Grief, The Messy Gift We All Share

The Gift of Grief

Grief brings out an onslaught of emotions ranging from depression to rage. One of the toughest parts of grief is that we all walk the road alone. Even when family, friends, and a community of loved ones gather around us to share in that sorrow, each of us has our own unique relationship with the process. Grief is a gift in remembering love in a deep and meaningful way. Grief is a gift none of us want to unpack, but a gift we all have in common. 

Once your heart knows grief, it becomes a part of who you are. From turbulent times to spiritual moments of clarity, grief offers us a deeper understanding of what it means to be human. 

Grief is so powerful that we often feel we need permission to open up about how we feel. Grief, in all its forms, helps connect us and when shared is a powerful tool for healing. 

Whether you are in the heat of grief or mourning the loss of someone lost long ago, we need each other to share in this breath. And we need to have open conversations about other types of grief as well. Grief from a divorce, or loss of a job. Grief from letting go of a long-held dream or parting ways with a dear friend. Grief comes in many forms, and it’s more than losing someone to death.

More than losing a loved one

On the rare occasion that grief is discussed openly in our society, our minds automatically turn toward death and dying. But grief runs much deeper than that.

Grief is one of those words that encompasses a sea of experiences. Attempting to describe it is futile. Grief, like love, has to be felt to be understood. 

  • The grief of a pet stings differently than the grief of losing your mother. 
  • The grief from leaving a relationship feels different than the grief of never finding one.
  • The grief of letting part of your identity go sits differently than the grief one feels from war.

We all face grief. It is the risk of love. It runs deeper than death and it is not dependent on where we come from, or our age, gender, sex, religion or choices we’ve made (both good and bad), our finances, our dream, or our faith. 

Loss and the grief that comes with it are universal.

Grief is the pain we feel on some random Thursday at 3pm in the middle of a lecture. It is the whisper of a memory that catches us without armor on a Tuesday morning drive to work. Grief is the complicated emotions you have around the shattered relationship you thought you so neatly cleaned up 15 years ago. Grief is an unexpected earthquake that wakes you at 4am as your entire life feels like it’s crashing down around you. 

Grief is love that hasn’t been allowed to be expressed.

Grief is a gift

Grief is a form of transition. Without warning or invitation grief comes into our lives. Like love, grief comes without a timeline and without rules. Grief teaches us compassion for other humans in a way that nothing else can. Grief reminds us that the time spent with those we love is important and fleeting. Grief connects us to each other and is a messy gift that we all share.

If we can learn to open up about our grief then we can begin to heal from our grief. Our society treats grief as though it is a dirty little secret that no one should talk about. Yet it is something we all feel. The more you can be open and vulnerable in the story of your grief, the more others will feel safe and connected to you. 

Grief is a part of who we are. It is a gift that unites us. We shy away from grief because it reflects our own pain and sadness; things we don’t want to feel. Much like love, when you grieve you are exposed to feeling hurt. 

Grief is one of the unbreakable bridges that connect us to other human beings. It sheds light on the darkness and reminds us that we are all the same.

Learning to see your grief as a gift can transform you into a more compassionate human. Someone who understands that people and experiences and cultures might be different, but we are all victims of circumstance and that there is nothing more true about love than the grief it brings. 

An Invitation for grief

I invite you to step into your grief and begin to heal yourself and the world around you. Allow it to take you deeper into understanding the web of human connection. Become a witness to your grief and allow others to find solace in your vulnerability. Inside of you is the courage and strength to find meaning in your pain. Find freedom from your fight against grief and allow the waves to take you into surrender and trust. Allow your life to grow beyond the garden of grief within you and learn to share those blossoming flowers with the world around you.

It isn’t going to be easy work, but the rewards are worth it. 

Find your breath again, and let it move deep within your spirit. Bringing life to your body, and purpose to your world. Peace is inside of you now. No matter what stage of grief you are in, feel it. All of it. Allow it space to be felt and be seen because the transformation is what connects us to our humanity and brings us closer to the light. 

Breathing Thru Grief. Sunday, December 4th, 2:30-4. St. Matthews Lutheran Church, Renton WA. -Grief as a Gift- All are welcome.

3 Ways Your Breath Can Help You Say Goodbye to Self Doubt

Draw in Achievement and Release Your Inner Critic

Imagine for a moment that you are completely confident and clear about your what you want from this life. You have absolutely zero doubt that you are living the life meant for you. You know exactly what you are capable of achieving, you know how to achieve it, and you are 100% certain in your ability to receive it. You show up daily with a knowing that your experience is transforming your life for the better. 

How does that feel?

