can choose how I respond. 

I surrendered to the pain. I didn’t blame, I didn’t fight, I simply saw that it was part of my story at this point, and that I could choose to embrace this or I could angrily fight against it. The fighting-against-it-trope was not going well for me, my husband or my family.

If you want the truth, it was my mother’s love that made me see. My mother continues to mother me from beyond the veil. Is that not incredible? 

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Hooray for a mother’s love! From source.

I TOLD YOU IT WOULD END WELL! But there is more…

TOMORROW – PART 3: How I chose love and connection over fear, anger, and suffering. (PLUS more gifs!)


Do your life also correspond nicely with Sound of Music animated GIFS? Then I invite you to join me on Twitter or Facebook!

Let’s start at the beginning. My healing journey (Part I) told with Sound of Music GIFS.

This is a blog post about a flow chart about healing from loss as told with the assistance of Sound of Music gifs. Because that’s how I roll.

Behold diagram 1.1.

img_3423This is a chart about healing. It starts with loss (a heck of a lotta loss) and ends with connection, love, community and healing. (Cue the happy music!)

I got to thinking, wow what a wild and crazy path it has been…twists and turns, lots of suffering (oy, enough with the suffering!) and finally, shifts into other ways of being.

I also realized I haven’t really written my story from start to finish. SO I SHALL!

With that in mind…

Lets start at the very beginning
A very good place to start
When you read you begin with A-B-C
When you hurt you begin with GRIEF-AND-LOSS. (Grief and Loss!)

My journey started with the loss of my mom. She was 63, and had been diagnosed with breast cancer nearly two decades earlier when she was 43. She had some good years in between but in the end, the massive radiation and chemo that gave her those extra years also damaged her brain, her nerves, her mobility. By the time 2013 rolled around she was not doing well, and we lost her in September of that year.

I was 35 and my daughter turned 8 months old the day my mother died.

Grief surprised me with its force and ferocity. I will be frank with you guys: I’ve suffered a share of dark nights of the soul. I survived childhood trauma and have been through PTSD and massive anxiety, and well, I must admit…I did not expect grief to be that bad.

And the universe laughed and laughed!

Patton Oswald wrote about this recently and captured it so well (with profanity! You have been warned). As he wrote, “Thanks Grief. Thanks for making depression look like the buzzing little bully it always was….Grief is Jason Statham holding that 4th grade bully’s head in a toilet and then fucking the teacher you’ve got a crush on in front of the class. Grief makes depression cower behind you and apologize for being such a dick.”

Grief is intense. I am still figuring it all out, but I think one of the reasons why it is such a challenging emotion, at least in my case, was because the grief of losing my mom was fueled by love.

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Via tumblr.

All the other stuff I went through? Fueled by fear. Love as we know is SO much stronger than fear.

SO THE CHART. Back to the chart. The intense love for my mom and the loss in my heart…well the experience truly cracked open my heart.  

Broken hearts, if tended to and healed, can grow back larger and stronger. Just remember that if you find yourself feeling broken-hearted. (As a human, i promise you will. Likely again and again. OH HUMANITY.)

Broken heart, pain, yes….but my story doesn’t stop there. It would be such a tiny chart now wouldn’t it! You may notice that loss isn’t listed once on my chart. NO NELLY IT IS NOT. Rather, the chart says loss loss loss loss lossssss!

It turns out that grief begets grief. By this I mean, if you feel the feels, you might find yourself opening a wellspring of MORE UNDERLYING UNRESOLVED GRIEF. This, my friends, is the part of my diagram marked “More grief? What gives???”

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From Tumblr.

What gives indeed. In my experience it went like this: I’m grieving the loss of my mom…I’m doing the therapy, I’m writing the writing, making progress… I decided to start to get pregnant. Oh this pregnancy journey. Well I could just tell my body had shut down. I could feel it in my bones. I knew that I needed some kind of shift in my body if I was ever going to get pregnant again.

So I did what all hippy dippy types do and I went to acupuncture! It was incredible (it always has been a wonderful tool for me), and let me tell you this,  it released a veritable flood gates. WAYYY OPEN. Tears flowed forth like the Danube…I remember asking my acupuncturist. I was like, uh excuse me but shouldn’t I be seeing less grief over time? Because mine seems to be INTENSIFYING. And she flashed a knowing smile and said, ah, but does it seem to stick or flow with you? I said, oh it flows, it just flows and flows and then stops but then more comes!

She said, Sarah – that is a huge shift. HUGE.

It was.

SO MUCH BURIED GRIEF CAME FORTH. It was like every loss I ever felt in my life…loss of childhood innocence from trauma, loss of family and friends, loss of my fitbit that my three-year-old ran off with and hid somewhere (and why isn’t it in the dog crate where she usually throws things??) Every. Single. Loss. It  was surfacing big time.

One day though I noticed…things were looking up. Things were making a corner. Turning a corner. Turning around in a corner. What the hell is that saying?

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Ahem. You might have a hunch that the story does not stop here. No it does not. (That is a big freaking chart I drew isn’t it?)

Yeah…the next thing on the chart is SUFFERING. With little arrows that say “isolation!” and “self-blame!” and “Bad things happen to bad people!”

Yes, you see, sometimes life is….shall we say…unpredictable. And downright crummy. Yeah I said it – CRUMMY.

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From TUMBLR of course!

My life threw me a curve ball. Maybe my life was getting turned around in that corner metaphor that I was mixed up about. I don’t know. But it was basically like, HA you thought you had enough grief? Not so fast missy.

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Gif Source

This wasn’t the end of my story.Maybe I just didn’t exactly squeeze all the life lessons out of grief and loss.

The universe piled on one more loss. Yeah you could say that it got my attention. 

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via Tumblr

NEXT: MORE PBS PROGRAMMING FOR MY KID PLUS PART TWO OF MY GRIEF HEALING JOURNEY.


Anxiously awaiting PART TWO? Make sure to join me on Twitteror Facebook.