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Honoring Grief

Updated: Feb 19

Dear Yogi’s Experiencing Grief -

First, I want to honor the vulnerability that you are in right now, the courage that it takes to come onto your mat when you feel like the wind could blow right through you. The truth is any time you come to your practice you can set an intention of honoring grief. This post is a repurposing of content I have created for in person grief -support classes, hopefully it can be supportive to anyone out there who wants to honor and support their grieving process. This is brave practice. Please forgive me if any words I write here land for you like platitudes, bypassing or otherwise insensitive, my intent is to normalize grieving space in our community and hold our space at Auke Bay Yoga as a safe energetic container even though we know as mourners that what comes up when we so bravely snuggle up to our grief can feel very far from safety and security. Our work and our intent in this practice is to stretch not just our tissue but our window of tolerance to stay and be with whatever comes up.


Suicide and Crisis Hotline: 988. There is help.

A couple of ground rules to co-create a safe and compassionate space:

  1. You are in control of your choices. If you want to step your foot forward as a warrior when that pose is cued, do it, if you don’t make a different choice that feels useful or healing for you. A different choice can be child's pose, laying down, wrapping up in a blanket or anything else that helps you ground and stay. And if you need to leave, the door is open. We are here to support and trust any healing choices that you make for yourself in your grief honoring practice.

  2. If someone around you has emotions, maybe crying, please do not touch them. It can shift their energy of moving the sadness through. I know that hugging or touching someone can let them know that they are not alone and is an organic thing we want to do but it can also come from a place where you feel uncomfortable in the sadness and want to fix them. Rather, be present and hear the grief of others. As you witness, do not abandon yourself. Come back to your body and your breath. Even place a hand on yourself and hold yourself with compassion and love even as you witness another's pain.

  3. You may get triggered which means you might experience activation of your fight, flight, freeze or fawn nervous system response. This is normal to encounter triggers when you practice yoga and stay with your grief, the four corners of our yoga mat are a sacred ground on which we can practice with love our capacity to be with the waves of sensation, emotion and nervous system activation and deliberately decide to stay with, stay open and . . . ride the wave.

I want to acknowledge the duality, the non-binary that grief is both universal and totally individual. Like birth, death, and our DNA it is both common to us all and both uniquely ours. We are alone in our unique grief together.

Your grief has an intelligence all its own. It is time to go in and listen. Listen to the wisdom of your grief, to the wisdom of your love, and all of the other sources of intelligence and discernment inside the core of you. There are no bad parts of you, there are many, many parts of you with diverse voices and much intelligence. Your grief is forever one of many parts of you, your love is a part of you, your fear, your humor, your dreams are part of you and they all have their voices and they are not any single one all of you, they are the strands of thread in a fabric that makes you you. And while your grief and your loss are a part of you, they are not the whole of you. Sending you love - Lindsey

Tools for grief support in yoga:

  1. Breath - notice and track your breath, its depth, its texture; use your breath to feel inside your body.

  2. Scanning through your body with your breath Feel for a place inside you, an area in your body where the part of you that is grieving resides, or tends to hang out often and use your breath to touch, caress and illuminate your area. Do this by putting your hands there and feeling your breath press up under your hands bringing in space, light, warmth, compassion, forgiveness and love to your area.

  3. Feel the ground. Feel the parts of your body that are touching the ground, affirming your connection to earth.

  4. Feel your physical body. Do wrist stretches grabbing each finger of your palm and bending them back towards you, notice and feel the sensations of stretching and opening in the palm of your hand.

  5. Flow and move with rhythm to soothe your nervous system and keep your emotions in motion so that they can move through you.

  6. Move slowly so that you do not bypass any part of your practice.

  7. Music - here is a playlist to help feel and flow.

Prompt Questions:

What is grief for you? How do you describe or define it? What does the voice of your grief tell you that it is?

What are things you have been told to do with grief?

What do you want to do with your grief?

Spell for Grief or Letting Go

By Adrienne Maree Brown

Adequate tears twisting up directly from the heart and rung out across the vocal chords until only a gasp remains;

At least an hour a day spent staring at the truth in numb silence;

A teacup of whiskey held with both hands, held still under the whispers of permission from friends who can see right through ‘ok’ and ‘fine’;

An absence of theory;

Flight, as necessary;

Poetry, your own and others, on precipice, abandonment, nature and death;

Courage to say what has happened, however strangling the words are…and space to not say a word;

A brief dance with sugar, to honor the legacies of coping that got you this far;

Sentences spoken with total pragmatism that provide clear guidance of some direction to move in, full of the tender care and balance of choice and not having to choose;

Screaming why, and/or expressing fury at the stupid unfair fucking game of it all (this may include hours and hours, even lifetimes, of lost faith);

Laughter, undeniable and unpretended;

A walk in the world, all that gravity, with breath and heartbeat in your ears;

Fire, for all that can be written;

Moonlight – the more full the more nourishing;

Stories, ideally of coincidence and heartache and the sweetest tiny moments;

Time, more time and then more time…enough time to remember every moment you had with that one now taken from you, and to forget to think of it every moment;

And just a glimpse of tomorrow, either in the face of an innocent or the realization of a dream.

This is a nonlinear spell. Cast it inside your heart, cast it between yourself and any devil. Cast it into the parts of you still living.

Remember you are water. Of course you leave salt trails. Of course you are crying.


P.S. If there happens to be a multitude of griefs upon you, individual and collective, or fast and slow, or small and large, add equal parts of these considerations:

– that the broken heart can cover more territory.

– that perhaps love can only be as large as grief demands.

– that grief is the growing up of the heart that bursts boundaries like an old skin or a finished life.

– that grief is gratitude.

– that water seeks scale, that even your tears seek the recognition of community.