Saying goodbye to your self-doubt is a matter of what thought patterns you are willing to let go of so you can invite in more supportive thought patterns. 

Contemplating what could go wrong is a normal activity most of us play out in our heads as we think about our future and all the what-ifs? of life. But at some point, this type of pro vs. con reasoning can become harmful to our success. Being prepared for the future is a great thing, but expecting the worst is not. The trick is to learn to create a bridge in your thinking that connects a positive outlook to your self-worth. 

When you feel confident and excited about what’s happening in your world you start seeing more results and outcomes in line with that thinking. You stop second-guessing yourself because you know you bring value to the table. This outlook in your thinking brings more positive things into your life and you start feeling like a total badass in all that you do. 

The world needs more people like this. Yet somehow we’ve been tricked into a system of lack that has us feeling low about ourselves and questioning our worth. This type of thinking isn’t helpful when you are seeking joy, happiness, or a greater understanding of self. 

The good news is that if you are ready to say goodbye to self-doubt it begins with asking yourself questions and the willingness to take action in modifying what you see. 

Here are some questions to take on a walk with contemplation…

  • What do I want from this life? Do I even know?
  • What would it mean for me to show up wholly for my family?
  • What would need to change for me to fully embrace my work?
  • Where in my life do I feel like an imposter/fraud?
  • What brings me joy?

Answer these questions and all questions that arise from these questions until you have a clear vision of what a purposeful life would look like for you.

Then ask yourself; What would it feel like to live in that reality?

If you’re anything like me, then this new reality feels pretty darn good. It resonates with a deep desire within your soul. As you allow yourself to feel into the emotions of it, let it be what it is. Try to not put parameters on if it is possible or not. Just know that it IS possible and feel that throughout your entire being. 

Imposter Syndrome

Coming down from the dream cloud can feel like a total buzzkill once impostor syndrome starts tearing you apart. Am I right?

I have a secret to share…

That impostor only lives in your head! No one else is doubting your ability and shaking your confidence. You are doing this to yourself. Self-sabotaging your ideal life before it even got a chance to happen.

Well it’s time to say goodbye to self-doubt

  • It’s time to end this negative self-talk so you can fully show up in your dream life.
  • It’s time to embrace your inner badass and reach your full potential.
  • It’s time to step into your power and start making an impact in your career.
  • It’s time to devote your attention to your relationships with love.
  • It’s time to re-wire your thinking into one of belief and wonder.

This is possible for you! You can say goodbye to self-doubt and overcome impostor syndrome. You can live a life of confidence. 

Breath The Doubt Away

When you consciously work to change your breathing patterns you begin the process of re-wiring your thought patterns. As you slow down and watch your breath you begin to see clearly the thoughts that run on auto-pilot in your mind. Allowing you to identify, catch, and rewire the unwanted doubt into confidence and self-worth. 

Here are 3 ways conscious breathing can help you rewire your brain for success and say goodbye to self-doubt once and for all.

  1. Exhale Out Rumination

From time to time we all get stuck ruminating on negative thoughts and outcomes. Sometimes these negative loops run around in our thoughts for years before we even notice what’s happening. We can become so addicted to these negative loops that it becomes hard to break this chain. Breath of Fire is a great way to stimulate your nervous system by clearing out your lungs and the stagnant thoughts stuck there. As you forcefully exhale out at a fast pace the thoughts in your head take a back seat. This allows you an opportunity to feel beyond the constant mind chatter and begin to actively make new choices about your thinking patterns. 

  • Sit crisscross or hips to heels, allowing your spine to grow long and your belly to fall loose.
  • Forcefully exhale out the nose 10 times as you actively push the navel in towards the spine. (This will feel like a sneeze)
  • Allow the inhales to happen naturally.
  • Keep your shoulders and face relaxed activating only from the belly.
  • After 10 rounds go back to your natural breath.
  • Sense what’s happening in the body.
  • Do 2 more rounds of 10-20 fiery exhales to help clear out the lungs and the mind.
  1. Draw in Achievement 

You have accomplished so much in your life! Self-reflection is a great way to bring those achievements into the present moment. Self-doubt holds you back, and I get it, you don’t want to make a mistake or look silly trying something new. Here is the rub, you must be willing to risk the unknown to achieve greatness. 

Think back to a time you achieved something amazing. I bet you had to work through some fear and anxiety to get to that point, and I bet it was worth it. 

Thinking back on these highlights in your life reminds us that we can do great things and not dwell in doubt. Don’t compare your timeline to others and press forward. 

