What is grief and what do you do with it? This is a question I have been asking myself. Grief is an emotion that I struggle to understand. I realize this even more as I learn to process the death of my grandmother, Nanny, who passed away last week. When I heard about her passing I felt myself melt and I lost my sense of time. I thought this was due to the heat, but more realistically it was grief.
When I got the call from my mom that Nanny has passed it was 12:30am and I was recording a podcast, so my brain didn’t really register what had happened. Even now, a few days later I still feel a sense of disbelief. I wonder, what I am I ‘supposed’ to feel right now? There is a sense of emptiness that I am trying to fill by completing emails and going through my day as planned. Perhaps that is where the problem lies – I am one step ahead of grief by keeping busy.
The night my grandmother passed I was in a taxi and the cab driver started talking to me.
He said ‘did you have the time of your life today?’
“what?” I said
‘did you have the time of your life today?’
In my mind I was thinking “of course not my grandmother passed away!” But I said instead ‘no, did you have the time of your life today?’
He replied, ‘what else is there? Why didn’t you have the time of your life today? This is it.’
I was in such shock that I didn’t respond. He was so right, what else is there? I wonder now if that was my grandmother speaking to me – her wanting me to enjoy my life rather than live with stress, anxiety, and fear.
Ultimately the study of yoga helps to teach us the impermanence of life, and this is something I am still and will always be learning. Yoga looks at death as an integral part of life and something that we must examine before our own death. Although I have been studying this, it is not something that I have found I am able to put into practice when loved ones pass. I do not expect my self to understand death, but I do hope I can come to an understanding of grief and be able to express it in a healthy way that will allow myself to share my love with my family to help and support them through this process.
Fear of death is a major cause of human suffering, and at the root of my major fears is the fear of death. In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras the klesahs (obstacles) are the things that cause pain in our lives. The klesahs are ignorance, egoism, attachment, hatred, and clinging to bodily life. Fear and attachment build in us and these klesahs hold us back from seeing our true selves.
The practice of eliminating the klesahs is a long journey, but one of the first steps is to evaluate yourself and what you are experiencing at the present moment. Svadyaya or self-examination took me through the process of finding what klesha I was experiencing at the moment and followed the feeling of the suffering to its root. Rather than avoiding the root of the suffering I allowed myself to be taught what I need to know in order to transcend it rather than spend my energy avoiding it. Avoidance just gives it more power over you.
I found that by keeping that in mind I was able to be very present with my clients. The moment my mind wandered I reminded it of the klesahs, and brought it back. It may sound simple, but ultimately this is a hard task to stay on track with and I know that throughout the day and the following weeks I will struggle. However, this is part of the yogic journey, the ups and downs, and being true to your desire to keep going. Yoga is the controlling of the modifications of the mind, and life is short. So why waste it with attachments and fear? I have no answer, and don’t think I ever will, but am okay with that and where I am now. Only from taking a few days to allow my emotions to travel through my body can I say this now and be okay with it. I write this post not for condolences but as a way for me to move onto the next stage of grief, and as an invitation for you to explore your own obstacles, fears, and attachments.