My grief journey has felt like a permanent holding of my breath. I know I am physically breathing, but there is an undertone of not being able to fully feel the releasing quality of my exhale. The moment I was told my mom was killed in a workplace accident ten years ago, the weight of the words contracted my body, I gasped a breath in and never released. The armour was formed. Two years after, my dad’s death to a drug overdose left me winded; my armour formed another layer and pulled what little breath was there in a little deeper. This symbolic armour became my container, the barrier between what felt hollow, raw and shattered inside to what was too strong, too new, too different on the outside to let in. Life After you. Life Without You. The New Normal. It can’t be real.
The armours we form from our traumas serve a purpose. They protect and preserve. In the acute stages of loss (acute is whatever acute is for you), it is too much to let it all in. Too unfamiliar, unimaginable and too fucking unfair. We also continue to brace our armours as a way of suppressing or minimizing our reality because we are not able to share our truth and our pain. Layers continue to form when we try to be vulnerable but it’s met with resistance and platitudes. Layers continue to form from the subsequent losses that unfold after the initial death. Layers continue to form when we don’t feel safe to be with or express our compounded sorrow. Layer after layer, the armour gets thicker creating isolation and disconnection, where healing, trust and integration cannot occur both in and outside of the body.
Even though these forms of protection do serve a purpose in time, more suffering, however, is created in our experience when the armour continues to be “worn” unconsciously as if it is forever and always a part of who we are and is needed for survival. An energetic holding entwined in the nervous system, in the tissues, deepening its innervating imprint and affecting the way in which we experience our life; Unconsciously physical armour starts to form as chronic tension in the body and the experience of feeling anxious, unsettled, exhausted and overwhelmed perpetuate. How do we surrender?
Grief isn’t logical, it’s visceral and needs to be felt. I turn to my yoga practice to support me in learning to ease through the shields, ease through the tension held in my physical body to then trust that I can feel and share the truth that loss leaves. After the resistance comes the softening, the release, the trust, the exhale. The intangible weight being carried slowly starts to lighten. The practice of Yoga, again and again, invites us to surrender on and off the mat. Not as a way of giving up, a weakness or to diminish our experience, not even to accept a reason for their death or yet accept they are gone, but to accept the moment as it is arising. To be with it. Feel into it. To share it; Shedding another layer to be revealed to something deeper. My grief journey continues to be unpredictable and inconvenient but the more I learn to release and become curious of my physical and symbolic armours that are no longer serving (and there are a lot I’m still working through,) the more space is created to honour and tend to this courageous, radical and profound expression of love.
What does your grief feel like?
May our practices, whatever they may be, support us in honouring our body’s protective responses.
May they support us in releasing what is no longer serving.
May they give us power within the powerlessness.
May you know you are not alone.