Grief Lessons from Yoga Class

Grief Lessons from Yoga Class

Grief Coach Linda Trignano

By Linda Trignano

Silhouette of Young Woman Doing Yoga
Normally I don’t take a yoga class at the gym.  I often find the session a challenge for my body which resists bending and stretching in the way my fellow classmates seem to easily be able to manage.  But for some reason that I can’t fully explain, I had a desire to take this class that referred to the 1-hour yoga class as “restorative.”  That sounded gentle enough for me to endure.  It was, and I was glad that I had made the decision.  But it is the pearls of wisdom that the yoga teacher shared with us, the challenges she gently presented us with, the invitation to think deeper that I wanted to share with you today.  I think that when considered through the eyes of grief, the thoughts offer comfort and encouragement for the grief journey.

Pearl of Wisdom #1 – After getting into a challenging yoga pose, my body began the parade of physical signs reflective of my internal thought of “let’s get this pose over with!”  The grimace, the loss of balance at one point, the verbal “ouch”, offered up by me and some of my fellow students led the teacher to the observation that many of us just wanted to end the pose.  In a gentle, soothing voice she said: “remember, everything has a beginning, middle, and end”.  She encouraged us to think about that during the pose, to focus on the benefit of each phase, to take what we could from the challenge of holding the pose.

And so it is with grief and loss.  It too has a beginning, middle, and end.  With grief it seems that the beginning arrives in our lives uninvited, stays way too long (the middle) and the end seems nowhere in sight.  But holding to the thought that grief will pass through the beginning, to the middle and finally to the end. My experience tells me that the “end” is often different for each of us.

"So many things in life are about loss:  death, losing a job, saying goodbye to a dear friend moving away, retiring.  The list is endless. Life is often about saying goodbye. Letting go is difficult.”

Pearl of Wisdom #2 – During the yoga class, I glanced at the clock quite a few times.  Thoughts of “how much longer??!!”, “how long have we been working our thighs??”, “what time will I get back home?” filled my head.  I’m sure many of my classmates suffered the same thoughts.  It seems that many of my fellow students also couldn’t resist the urge to see what time it was – often during the hour.  Our ever observant yoga leader took notice and offered the words “Time is an illusion.  Now is all we have.  Enjoy the now.”  The words helped me stop the parade of thoughts and focus on the present.And so it is with grief and loss. 

All too often we seem to be unable to stop thinking about what was, or what we want to be rather than the now.  I know that the difficult challenge when one suffers a loss is letting go.  Moving forward takes time in the grief process.  But a gentle reminder to ourselves to enjoy something about the now will help us, soothe us, and possibly give us the needed strength to move forward even if moving forward is one small step. So many things in life are about loss:  death, losing a job, saying goodbye to a dear friend moving away, retiring.  The list is endless since life is often about saying goodbye and letting go is difficult.  

The yoga lesson offered me so much more than the physical exercise.  Accepting the wisdom of “everything has a beginning, middle, and end” and “enjoy the now” touched me because I was open to the message. I hope you too are open to that message.

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Her Mom Died. What Should I Do and Say?

Her Mom Died. What Should I Do and Say?

Recently I learned that a dear friend’s mother passed away.  As I collected myself, I had many thoughts and feelings, which included sadness and concern for my grieving friend. I thought I would list a few questions that most of us ask ourselves when hearing about a loss. Perhaps it will give you some guidance and help you to take steps yourself to comfort someone grieving a loss.

“Should I call?”  “Is now the right time?” Since my friend’s mom lived across the country, I had no idea if my friend was alone, busy with the details of the wake and funeral, helping her dad or any other tasks that needed her attention. I decided to trust my heart and reach out to her right then. I was only able to leave a , but I felt better knowing that she knew I was thinking about her. A return message from her told me that she felt better knowing that so many of her friends were letting her know that they were thinking of her with loving support.

What should I say?

