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Sometimes the Root of Worry is Grief

Equus Coaching

Grief is a fascinating emotion. It doesn’t follow linear time. Pieces of it hide in dark pockets waiting for a safe space and moment to come out and be seen.

This past weekend I participated in a retreat with small group of my wayfinding peers and mentors. Without a personal agenda, I set the intention to allow whatever came up to be. (For anyone who knows me, giving myself permission to not have a plan to take full advantage of the opportunity to be coached by our master of master wayfinders, Martha Beck, is quite unusual.)

Listening to frogs and crickets while sitting under an expansive net of stars in the rain forests of Cashiers, North Carolina, I realized that I’ve spent most of my life trying to avoid big Square 1s* that come barreling out of nowhere to knock me off my feet. My habit of planning and organizing is an attempt to play out innumerable future scenarios in the hopes that I can spot a Square 1 coming. And if I can see it coming, that I could somehow lessen the blow or avoid it altogether. (Spoiler alert, this is impossible.)

My husband summarized this best when he said, “When you don’t have something to worry about, you find something to worry about.” (God bless those who truly see us.)

I’ve noticed that because of this, I have not relaxed into happiness. I simply haven’t trusted it. And thus, I’ve been stuck in my Square 3 Hero’s Journey.

Ok, so now what? I thought. Now that I’ve recognized this energy block, what do I do with it? How do I get unstuck?

Equus Coaching is a perfect opportunity to test your energy. A horse is a mirror, which reflects back physically what you’re doing energetically. As I entered the round pen on Day 2, I set the intention to figure out how to release my fear of Square 1 and embrace the elation of Square 4.*

When I tried to spiritually bypass my fear of Square 1 as “necessary for personal growth” and “will bring me to a better place because it all happens for a reason,” my horse Smokey walked to the opposite end of the pen with his hind quarters to me. This was a sign that I didn’t believe what I was saying – I was out of integrity.

When I admitted that, “Square 1s are F-ing HARD! They SUCK!” Smokey ran back toward me and put his head against my chest. When I broke down crying and shared that I didn’t want to be strong all the time, he stayed while stomping and yawning, which physically releases energy.

The heart knows when it is safe to be vulnerable. There’s something special about the sacred space wayfinders hold. It is a pure, gentle and fully accepting cradle of love. To be held so delicately and seen so fully is a true gift.

Although it has been 20 years since my mother’s suicide, I realized that I have not fully processed the grief and post-traumatic-stress around the details of her death. There were still little pockets that needed releasing (and will again and probably again).

In the safe space of my peers and mentors, I allowed all the emotions I’d thought were long past to surface and flow in aching waves through my core and out of my mouth and eyes.

There is no time limit to grieving. There is no deadline to process it. It isn’t a one and done kind of life experience. So if you’ve lost a loved one, or carry guilt and shame about someone’s suicide, know that it is absolutely okay to return to it when you’re ready to let the last pieces go. Even if 20-plus years have passed, it’s okay.

You don’t have to be strong all the time. Give yourself permission to find a safe and sacred space with someone (or people) you trust and let it flow. It does no good and offers no peace holding it in and shoving it down.

I trust that once I’ve fully processed all the remaining pieces, my constant worry about the future will also dissolve on its own. For years, I’d been trying to solve the symptom of anxiety instead of the root cause of grief. While coaching tools can absolutely help with reducing anxiety and managing stress, sometimes it’s a sign that there’s more underneath to explore.

If you, too, constantly worry about the future, I invite you to think about what long-past loss you may have suffered that might need some tender, loving care.

*****

If you don’t have a safe and sacred space to let your grief flow, I’d be honored to hold it for you. Let’s talk.

*Squares 1-4 are Martha Beck terms used in Steering by Starlight and is a framework for identifying coaching tools that might be most useful for a client. Square 1 represents the phase of life where we have the destruction of one identity (or role) before a new one forms. It’s a state of dissolving that can be created by any catalytic life event, such as the death of a loved one.

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What my Mom’s Suicide Taught me About Love

Open Heart Love

After my mom’s suicide, I read her prayer journals. The final six-months of entries were variations of the following:

“Please, Lord, let me feel love. Let me be loved. If I can feel love, I can make it through anything. Without it, I am lost.”

Between Hollywood’s Rom-Coms and the annual commercialization of Valentine’s Day, we’ve been socialized to believe that the feeling state of love is found from external sources. In 2018, Romantic Comedies grossed $241 million in North America alone.[1] According to the National Retail Federation, consumers spent $20.7 billion on Valentine’s Day this year.[2] We’re constantly bombarded with the message that to be happy, we need love from a partner, family members, our friends and our pets.

Love is not found in others; it can only be generated within. Each of us is love; we simply get confused sometimes. When we allow that confusion to take up residence in our head and continue to seek it outside of ourselves, we live in a state of lack and non-fulfillment.

I was named after Guinevere from my mother’s favorite movie, Camelot. She was enthralled with the idea of two men loving one woman so deeply and tragically.

Growing up, I lived in a menagerie of sorts. Name any domesticated animal and we had it…dogs, cats, rodents, birds and reptiles. My mother was continually adding new pets to the household.

Once, I remember walking into our living room and seeing my mother crying on the couch reading her Reader’s Digest. When I asked what was wrong, she handed me the magazine and told me to read the story.

It was about a woman who owned a parrot. She had tried for years to teach her parrot to say, “I love you” without success. Then she had a medical emergency that put her in the hospital for months. When she recovered and returned home, her parrot greeted her with, “I love you.” Cue the tears.