Triangle Breathing is great for helping you to draw in fresh clean oxygen, bathe in the glory of it, and release what no longer serves. Doing 5-10 rounds of triangle breathing is a great way to draw in new while leaving that inner critic behind.

  • In a chair, lying down, or in a meditation seat. Just allow the belly room to expand.
  • Inhale through the nose for a 4 count as you fill up your belly with air
  • Hold at the top for a 2 count giving this new fresh clean air time to work it’s way into your mind and body
  • Exhale out through pursed lips for a 6 count (like you are blowing out a straw)
  • Take a slight pause at the bottom of your breath
  • Repeat 5-10 times.

When our exhales are longer than our inhales we clear out old air laying dormant in the body. It allows each following inhale to bring in a fuller breath that is new, clean, and ready to actively move energy through your body. 

Triangle breath is a great practice to try anytime day or night. 

  1. Breathe Gratitude Into Your Thoughts
  • Take a full deep inhale through your nose and allow it to travel deep into your belly.
  • Exhale and release tension from your shoulders.
  • Take a few moments to connect with your breath.
  • Invite in the question, “What am I grateful for?”
  • Notice what comes up, it could be as simple as a nice warm bed, or your favorite raincoat. 
  • Begin Box Breathing using this mantra. 
    • Inhale – I receive gratitude
    • Hold –  I hold gratitude
    • Exhale – I offer gratitude
    • Empty – I am gratitude

Allow the offering of gratitude to change as you like. Perhaps box breathing love, or knowledge and understanding. Whatever comes up for you. Feel the words as you receive with the breath and offer out with the breath. 

This whole exercise doesn’t have to take long. Maybe 5 minutes to start. Leaving you feeling more grateful for who you are and what you have to offer. 

Find Support!

Your breath is your constant companion in life. It is there to support you through everything going on in your world if you learn to use it correctly. However, there are times when you may need more support to help you through a tough time, or to help navigate the challenges you are facing. Self-compassion and self-care are essential in today’s world. 

Find supportive people to talk to. Our brains are a wacky world full of neurons that remain a mystery. Sometimes the best way to move forward is to talk to someone about your difficult thought patterns. Someone who can help set you on a path to recovery. 

Others may find that reaching out to groups of people walking a similar path is the medicine they need. 

Whatever challenges are currently on your path there is a way through them. Your breath is one way of helping you clear the weeds in your mind and see that path clearer. It is what works for me. I encourage you to find the solution that works for you. Only you know what that solution is, but please remember when feelings of self-doubt creep into your life, that you are truly doing better than you can imagine, and there are millions of others, just like you, finding our way through doubt as well. 

If you are interested in learning more about how your breath can support you, check out my self-guided online course, Breath Mindset, and begin your healing through breath today. 

Invite More Gratitude into Your Life in 3 Easy Steps!

Take One Month to Reflect and Take Action

When you think about your life, what do you see?

  • Are you grateful for your family?
  • Are you satisfied with your job?
  • Are you thankful for your home?
  • Are you pleased with your health?
  • Are you empowered by your voice?

November is the season of gratitude. It’s the time of year that we turn our attention to all that we have. The more things we find to be grateful for, the more things we feel thankful for! So often we focus on the big things, but what about your everyday needs that are met without any thought? Things like…

  • Indoor plumbing
  • Wifi
  • GPS system
  • Fresh clothes out of the dryer
  • Electricity

Once you start to recognize all the things to give thanks for you find it’s the little things.

  • Warm socks
  • Snuggles with your cat
  • Laughter
  • Hot beverages
  • Your breath

From the sight of a rainbow after a storm to an unexpected moment of contentment during a traffic jam, gratitude helps us keep in mind that things are better than we may have previously believed. 

Learning to appreciate all that we have, from the roof over our heads to the people in our life, stems from all those times growing up when we were told to be grateful for all that we have. And it’s a hard thing to wrap our heads around because as kids, what we have is all we know. We aren’t thinking in terms of more or less, it just is. Once we start to understand what it means to show up wholly in our life, we begin to understand how big all the little things are. 

The small things are the big things

We hear this word, grateful all the time. We are told from a young age how important it is, but what does it actually mean? How can you develop a sense of gratitude in your own life?

Life is moving fast. You have bills, deadlines, carpools, and schedules bouncing around in your head. You have relationships and goals that you’re working on. Who has time to think about gratitude when you’ve got dinner to cook?

Gratitude is a buzzword, and we all get the basics: seek out the good in life. Research shows how beneficial this simple practice can be for your mental and physical well-being. The feeling of gratitude is practiced through action. 