“What should I say?” “Will I make things worse?” For me, there is often that moment of doubt when first reaching out to someone who has just suffered a loss. What if I don’t know what to say and end up saying nothing? Somehow the right words might come or perhaps saying nothing and being present with them in the moment might be what the grieving person needs. Trusting yourself is the right path to choose. In times of grief, we want to know that others are supporting us whether it is in thoughts, prayers, words or action.  Even the strongest person needs comfort and support during difficult times.

After the call, then what?

One way to handle this question is to ask them what you can do to help them. Avoid saying “Call me if you need me.” Sometimes the best thing to do might be bring dinner and spending time with them. Sometimes make yourself available for a phone conversation and listen to them talk would be the best choice. If they are not up to talking, send a card with a note to let them know that you are thinking about them.

Even if you are uncomfortable (and many people are), it is better to extend yourself and reach out to someone experiencing grief or loss.

Coach Linda

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You Just Never Know

You Just Never Know

Recently an article appeared in my local newspaper that caught my attention.  A woman wrote to the newspaper to apologize and thank a man she had encountered at the post office.  Seems the man held the door open for her as she entered the building but lost in her own thoughts, she failed to notice or thank the man for his kindness. 

With no word or acknowledgement from her, his loud booming  “you’re welcome!” snapped her out of her own thoughts and back to the present moment.

She continues writing to say how sorry she was for not acknowledging the kindness (as she usually does) but was distracted that day.  A close friend called to tell the woman that her father just died suddenly of a massive heart attack.  This woman had been a support to the writer whose own father was gravely ill in a nursing home the past few weeks.  As she entered the post office, she was thinking about the irony and sadness of it all and how she could help her friend when the man mentioned above delivered his “you’re welcome”.

How often do you play that role?

The story reminded me of just how often I play one of those roles in my own day-to-day life.  Since I work with those in grief or very difficult life transitions, job loss, death, or divorce, I am often lost in thoughts of how they are feeling or how I can help them, or even my own personal issues at the moment. 

How many times have I not acknowledged a kind gesture another person extended to me?  How often do I just not see it as I drift in a sea of my own thoughts?  Other times, I extend a kindness to someone and they ignore the gesture or don’t seem to notice or care.  Do they just not care?  Are they lost in thoughts and difficulties I can’t see or imagine?  Fact is, I just don’t know.

When I encounter a stranger….

The newspaper article gave me an insight; a reason to pause and reflect on the burdens each of us carries at various times in our lives.   When I encounter a stranger I don’t really know what is going on with them at that moment.  I don’t know if they are experiencing a difficult time in their life or if they are just the ungrateful type who would never acknowledge a kindness extended to them.  I do know that I have a choice.  I can extend the kindness.  How the person on the receiving end takes it is really up to them.  I have no part in that. 

Extending the kindness enriches my life.  That in itself is a wonderful gift to me.  If the receiver takes it and acknowledges it, I’m doubly blessed.

The flip side of this however is that these are difficult times for many of us.  The newspaper article reminded me to allow room for others to grieve, to work through their difficulties in ways that work for them.  The path of grief is often jagged and sometimes causes the behaviors that we see and experience to seem a little harsher than normal.

My insight? 

I’m best served by choosing to extend love and kindness to others I encounter throughout my day.  I just never know what they are going through.  Easy to say, tough to do?  Yes but the woman in the post office served as a reminder to try and walk in love and kindness each day.

Grief's Ebb and Flow

Grief's Ebb and Flow

There is no doubt; these are difficult times on many levels.  Some of the people I speak with talk about losing their savings in the down market. Others talk about job loss and how frightened they are of a future that is uncertain. These and many other life losses lead to profound grief.

Its one thing to know that you are feeling the pull of grief but it is quite another thing to know what to do about it. Sometimes it is the realization that you have no control that fuels the feelings of grief.

Find a Support Person

If you can, find someone you can share your feelings with. Your real feelings not just the ones you think they want to hear. This can be hard to do but once you take that first step, you just might feel a whole lot better.

Very often adversity leads to a renewal within you. This might be a good time to look at what you value most in your life and really begin to focus on the people and things in your life that are most important to you. If you are in the depths of grieving now, hold tight. The storm will pass and you will emerge renewed.

Remember the butterfly. The struggle is often part of your life’s journey.