What the Duck?
A year's journey through loss, healing, and JOY
It’s documented there are at least 5 stages of grieving Anger, Denial, Bargaining, Depression, then finally Acceptance. In a culture that values hard work, getting things done faster, quicker, with less help or no help, etc. it's difficult to imagine giving ourselves time to heal. In my experience the stages of grieving didn't always show up in a neat perfect order or time frame. They often showed up like when your 11 year old child shows up at your door in the morning and says he forgot to tell you he signed up to bring cookies for the class party today, while you're soaking wet getting out of the shower preparing for the biggest meeting of your career, while trying to make breakfast, and walk the dogs.
So not only did mom pass away then dad decided to sell their home, sell all her belongings and our childhood belongings, he moved further away into a new town, fell in love, and got married. Add to this, our beloved dog of 11 years had to undergo emergency surgery otherwise he would die, then was diagnosed with cancer. AND get this, my doctor announced that some of my physical problems were due to peri-menopause starting. All this in under 9 months. Great, thanks Universe. Felt like I was sucker punched in the gut and it was time to "tap" out. Yup, what the duck? I was numb, couldn't think or see straight. Matter of fact I asked my husband recently what did we do last Thanksgiving. I literally have no memory of that day. The real journey began. I decided to stop and face the work of grieving and healing head on.
In 1917 Sigmond Freud wrote “grieving is a natural process that should not be tampered with.”
Through work with meditation, prayer, a great therapist, doctor, family, and friends, the way I've come to understand all of this is: grieving is a personal journey. Everyone is different therefore, everyone’s journey through grieving will take a different amount of time, process, and course. Don’t mess with it, you HAVE to let it happen to find freedom in your body, mind, and spirit. Give these tips a try:
1. Let it out. Get the emotion out so it doesn’t get stuck in the physical body and perhaps manifest into illness. Cry when you feel the urge, when anger rolls in go yell outside or punch a pillow. In the beginning stage of my grief, I went right back to work and stuffed the tears down until I had a panic attack. Now, I cry if the urge hits. I also learned that for the brain to process the grief, you have to talk about it and that will move it into the thinking part of the brain vs. feeling.
2. Love. Surround yourself with positive people who support and love you. Let them help you, they want to. AND ask them to help. Once I finally opened up to my husband, friends, and co-workers that I needed help they all joined in and continue to join in. Mornings when I'd wake up crying or shaking after having a dream of my mom, my sweet husband would jump back in bed and just hug me. The dreams no longer haunt.
3. Breathe. Try this for 5-10 rounds: Use nose breathing, breathe in slowly for a count of 4, hold the breath for 3 counts, exhale slowly 6 counts. Every day when I wake up and go to sleep I place my hands over my heart and breathe in this way. Breathe in love exhale peace. Breathing is the one part of our nervous system that we have control of.
4. Move. Get out and move your body, whatever you enjoy, walking, jogging, yoga, lift weights, zumba. (take it outside when you can) Also, notice if and when your body needs a break. I got back into riding my bike during this time. Getting on the bike on a beautiful day, pedaling down a hill with the wind and sun in your face, there's nothing like it. Pure freedom.
5. Rest. Get a good night sleep, take days off. I decided to modify my teaching and work schedule so I wasn't working 6-7 days a week and several nights a week. Taking care of myself and being with family is number one and will always be. Nothing is worth sacrificing your own health and well-being. Just like they say during the safety talks on an airplane, give yourself oxygen first.
6. Fuel. Fuel your body with good food. During this time the brain and other organs need good nutrition to support getting through situational depression, etc. I learned that loss can cause trauma, inflammation in the brain. Drink lots of water, eat the healthy fats (like Avocado, coconut oil, etc), real foods. Stay away from excess sugar and highly processed foods.
7. Joy. Get a duck! lol! This was my favorite part. Take time to PLAY and connect with what brings you JOY! I took a trip to Arizona by myself to see one of my best friends, Tiffany, on the one year anniversary of mom's death. First and foremost my goal was to create a new memory for this day and we sure accomplished that! We visited Sedona, Arizona, hiked 20 miles of the beautiful red rocks, ate great food, and laughed like a couple of 16 year olds. While we were there, we bought these these little rubber ducks and took them everywhere with us! During this trip I came into acceptance, mom was really gone and what a blessing I had to be raised by her. I know she is with me, her heart is my heart. I am the kind, loving, giving, patient, person today in large part because of her influence on my life.
If you can relate to this in anyway, take care of YOU and don’t hesitate to connect with your doctor or other health care professional for support. Grieving has no expiration date. Through this journey of healing, a huge weight has been lifted, my heart is lighter, There is beauty in loss in that that grief is evidence of love. What a blessing to have loved, be loved, and to love. As I approach 2016, deeper, brighter, and heart full of joy I know I will no longer rush, push, force, or struggle through situations. I will honor what is presented in my path, take care, and connect with joy.
Namaste and Happiest of Holidays to all! Now go hug your mom and find a duck!
Sara Cain-da Costa (Thank you Tiffany for being part of this journey! Love you!)