My personal experience with grief and loss, it’s effect on me and how I’m coping.
“When those you love die, the best you can do is honor their spirit for as long as you live. You make a commitment that you’re going to take whatever lesson that person or animal was trying to teach you, and you make it true in your own life. Their having been in your life changed you in some beneficial way, and making that commitment is the only way you can ease the pain of their absence. But more than that, it’s a positive way to keep their spirit alive in the world, by keeping it alive in yourself.” – The Time of my life, Patrick Swayze, Lisa Niemi
Living a life in the pink doesn’t mean that life is rosy all the time. It’s not just about the food we eat either. To me it means that even when faced with devastation and hard times you find the strength within to persevere, to love and honor your feelings and draw upon experiences that are lessons meant to be learned to lift us to our higher selves. Mind, body and soul within the pink of health. I’d like to share a personal story with you…
It took me a long time to grieve my brother’s death. He took his own life. I’m still mending. There are moments of sorrow now instead of constant pain down to the smallest fibers of my body. I’ve come to accept that life must go on without him. The plans we were making will never come to be. We shared a lot of the same interests in the outdoors, camping, hiking and running even a lot of our philosophies on life were aligned. He was more like a twin than a sibling 18 months younger.
No-one knew that day, the same day that I passed my final practical exam for yoga teacher training that we had lost him. It wouldn’t be until I got home later that night after visiting with a friend afterward that I would suspect something was wrong. Even then, I wouldn’t find out until the morning that he was no longer with us.
It hit me hard. It was so final. No going back. That’s it. Nothing more could be done. I don’t know how I got through that first week but I did. I suppose it was through suppressing what I was feeling so that I could function for my family. I was crying constantly, the tears just wouldn’t stop and yet it wasn’t enough to purge the hurt that was within. I felt as though half my cells were ripped from my body. I suppose you never know how much someone is an integral part of your life until they are gone in finality. He died on a Monday and it wasn’t until the Friday that my body shut down and didn’t allow me to move and barely eat. Everything hurt. I stayed in bed for 3 days.
I’ve heard stories of loss and how some have shut down even though they had others that mutually cared and loved them but they just couldn’t get out of their grief. I’ve wondered how they couldn’t see the love that was in front of them. Now I know. There wasn’t anything that was a controlled response from me. It was pure raw emotion taken over. I had to just feel it, for as long as I needed to, to learn from it and allow it to pass. Just cry until dehydration and sleep. There was no way I could teach a class in this state and so I attended restorative and yin classes to allow the emotions to flow and be in the presence of the nurturing teachers. There was never not any heavy emotions but I felt better in the yoga environment. Anything that was relaxing and supportive to help heal my mind and soul was what I was drawn to.
We had plans to do a Spartan Run that summer which I had started to train for and could no longer bring myself to it as the immense stress my whole being was under from grief would be too much to bare. I gained weight. It became a metaphorical road block as he was one of my biggest supporters when it came to my physical fitness accomplishments, especially when it came to running as he was a runner too and understood what it took. I tried to keep active and eat healthy but there was so much I needed to let go of mentally that until that happened the physical weight wasn’t going anywhere. One of which was the fact that he was never coming back. How long is forever? Unfathomable.
I turned to signs and symbols that he may still be here in some form. There are many people from all over the world that believe in some form of afterlife and the spirit world. Perhaps this is just a belief to help ease loss but it helped. I looked at the sky everyday afterward. We had the most beautiful skies I had ever seen. A cardinal appeared to me everyday, wherever I was, until one day, when I was ready to let him go a little more, the cardinals stopped appearing. It wasn’t until recently when I felt healed enough and decided to start physically training my body again. I started to train for a hike with the intention that I do it for my brother’s memory. I saw a cardinal again. I wasn’t able to capture a photo of it. Just wasn’t quick enough. When my camera was ready, and I was still, I sat there in the hope that he come back. I waited for about 5 minutes then realized the parallel to the loss of my brother. It appeared to teach me the lesson that just as my brother was not coming back neither was the cardinal. It appeared as a reminder that those special moments in time we must enjoy in the now. We must cherish the people and the moments we have with them. Life is precious. And so there is a long journey ahead of me without him but I will appreciate the best of him by holding dear the lessons I’ve learned from having known him. I will continue on the path and enjoy the things we both enjoyed. Learning, always learning, fitness and the great outdoors.
“That it will never come again is what makes life so sweet.” –Emily Dickinson
Enjoy your life in the pink and know that you are worth it. Your life has meaning. You are loved. You have value standing alone.
Some photos of my saunter in the woods in memory of my brother: