The Physical Side of Grief

Me & Mom, Christmas 2011

Ok, this is the 3rd 4th time I’ve tried to start this post. Writing while watching a Chicago Blackhawks game is a bit distracting, but still.

I can’t think of anything cheeky or cool to write about what I’ve experienced in the last 3 weeks. It was tough all the way around. Here’s my attempt to break this time into chunks that make sense:

Not All Grief Is The Same

Somehow my experience grieving my brother didn’t assist me when my mom died. I knew I was grieving, but other than that realization, nothing was the same. I spent much more time with my mom than my brother before he passed away. Yet, when my mom died it seemed liked nothing was resolved. When Mickey passed, the tsunami of sadness seemed like it would never end. But, when my mom passed, I felt a heatwave of anger that just wouldn’t quit. Several times during my weeks visiting Mom, the grief became a physical sensation of nausea. Grief for my brother was more emotional, without the physical part.

It really took me a while to settle down & accept the grief for my mom the way it was. I kept resisting it, resisting going to the services because I knew that would confirm she really was dead. I resisted crying, because I was just tired of it. I resisted being angry, because being angry doesn’t feel very good.

Finally after a lot of teeth-gnashing, the acceptance of the grief & how it was manifesting this go around settled in. Sadly, there was some carnage.

Sciatica Static

For many years I suffered from a sciatica problem in my left leg. Yoga & cranio-sacral bodywork managed to heal it over time. However, it would flare up again when I was under extreme stress or vulnerability, which usually went hand in hand.

After my mom passed, I was in shock for about 6 days. I was taking yoga classes at the local studio when I noticed my low back, especially the sciatica area, becoming more tender. I wasn’t sure if it would blow out, but I thought I’d take it easy & do a more gentle yoga practice.

Two days before we were to host the memorial service for my mom, my back went out in a yoga class so badly that I had to lie on my back & do nothing for half the class. Talk about humbling.

Breath of Love

At first I thought yoga was a bad thing, and “caused” this spasm. But after some reflection I realized it was really the grief.  My body was processing the loss, the pain, and the lack of connection to my mom (which I’ll get into more later in the post). It’s like the molecules of my body had shifted in some dramatic way, and my body was trying to re-settle into a new state of being.

Muscles that were not normally felt were somehow activated, and other muscles seemed to go limp & not be effective. A low-back flare up would occur, then everything would settle down within a few days so well that it’s as if the flare-up never happened.

Thankfully, the breath awareness of yoga helped me to simply accept what was happening, without trying to change it or have an emotional attachment to it, or to the outcome of the class. The more often I do yoga classes, the more I am experiencing compassion for my body while on the mat. This is proving invaluable, as I’m learning I also need to be compassionate to myself on all levels for all things.

Energy Connections

The whole experience taught me that each of us is connected on an energetic level. With a mom and a child, the connection is quite strong. You can envision it like a steel cable of various thicknesses. A steel cable has many smaller, thinner pieces of steel all intertwined & twisted around each other to make a thicker “rope” of steel. The energy “rope” between my mom and I was much thicker than with most other people. It seems this is just “how it is” with mothers and children.

Additionally, my relationship to my mom was not as resolved or at peace as my relationship with my brother. This may also contribute to the intense energetic connection my mom & I had.

When my mom passed, that cable was cut instantly. *foom* With one straight slice, the connections was gone. The physical reaction was like my body trying to figure out a) what just happened, b) accept the new energetic arrangement in my body, and c) allow the re-arrangement to settle into what is comfortable today, and not before when Mom was still alive.

Equilibrium of Self

Losing my mom really left me feeling like a floating dust particle. Untethered to a deeper degree than when my brother passed away, I’ve been grasping at straws. That desperation hasn’t helped my body.

The more I take action to continue on with my life, however, the more my body has settled down. All the yoga I’m doing has opened up areas never felt before. Restrictions and binds that were in my body for years are suddenly accessed and shifting.

A similarly powerful experience happened when my mom’s mom, my grandmother, passed away in June 2008. The night she passed, I had a profound dream involving a witch doctor at the top of a mayan temple offering me back body parts that had been taken from me. The next morning when I woke up I felt lighter, more relaxed, and more grounded than I had in quite some time. Upon waking, I had no idea that my grandma had passed, and didn’t hear the news til several hours later. As soon as I got the call, I knew the dream was connected to her moving on to the Next Life.

Singing Heart

Many things have happened in my life in Homewood, IL since Mom died. More details will be offered in future posts. But, for now, one phrase from my mom keeps coming back to me, “Do what makes your heart sing.”

In a way, just like the “smell test” with clothing, she taught me the “heart singing” test. If I’m ever in doubt about whether to move forward with some new step on my path, I can stop & ask myself, “Will it make my heart sing?”

More now than ever before, the “heart singing” test directly affects my body. With each new loss, with each new avenue for growth being presented to me, my physical container changes, shifts, enlivens. Sometimes the physical pain is uncomfortable. Instead of pushing it away, I thank my body for teaching me something new. Each spasm, ache, pinched nerve, misalgnment or restriction is a communication. The more I quiet my mind, the more I can hear my body’s voice…and it sounds like singing.

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