– that the heart is a front line and the fight is to feel in a world of distraction.

– that death might be the only freedom.

– that your grief is a worthwhile use of your time.

– that your body will feel only as much as it is able to.

– that the ones you grieve may be grieving you.

– that the sacred comes from the limitations.

– that you are excellent at loving.

Honoring Grief

by Pixie Lighthorse

Thank you for this blessed day: this blessing of life on us, heavy with awareness of what has been surrendered.

Inspire us to grieve enough. Remind us not to strive for completing the process for the sake of being done. Help us with our tendency to avoid. Establish in us a belief that we get to wear the face of our pain, not a brave mask that puts others at ease. Help us to speak and honor our pain with the understanding that we do not suffer our losses alone. Ease our minds when those who cannot relate to our suffering don’t know what to say or do for us. Hold our rage and abandonment while we come to discover what is at the bottom of our deep sorrow. Empathize to us that someone, somewhere understands, despite our contrary thoughts.

It is a comfort for our hearts to be able to access the spirit of what is no longer. Unlock the passageways so we may commune with those we remember. Allow the souls who have been reclaimed to visit in our dreams and visions. Help us preserve the love we came to count on. Teach us to honor our relatives who have taken on another form with purpose and reverence. Instruct us in the art of divine communication.

Remind us that everything that dies will be reborn in some way, even if we do not possess the words to describe this process. While we feel our feelings, help us trust in your mystery. Groom us to take the long road if we need to.

Help us know that tears are cleansing and our grief sacred - that we can take all the time we need to release and cleanse our wound of loss. Point it out, each time we forget that we are equipped with the perfect tools for this process. Give us the energy and strength to weep.

We’re grateful for the visceral experience of flow when your healing rains wash over us, allowing our emotional bodies to be bathed in your waters. Carry our honest pain downstream to join the infinite tributaries of sorrow and mourning in the salty womb of the Ocean. Let us mingle our tears with others in a gesture of sharing. Show us how to honor our collective human experience.

Remind us that we do not have to fill the empty places with anything at all at this time.

Guide us gently through the anxiety of vacancy where love once held us.

How To Be Gentle With Yourself

Sandy @ Yoga for Grief Support

​Have you ever heard or said, "be gentle with yourself?" I know I have...

I wanted to write about the intricacies of this statement...

In my yoga groups, through my newsletter and on this blog, you've probably heard me talk about how our society is grief illiterate and emotion phobic. We, the bereaved, are constantly surrounded by messages of "toughening up" and encouraged to "get on with life." We receive messages that push us to ignore our emotions ("crying isn't going to bring him back"), and rally against our instincts ("you can't grieve forever").

There are so many "shoulds" in our society - you should drink 8 glasses of water a day, you should do yoga, you should be productive, you should exercise, you should rest, you should, you should, you should. There is so much pressure to perform a certain way, and with a lot of judgment around how that turns out.

Now layer on grief; Acute grief is so destabilizing that you don't even have the brain power or emotional space to consider a state like gentleness. You're in survival mode, and it can feel anything but gentle.

All this is to say: If you find the concept of "being gentle with yourself" challenging, those might be some of the reasons why.

Living with grief is hard. It's mentally and socially challenging. You'll have difficult thoughts ("if only" thoughts, and "would have, should have, could have" thoughts, guilt and anger thoughts and emotions), and learning to live in a post-loss world can be like learning to walk again. You'll fall down a lot. It takes a ton of self-grace, self-compassion, self-space and self-patience to navigate life after loss. Being gentle with yourself puts this grace, compassion, space and patience into action. It helps you to make choices and decisions that are aligned with your "grief needs."

In one of my yoga groups this month, we explored how "being gentle with yourself" happens in the real world. Here are some of the take-aways:

  • Not judging difficult thoughts and feelings. Allow them to come and go.

  • Giving yourself ample space and time to _____ (do what it is you need/want to do)

  • Speaking kindly to yourself

  • Giving yourself permission to do what brings you joy

  • Allowing your sense of joy to change over time

  • Being flexible and adaptable

  • Acknowledging small accomplishments

  • Praising yourself

  • Being patient with yourself: "right now it's like this."

  • Letting go of timelines related to healing and grief

  • Recognizing your individuality and uniqueness

  • Simplifying life

  • Recognizing physical, emotional, mental, social and spiritual limits

  • Saying no

  • Doing more of what you love

  • Stop putting others first (grief is a self-focused experience for good reason)

  • Being forgiving towards yourself

How does all this relate to yoga? Well, a holistic practice of yoga (i.e. one that is not just focused on the physical body, but on the mind, and on life!) increases self awareness and promotes loving action. With more self awareness it's more possible to make self-supportive choices and function from a place of grounded-response rather that reactive-reaction. This leads to more gentleness and compassion.

In the real world, being gentle with yourself can look like this:

  • Choosing to go to bed early, or choosing to stay up late

  • Choosing to watch Netflix or choosing not to

  • Choosing to watch the news, or choosing not to

  • Resting or exercising

  • Scrolling through Instagram to look at cute dog videos, or deleting social media from your phone

  • Having a glass of water or having a glass of wine

  • Hunkering down to finish a newsletter on time, or putting it off another few days (hypothetically speaking of course :))

  • Saying no to a dinner invitation, saying yes to a dinner invitation

  • Going on a trip even though it brings up fresh grief, not going on a trip because it brings up fresh grief

As you can see, "being gentle with yourself" can be anything! It all depends on context and if the action arises from a place of non-judgmental awareness and deep care for your self and your *present* (and ever changing) needs.

There's no "right" way to do this, there's only the way YOU need to do it right now. If that can be a gentle and loving way, it makes it more nurturing, tolerable and sustainable.

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