The next day, my mom was highlighting the Penny Saver’s Pets For Sale section. Within a week, we had our own parrot.

Another time, I remember overhearing an argument between my mother and stepfather.

“You never say I love you anymore,” she said.

“Why do I need to say it?” he asked.

“Every morning for the past two years, I’ve walked you to your car and tell you ‘I love you’ before you go to work,” she said. “And every morning, you drive off without saying it back.”

“You’re exaggerating,” he said. “It hasn’t been that long.”

Perception is a powerful force. And I’m not blaming anyone for my mother’s suicide other than her perception of whether she was loved. When she believed she needed others to love her and thought they didn’t, she suffered. She based her happiness and self-worth on external validation.

It didn’t matter that her kids frequently said, “I love you.” We were all affectionate with each other. We spent copious amounts of time on family activities like hiking, riding bikes and crafts. Yet, no amount of “I love you,” quality time, or pets were going to satiate something that only she could provide herself.

If you are also looking for love and coming up empty, I invite you to assess how often you seek it versus how often you give it to yourself. If you’re looking outside more than inside, here are five ways to practice loving you:

  1. Tell yourself in the mirror, “I love you.”
    Look in your eyes and mean it. Each time you pass your reflection, whether you say it aloud or silently, give yourself some love and appreciation.
  2. Be kind in your thoughts about yourself and your worth.
    If you catch yourself talking smack about you, notice it and without more self-judgment, simply acknowledge it as unkind. Take a breath and start over again with a more loving and compassionate thought to replace the original.
  3. Trust your judgment.
    Follow your intuition and trust that you know what is best for you. If something feels icky, then it’s probably not right for you. If something feels zingy, more of that, please!
  4. Respect yourself.
    Set boundaries and keep them. Treat yourself with respect and others will treat you in kind. And if they don’t, respect yourself enough to walk away.
  5. Treat yourself with the same tender, loving care that you give to your loved ones.
    This is the Reverse Golden Rule. Treat yourself the way you treat the most treasured people in your life.

At your core, you are love. The big “L” love. You are your own happily ever after. You are your own knight of the round table.

 

[1]https://www.statista.com/statistics/668722/romcom-box-office-gross-north-america/

[2]https://nrf.com/media-center/press-releases/fewer-consumers-celebrating-valentines-day-those-who-do-are-spending

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Six Suggestions to Honor the Dead

Flame of inspiration

As a child-free adult, Halloween hasn’t engaged me in years. The more I learn about Dia de los Muertos (October 31-November 2), All Souls Day (November 2) and All Saints Day (November 1), I’m shifting my perspective to that of remembering, honoring and celebrating those who have passed on.

If you’re like me, and not that into costumes and candy, I invite you to find a way to pay homage to your deceased loved ones. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Display their pictures, light a candle and reminisce about your favorite memories. Maybe you choose to update them on your life since their departure.
  2. Partake in an activity that you used to enjoy doing with this loved one. Bring to mind old memories of past experiences engaging in said activity.
  3. Cook this loved one’s favorite meal. Place their picture at the dinner table as you eat and remember past meals spent together.
  4. Visit a favorite hangout and bring a momento, or symbol of your relationship, with you.
  5. If you still have an accessory or article of clothing of this loved one, hold it to your heart while picturing their face and then wear it.
  6. Donate to a foundation that supports a cause this loved one believed in (or maybe would have benefited from).

I’d love to hear about any traditions you celebrate to honor the deceased in your life in the comments below!

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Forgiveness: A Survival Guide for Suicide Loss

El Calafate Glacier Cave

You’re about to head down a dark, wallowing hole into the icy waters of grief. It’s frigid there and the air is thick and heavy, making it hard to inhale and even harder to swim. This forced slowness enables the process to take the time it needs to.

You’ll wade through a series of pools called Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and an extra for us chosen ones: Guilt. Each one is deeper than the next until you’re treading water in the last pool, which is filled with Shame and Regret.

Swim forward until you feel the rocky bottom and then pull your weary body out on to the pebble beach of Acceptance. Lie there for a moment and catch your breath. Breathe into this surrender.

Once you can breath steadily again, find a rugged stone to hold and join the other travelers on the beach. Share the scariest parts of your story with them and remember to also listen to theirs. This community bond will light a flame in your heart to remind you that you still have one.

Notice when you have worn down the sharp edges of your story stone and it has become smooth. Be careful not to get stuck here. The more you rub it, the deeper the groove and the more it molds to your hand. Although the pity it holds is soft and inviting, there is no warmth in that stone. It is not capable of love.

Now build yourself a fire of Forgiveness.

Understand that you are not responsible for anyone but yourself. Not anyone else’s thoughts, and especially not their actions. You have as much control over others’ journeys as you do on the tide. For as powerful as you are, you are not the moon.

Sink into your inner wisdom that knows there is no amount of penance you can pay, nor level of sustained pain, that will change her decision or the finality of her death. This will be your kindling.

Give yourself what she could not. And then forgive her as well. Notice who else you may be blaming and judging – and forgive them, too. This is your spark.

Now connect to the deepest part of yourself that knows you are Love. Root into that wellspring of Love through Gratitude and Self-compassion and light your fire!

Warm yourself with Gratitude for the people, lessons and the gifts that float into your life on the wind to fan the flames (and they will come). Find Compassion for the younger you that didn’t know what you know now.

You’re ready – Ignite your torch in these flames and come on out!