A few weekends ago my daughter, joined by her brother, were travelling to Ottawa. Though she had already begun her new job in Toronto, it was now time to move all her belongings that she’d packed up before she’d left. I was aware this was an ending of one cycle and the beginning of a new one not only for her, but for me in our relationship.
I’d always been there in person, supporting her through the many moves during her student years, as well as when she’d moved to Ottawa for her first job after graduating. In those challenging years after her Dad and I separated and the loss of her birth home, doing this had felt like an important way for me to offer her support during times of transition.
But this time, for all kinds of reasons, it was clear that the pattern was changing. She was definitely ready to do this without the support of her Mumma. And that didn’t mean she had to do this alone – support was there for her. I knew all that, and celebrated her independence. Still, that weekend I often found myself feeling waves of sadness washing over me.
While not fun, at least I knew not to make myself wrong for the feelings that were arising. There was a paradox here. I was happily letting go of the effort of making the trek and doing the work of moving. AND, in not being there, parts of me were feeling the sadness of missing out, and other parts had the experience of yet another wave of grieving the loss of the home base her Dad and I had co-created over the many years we were together. So, in addition to staying in touch with the kids from time to time as the move took place, I also took time to stay in touch with those parts of me.
My Mum and Dad at my marriage to Bruce – just a few months before Daddy died ...
It was not until later that Saturday when I happened to check my calendar, that I noticed the next day was also the fifth anniversary of my Dad’s death. And what was more striking was remembering that he’d died while I’d been supporting my daughter’s first move to Ottawa as part of her internship years before while she was still a student. Yet another reason for the deep sadness.
Without my conscious awareness, I’d been navigating more than this current transition. My body was also remembering this anniversary of another painful moment of missing out. In a mirror image of this current choice to not be with my daughter as she moved, that time I’d consciously chosen to not be with my Dad as he died, instead choosing to be with my daughter. It was actually a relief for me to realize Life was giving me this gift.
Rather than something bad or to be avoided, grief is part of the natural cycle of living and loving. And sadness part of the full spectrum of our emotions. Like colours – we may have favourites, but none are wrong or bad! Can you imagine how life might be different if we all gave ourselves permission to hold sadness and allow ourselves to grieve in this way?
I’m clear that when loss is triggered like mine was here, it’s another opportunity for moving around the spiral staircaseGlennon Doyle Melton pointed to in the video I shared in the last eNews. Though uncomfortable, Life was giving me this gift of building my capacity for being present to sadness, and practicing the skill of broken heartedness. Here I was having yet another chance to practice grieving several layers of loss, including my Dad’s death – connecting with my love for him in the absence of his physical presence.
But most of us have never been taught how to do this. The messages we get in our society are more often to get busy and get over it – to dismiss, ignore, or override these sensations and emotions that wash over and sometimes overwhelm us. To be clear, I’m not suggesting collapsing into a heap and ‘being sad’, I’m talking about creating a safe container within which we can feel held and have our feelings of sadness (or whatever emotion we’re experiencing) deeply witnessed.
I’m sure you’ve seen this – perhaps with a young child who is in the midst of a huge wash of upset. When they’re held in the arms of a loving adult who’s not trying to get them stop, but simply being with and soothing them, it often doesn’t take long for that last wail, generally followed by a deep breath. And after sitting for a short while in the safety of those arms, they begin to squirm and get interested in whatever else is happening around them.
One way of creating a safe container within which to
hold yourself …
I’m talking about practicing and developing the skill of this kind of intimacy with ourselves. Like any skill, when we’re first starting to practice it feels awkward, and often we’re not very smooth in our practice. It would be lovely to wave a magic wand and make it so that we could do this without much thought – like the way most of us can now walk with relative ease, even though that wasn’t always the case. Would that we have the courage and drive in learning to do this as we had as toddlers learning to walk!
For many of us, it’s much easier to create this container of safety for someone else than for ourselves. You probably have a sense of what it’s like to be there for a good friend, a child you care about, or even a beloved pet.
Obviously this isn’t the space for detailed instructions, but I want to share a few pointers here so you get that while it is a practice, what I’m talking about is neither rocket science nor woo woo. It’s a way for you to really show up for yourself.
So … 1. Connect with the wise adult part of you … drop your awareness down into your hips, and out wide around you – perhaps using the sumo wrestler stance I demonstrated in the short video I made for you and 2. From that deep grounded space turn toward and welcome this experience you’re having, allowing yourself to be touched it … offering yourself presence and connection … allowing your heart to expand with compassion … honouring and holding fiercely that part of you … and 3. Sharing with it soothing words like “I’m here, I’m with you, I’ve got you, you’re not alone, AND your feelings and needs matter.”
Especially when our emotions are running high, this practice can be an enormously valuable part of beginning to build trust in ourselves and expand our capacity for presence. It’s for sure one of the things I did during that anniversary weekend.
Another thing I did was reach out to my friend and colleague Deb Schneider-Murphy with whom I was having dinner that night. Being the wise, compassionate person that she is, she gave me the gift of asking me a question that allowed me to re-member (to connect with and experience again in my body) the love I have for my Dad even though he’s no longer here in his body. She simply asked “What are some of your fond memories of your Daddy?” Even now as I write this, I can feel the warmth of connection in my heart.
Access to these practices and this kind of support are some of the advantages of being part of the Realizing RICH Relationships community. What’s it like for you when you experience either expected, or unanticipated sensations in your body, or waves of emotion washing over you? And did you try out the sumo wrestler stance as a way of grounding yourself? If so, how was that for you? If any of this has touched a place or triggered questions in you, I’d love to hear about it. Please reach out. I’m excited to partner with those who are drawn here, in the co-creation of a community and a world where these skills and capacities become the norm.