A few months ago, when the New Jersey air was full of excitement at the impending summer, my family experienced a loss that truly rocked our core. It was a loss we knew was coming, but a loss so unfair that it’s still hard to believe. On June 11th, my mother-in-law lost her long, brave, courageous, graceful battle with the disease I will not give the dignity of naming. To me, she was not a stereotypical mother-in-law—not the one you complained about for being meddlesome or annoying, or for making your husband a lifelong momma’s boy. If my husband is a momma’s boy, he had every reason to be.
In the weeks leading up to what would be her final admission into the hospital, I was busy launching my yoga teaching career. As with many moments in the 13 years I knew her, she was right there as one of my biggest cheerleaders. On the night of my YTT graduation, she watched my daughters so that my husband could join me for my karma class. She couldn’t wait to take one of my beginner yoga classes, so she was there one Sunday, her first time on the mat, not admitting that she was in terrible pain that day. She made a mala at my first workshop, dedicating the intention of “acceptance” to her mala, likely knowing deep down what was going on. How lucky am I that she found a way to be a part of this significant new venture in my life, when none of us realized how little time she had left.
I tell you all of this to explain that this was no simple loss for me, my husband, my children, my sister-in-law and my entire family. And while I am no expert in grieving, I am here to share how, like most journeys in my life, I have turned to yoga to help me through it.
Remember to breathe.
Yes, we all know how pranayama is a powerful tool for stress and overall health—so this may seem obvious. But no matter how much you know that, it’s the first thing we lose in times like this. It can be hard to quietly meditate when your mind is so weighed down, so try a guided meditation. When you’re listening to the sound of someone else’s voice, it can be easier to concentrate. Consider inviting a mudra into your meditation, which can quiet your nervous system and heighten your focus.
Release your pain.
For most major events that I’ve gone through in life, I’ve been pretty closed in. I was naturally just a person who kept things to myself, especially things that were scary, depressing or unsettling. But what I noticed this time, my first major loss since dedicating a significant part of my life to yoga, is that I was an open book. I poured my heart out to anyone who would listen, into social media posts, and sat down one day and wrote a eulogy that I hope captured my mother-in-law’s true essence. Each word that I spoke and typed was cathartic for me. For the first time in my life, sharing was healing.
Be open to signs.
The most common thing people said after we first lost my mother-in-law was “she will always be with you.” At first, in your moments of anger, you find yourself thinking “that’s bullsh*t! I want her HERE with us.” But when you open yourself up to little signs and messages, you realize how true that is. Dreams, animals, and scents all find ways to remind you that person is there—embrace those moments, allow them to make you smile and laugh, and find gratitude in that simple new way that person is with you.
Do the kind of yoga that makes you happy.
I am sure if you google “yoga for grief” there are many blogs and articles that will guide you through grounding poses, hip openers, and throat chakra exercises all to release your emotions. But do what makes YOU happy. I personally found solace in poses that challenged me, because I could truly focus on the task at hand and quiet my mind—which is why you could frequently find me inverted in my bedroom at the end of a long day!
Take your journey at your own pace.
I have learned that grief has an expiration date in the eyes of others. Don’t let it have an expiration date for you. Take time to heal—turn down plans if you’re not ready to be social, say no to a business trip if you still need to be close to your family, and figure out what helps you heal and do that as often as possible.
Thank you, yoga universe, for helping me through this journey that I wish I wasn’t on. And thank you, Silvana Megaro, for being someone who is so incredibly hard to lose.