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Grieving Mama has her arms full

Dear KCY

My husbands father passed away suddenly last month from a heart attack. It’s thrown everyone off guard and is a devastating shock to my husband and his sister who watched their mother suffer and pass away from a brain tumour just four years ago. Following his mother’s death we experienced some very trying times with the immediate family as everyone grieved in their own ways and are still grieving in many ways. I guess my question is how do we use death of our loved ones to help us or to learn from in our own lives. And how do I balance the roles of full time mother, supportive wife to grieving husband whilst also needing to practice self care and allow myself time to grieve?

Yours, Grieving Mama

Dear Mama

I’m so sorry for your loss. I really am. I know its a cliché to say it. I know it feels lame to utter those words but I am. I’m truly sorry for your loss. And I’m truly sorry for your husbands loss of both his mother and now his father. This is devastating stuff. As you say in your message, he was still grieving his mother when he lost his father and now his grief is doubled. It’s not ok. It won’t be ok for a very long time. Time will not heal this pain, it will just dull it a little as ultimately your husband has lost the two most important people in his life before you and bub came along and now, more than ever before he will need to lean and you and bub to keep him upright.

But let’s come back to your questions. How do we use the death of our loved ones to help us move forward in life? How can you be everything to everyone while still allowing yourself space to grieve? Death of our loved ones is crushing. Particularly our parents. While I have no experience of this myself, there was a period of time around a decade ago that I came very, very close to losing my sister. She was incredibly sick and the Dr told us he was letting her come home for Christmas because she probably wasn’t going to make it to New Year. My stomach is in knots as I type this to you Mama. A decade later! And all is well with my sister! But I went through a process of thinking about the very real prospect of losing her. I can’t describe the feeling, the grief that wracked my entire being. I wasn’t sad, or depressed or a bit blue. I was totally, utterly crushed by sorrow. Sorrow.

My sister and I with our babies. This picture is all about LOVE.

My sister and I with our babies. This picture is all about LOVE.

Sorrow is not the same as being sad. When you are sad the world can see it. When you are drowning in sorrow, you get on with life, doing the things you have to do but every breath you take is full of sorrow. Breath in sorrow. Breath out sorrow. Right foot forward sorrow, left foot forward sorrow.

I have never felt anything quite like it. I don’t know your husband but I can imagine this is pretty much what he is feeling right now. And maybe you are feeling this way too. While also being a supportive wife and a rockin’ Mama.

In Book two of the Yoga Sutras Patanjali talks about the Kleshas (the obstacles that prevent us from reaching enlightenment) and the last of these is Abhinivesha. We can basically translate this as ‘fear of death,’ or more accurately ‘clinging to life,’. svarasavahi vidusah api tatha arudhah abhinivesha. ‘Self-preservation or attachment to life is the subtlest of all afflictions. It is found even in wise men’ (Yogasutra II.9).

My modern day translation of this is that Abhinivesha is fear. Fear of dying and not being there to see our children grow up. Fear of losing our loved ones and that they won’t be there to watch us grow up. And FYI I have come no-where near to conquering this obstacle. Not in this lifetime.

But that’s ok. Because in yoga terms I have more than one lifetime to work it out. And this is the only bit of light I can offer you in this time of sorrow. In yogic philosophy our souls continuously come back to this world in order to continue the progress we made in the last lifetime towards enlightenment. So these souls that we have lost from our lives right now, will live on. How amazing for them. Another lifetime to live and learn awaits (I highly recommend reading ‘Many Masters, Many Lives’ for more on this).

This is not so amazing for us however. We are still here and still grieving. So what do you do right now?

You practice the yogic tool of compassion: –

Compassion for your husband. Tell him how sorry you are as many times as he needs to hear it. Let him cry, be angry, hug you and bub tighter than usual, grieve however he needs to. Encourage him to talk about his parents. Share memories and don’t sweep them under the carpet for another day, share them now while things are raw and he needs to know he can talk about them openly.

Compassion for yourself.  I hope someone is there to give you a hug and allow you to cry on their shoulders. And make sure you do that. You can’t be the rock all the time. Allow yourself space to grieve. Call on your support structure however you need to. They will be there for you, we often just forget to ask.

Compassion for the family. You don’t say what difficulties you went through with the loss of your husbands mother with the immediate family but I can already hear the compassion in your voice when you say wisely that everyone grieves in their own way. So true. Allow them to do that without judgement, only compassion.

Compassion is love and this situation is all about love. Your husband loved his parents and is grieving their loss, you love your husband and want to support him however you can, you  love your bub and know you need to look after yourself to be a good Mama and your husband loves you and is leaning on you in the way we can only lean on those we really love. Know that the rawness of this time will ease and while the grief may not, things will become lighter as life continues on and love binds you to the memories and to one another. In the meantime, I’ll say the only thing worth saying. I’m so sorry for your loss.

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