Gratitude is a verb

Just like love and hate are things we feel, so is gratitude. It’s a practiced emotion. So by actively recognizing the good that surrounds us, we put gratitude into action. This recognition holds a transformative power.

“When I started counting my blessings, my whole life turned around.” -Willie Nelson

Gratitude pulls our mindset out from negative viewpoints and into a well of good ones. Now that you have some ideas in your head, start identifying them in your own life daily. Here are 3 ways you can begin practicing gratitude today. 

  1. Keep a Gratitude Journal

How would your life change if every day you started and ended the day by writing out 3 things you are grateful for? When you start identifying what you are grateful for you start looking for things to be grateful for. Counting your blessings trains your mind to see the good in your everyday life. As a bonus, you can look back on your journal and reflect on the blessings of the past and watch how much it grows through the years. 

Finish this sentence: “I am so happy and grateful now that…” 

I can be anything you want. Writing out things you are happy and grateful for begins to attract those things to you. Bob Proctor gave us this nugget of knowledge in the widely successful movie The Secret. It’s one of the simplest ways to get your mindset into that of gratitude. 

  1. Write Thank You Notes

When you begin to notice all the blessings of your life you will want to share this feeling with others. A great way to show appreciation is to write a thank you note. Nothing long or fancy, just a simple thank you is enough. When you take time to write out a thank you note it can boost your mood. Signaling a positive outlook on the world reflects back more positivity and gratitude. When you take the time to let someone know they are appreciated not only takes your mind off your own troubles, but it lightens the load of another. 

Next time you’re at the store pick up some thank you cards to have on deck. Then when the moment comes you are ready. Don’t think about it, just do it. Either as an active practice of gratitude in the moment or take an hour once a week or month to commit to writing and sending a couple out. 

Read more about the unexpected joy of sending a card here.

  1. Breathwork in Gratitude

When you start to breathe deeply you start to connect to what is real and true in your world. It’s not always what you had in mind but it is always worth your time. Using your breath to breathe in gratitude helps create a cycle of positive energy moving in, through, and out of you. This type of mindful reflection teaches you to accept without judgment. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to accomplish so much and we often forget to slow down and appreciate all that we do. Breathwork is time to sit silently or with a recording that actively reduces stress. 

When you think thoughts of gratitude and appreciation as you take mindful breaths we get the sensation that you are actively inhaling that which we are grateful for. 

Try them for one month!

Give these 3 practices a try. November is a great time to flex your gratitude. Online challenges and games are everywhere this time of year and as we move closer to Thanksgiving we can reflect on good instead of commercial craziness. 

If you are in the Seattle area, I’m hosting 3 90-minute Yin, YogaNidra, and Sound Healing workshops throughout the area the week of Thanksgiving to guide us all into a deep feeling of gratitude to be carried through the holiday season and beyond. 

7 Coping Skills to Survive Your Grief This Holiday Season

Healthy Ways to Navigate Grief During The Holidays

The holiday season is not always merry and bright. Sometimes it can feel downright awful. Especially for those experiencing grief. Not just in the loss of a loved one, it could be a divorce or the loss of a job or pet. Maybe this is your first holiday without your kids or your parents. It’s normal to feel apprehensive about the days ahead. Unfortunately, there is no roadmap for getting through your grief. There are, however, tips and tricks used by millions before you that can help you navigate the holiday season. 

Identify Coping Skills

Grief is a complicated emotion and it’s hard to know what will trigger it. You can prepare for certain events and situations but often the unexpected moments take your breath away. As we approach the time of merriment it’s a good idea to identify a couple of coping skills you can turn to when grief hits you unexpectedly. 

The best coping skills are the ones that work for you! But all coping skills work better when you practice using them. Below are 7 coping skills that help you connect in the tough moments that leave you less than cheery this holiday season.

  1. Be Clear About Boundaries

You are not required to participate in anything. It is okay to say you need time and space. You do not need to be present if you don’t want to. Too often we experience pressure to attend family gatherings, holiday parties, or yearly outings. Although this may come from a place of love, you get to decide what is okay for you. 

Before you say yes to any holiday gathering, sit with it. Do a couple of deep breaths as you mentally see yourself at this event. Feel what you feel. Connect to your readiness for such an occasion. Then you can commit or decline from a place central to your needs. 

Balance is the key. Jumping into all the activities could be good for you, but so could sitting out on one or two. Don’t push yourself and acknowledge that this season will have tough moments and that you will survive them all. 

