When I'm going through a difficult time and someone asks how I am, I find myself saying that "I'm riding the waves as best I can." And it's true. I'm not lying and saying that I'm "fine" when I'm not, and I'm not committing to explaining all the reasons why I'm not excellent. I'm "riding the waves" as best I can, and that makes me feel really proud.
Grief is wave-like in nature. There are times when you move towards it and times you move away. Staying with the wave-like analogy, there are times when the sea of your life is stormy and other times when the sea is calm.
Jon Kabat Zin says, "you can't stop the waves, but you can learn to surf."
So, I suppose, this post is about surfing...how do you learn to ride the waves?
1. Recognize that grief is dynamic. It changes and it has rhythms. Being mindful of your grief reveals a natural rhythm - an ebb and flow. There will be periods of intensity followed by periods of reprieve - where everything is in a constant state of motion...a fluidity. This natural rhythm is how you dose yourself with pain - sinking into the intensity at times and at other times moving way from it and resting. Tuning into this rhythm and honouring it is powerful self care.
2. Identify Impermanence - By understanding and experiencing that all emotions have movement and come to pass, we build trust in our ability to be adaptive in the face of emotional suffering. One of the most powerful and supportive mantra's I have found for myself is "This too shall pass," which is reflected in this thought provoking quote by Neil Jordan:
"I hoped that grief was similar to the other emotions. That it would end, the way happiness did. Or laughter."
3. Try not to silence any aspect of your experience. It's easy to be swept up in the "positive vibes only" culture, but with grief, acknowledging the pain will help you "ride the wave" instead of trying to out-swim it. (Refer back to #2 - understanding the impermanence of emotion gives you the strength to tread water, versus exhausting yourself trying to out-swim a wave)
4. Intentionally gather your "tools" that help you cope with the waves of grief. As you live with loss you will learn more about what you need, and when you need it. Be intentional about noticing who and what feels supportive, and what you need to cope.
Riding the waves of grief takes practice. I've never actually tried surfing, but I hear it's extremely hard to do and difficult to learn. I've heard it takes a LOT of practice. Even when you can do it (to whatever degree that is!) you are still at the mercy of the wave. Even the most accomplished surfers in the world, still need to practice.
(Practice (verb), repeat action to improve: hone, study, discipline, habituate, iterate, polish, do again, become...)
The tools of yoga and meditation are also "practices." We don't become experts and then never do them again. We practice them repeatedly, so that our skills are adaptable, flexible, and second-nature when we need them. If we can practice tending to our physical, emotional and mental needs in the relatively safe space of our yoga mat, we will be more prepared when life happens off the mat.
It's an act of kindness to yourself. Stay steady with the practice.
See you on the waves,