I knew today was going be tough. Friday was the drop off of my son to his new college 2 hours north and yesterday we did the same routine but headed 3 hours west to drop off my daughter. I did not cry at either goodbye. Perhaps it was shock that this moment was actually here.
In preparation for this discomfort, I tossed in my bag one of my very favorite books, A Short Course in Happiness after Loss, by Maria Sirois. Maria was one of my teachers at the Wholebeing Institute and is one of the most compelling speakers and teachers I know. She is real. This book is one I have read more than once and have gifted to many friends who have experienced loss. In the six hours driving (intersperced with crying!) I was able to read it again and find new insight and guidance.
Maria worked with children with cancer and their families and has had unexpected loss in her own family with the death of her brother. She writes with the clarity of knowing this subject intimately. In many cases in life we do not know when something will happen; a death, the departure of a dear friend for unexplained reasons, or an accident. Life can and will catch us by surprise. Maria writes about when there is a loss for a while we must stop and just be in the darkness, the pain, the discomfort of the situation. She writes,
“There is nothing to do during the immediacy of those first few moments except be disoriented. We aren’t quite ready to yet to recognize options or even understand, perhaps that we have a choice.”
What has struck me about this last week as I have prepared for this change is how many times, especially today, this feeling of being disoriented has come up, as if I have gotten news of some tragic loss. My mind knows I am excited, I am beyond thrilled at the choices each of my children has made to be at these schools and my mama pride is on overdrive in their getting themselves to this point of landing and launch. Yet, this disorientation still happens and feels very real. And it makes me uncomfortable.
Fortunately, this kind of change and form of loss, having an empty nest, allowed ample time for me to prepare, to get all my tools in order; healthy food to eat, a quiet walk with a friend today and plenty of sleep this week. Those all have helped but in that moment when I feel the wave building, the only life raft is my breath. Maria writes about the power of the breath in these moments.
“Breath is the essence of life. We breathe to stay alive, to nourish the cells and organs of our body, and we breathe as a gesture of hope. It is the doorway to the next moment, and from that the next possible future.”
I’ve talked about the breath in 101 different ways but I’ve never thought about it as a gesture of hope. This feels like the perfect description though so often it seems overly simple. When the disorientation and the associated feelings of loss seem unbearable, really I’m just supposed to breath?
Yes! It is the bravest gesture of how we stay alive and find the doorway to the next moment.
I know this feeling will pass, that I have the tools and I won’t feel uncomfortable forever. Part of my yoga practice is to know I can be okay with being uncomfortable. My mind knows that. I’m sure this week I’ll find some silver linings in this new phase of life.
But for today, I’m taking it one breath at a time.
ps. If you want to learn more about resilience from Maria, here is an upcoming online course, The Resilient Quest.
And if you want a gentle practice of self-care this one is the one I am doing tonight.