  1. Honor and Create New Traditions

Consider how to handle certain roles ahead of time. Filling the empty space left by a loved one can trigger grief. You can avoid these moments by preparing for how they will be handled. This can be extremely helpful, especially if children are involved. If Dad always lit the tree or cut the turkey, come prepared with new traditions to fill that now empty role. Creating new roles for yourself and others to help honor and fill a hole can be both healing and powerful. It’s a great way to remember traditions that once were and adapt to new beginnings in a celebratory way.

Keep in mind that creating new memories doesn’t replace old memories. Acknowledge any feelings of guilt that arise in the process of assigning roles or switching up your routine. It’s okay for your feelings to be felt as you process the passage of tradition.

  1. Volunteer

They say that the quickest way to lift your mood is by helping another. When we take our attention off of our own grief and sadness by lightening the load of another, we are lifted by that act. There are hundreds of ways to volunteer and lots of organizations looking for support. 

Check in with your local service clubs, churches, retirement homes, and soup kitchens. 

You may even find it so healing that the volunteering continues past the holiday season. 

  1. Gifts in Memory Of

One of the more challenging things about grief is that everyone grieves differently. This can make for some hard dynamics. Family events might seem disjointed and forced and it’s not your responsibility to make others feel comfortable. 

As you make space for your own grief, you must allow others to find their way through their own. 

One way to invite everyone together is through gifts that honor your loss. It’s a great way to say I understand and love you without forcing anyone into anything they are not ready for. Making a memorial ornament or donating to the deceased’s favorite charity for the family members is a great token of recognition. Something as simple as serving their favorite dish can unite a family as you struggle to figure out the new normal. 

  1. Look for Gratitude

No one should be asking you to have it all together, and no one should expect you to not feel angry, upset, or frustrated by your grief. When you’re in grief it’s important to feel what you feel. Identify the emotions. Allow them to be there. This in itself is a form of gratitude. Taking time to acknowledge yourself and your feelings is huge! And something to express gratitude about. Use this as a launchpad into discovering all there is to be grateful for in this process. 

I had a client who recently lost her brother. A friend of hers lost his brother 8 years ago. He told her that he was jealous of her grief because it was so new and raw and rich. That he missed feeling all the emotions of grief. Even though life seemed impossible while he was grieving he was grateful for his ability to feel love for his brother so deeply.

Gratitude comes in many forms. Seek it where you can and hold it to add wonder to this challenging time. 

  1. Find Your Breath

Connecting to your breath can be one of the most empowering things you can do while grieving. There are a ton of ways to start connecting to a deeper breath:

  • Going for a walk
  • Meditating
  • Yoga

Breathing practices can be done in as little as 3-5 minutes and can be used to help you release tension from your body. 

Here’s a simple one you can do anytime you are feeling overwhelmed and need to calm your nerves:

  • Find a comfortable seat (or in your car, or in the supermarket line).
  • Place a hand over your abdomen and one on your heart (if not driving).
  • Allow your belly to gently inflate as you inhale through your nose.
  • Hold for a moment at the top to notice your nice full round belly.
  • Exhale gently through your mouth while making a drawn-out “SSSHHHHHHHH” sound. (like air leaking out of a tire)
  • Repeat 5-10 times. 

In Chinese medicine, grief is housed in our lungs. You can begin to release the pain associated with grief by healing your lungs. This is done through conscious breathing practices like the one listed above. 

  1. Take Time For Yourself

This is the time to practice self-care. Your loving family and friends have their own grief issues and can only support you so far. Grief is often a road we walk alone. This doesn’t mean hide it away or bury it inside– it means you must find a way to build a life around it. Like planting a garden, you allow room for growth. Taking time for yourself to process is a big part of moving through uncertainty. Consider…

  • Taking your grief for a walk
  • Treating your grief to a bath
  • Visiting your grief in a photo album or home video

The trick is to allow grief to be there without consuming you. Refer often to the breath practice here or find one that works for you. I have a Breathing Through Grief meditation on my YouTube channel and many other breathing practices to choose from. Explore the best practices for you, so you have that toolbox built.

Just as you allow happiness to flow into your life, allow grief to do the same. It’s okay to openly grieve and let others know this is a challenging time for you. Be kind to yourself this holiday and turn towards your breath to help the emotions pass through with ease. 

If you are interested in joining me this coming Sunday at St. Matthews Church in the Renton Highlands, I will be leading, along with Pastor Kacey Hahn, our Breathing Through Grief workshop. In this 90-minute session, we will explore what it means to grieve through the holidays. 

I would love to hear from you and know what works for you when you feel overwhelmed by grief. And if you need a nonpartisan voice to listen to please contact the 24-hour crisis hotline at 206-461-3222

In closing, remember you are not alone. When grief is shared we find that many are dealing with their own set of grievances and together we can find a light to carry us through.