A lightning bolt ripped through me and froze my being as I listened to the piercing words of my friend. “Your daughter has been in a bike accident. She died.”
I felt everything and I felt nothing. The grieving started with a pattern of feeling split wide open, raw, bleeding; then followed moments of nothing and yet constant pressure and pain. I fell to pieces, shattered. I became despondent and detached, staring at ceilings, walls, and floors. I lost my appetite, and wanted to disappear. Her 20 years were not enough.
I began to increase my times of meditation and sitting in the silence of the woods, deepening every sense within me. I closed my eyes and practiced listening deeply, from the call of a bird to the subtle flutter of the Aspen leaves. I gazed at the shape of the stones at my feet and the asymmetrical shapes of the trees. I felt the ground beneath me, became conscious of the sun’s warmth, the wisp of hair blowing against my cheek and every sensation within my body. I began to hear her and see her.
I wrote voraciously, laying out my thoughts and emotions on the pages of my journal in the rawest form. It was a way for me to be totally true to myself, my experience, and my timeline. I held back nothing. It was my sanctuary. I chose my own language and followed no guidelines. This was mine, all mine, and all that was inside me freely flowed.
I wrestled with the whole concept of healing. How could that even be a word in this journey? But staying in my initial, tortured state was not an option either. I would never mend or be restored to the person I was, but it is that gap that propelled me to dive deeper, that raw exposure that made me long to transform. Healing is holding and accepting the pain while allowing life to open at the same time.
Honoring my grief and my own timeline became a priority. I responded to my own heart, rather than the messages that came from family, friends and society. I became determined to resolve life and death and find my way into abundant, joyful living once again.
Meditation helped me to relax, easing my fears and anxieties and pulled all my fragments into one, centered place. I had never attempted one contorted yoga pose in my life. But now I needed it. I needed to breathe; I needed to feel the ache working from the inside of my body to the outside.
Riding horses brought movement back into my life. Sometimes when I was lying down at night, trying to turn off my scattered, tormented mind, I would go into an imaginary canter, feeling the gentle, smooth up-and-down movements of the horse, and I was moving again, I relaxed and became unafraid.
I returned to dance and found a new, meditative dance form done to various genres of music and rhythms. The music started slowly and increased in pace with people moving in their own style or not moving at all. The first time I went, I moved only slightly at the beginning. The tears found me, and I let them come. Every class was different, sometimes joyful, sometimes feeling Chloe’s presence deeply. As I began moving, I felt my body releasing my emotional, physical, and spiritual contents, like the wringing out of a wet washcloth…a grief cleansing. Dance, in any form, pulls together the mind, body and spirit.
I began to see that healing comes by stringing the lights together, one at a time. When you choose to meditate, and clear your mind for five minutes, one light goes on in your soul, no matter how small. When you take a restorative yoga class, another one goes on. When you walk in the woods instead of staring at the ceiling, another goes on. You probably won’t see it as light; you’ll see it as an act of desperation, survival. When you touch a horse, read a book about spiritual growth, you string lights together in your soul. In between the light, there may be darkness. Hold it, feel it, weep. As you keep stepping out of the darkness, soon the collective light starts shining brighter, and you feel it; you see it, and you move from surviving to thriving.
There is no way to remain the person you were before you lost something or someone you cherished. But taking the steps to embrace fierce growth will propel you into your new, abundant self.
Tags: death of child, grief, loss of daughter, meditation, yoga