This month I have an article published in Yoga Magazine called ‘How Yin (yoga) helped me grieve’ (you can read it here). It’s the most open, honest & vulnerable pieces of writing I’ve had published & I love it. And reading it now, 5 months since I wrote it, I realise there’s more to it, something enabled me to grieve when & how I did.
And, in the way these things do, it came to me in the middle of the night. Of course, it’s the 2 Ps. For me both Permission and Place were essential to grieving & they lead me to a beautiful & magical 3rd P (which you’ll have to read to the end to discover).
You may know my story & if not – in brief, there were many reasons why I believed that feeling into grief wasn’t for me so I shoved everything I didn’t want to feel into a box. And there it all stayed. Until it didn’t.
Eventually, realising I couldn’t go on anymore I asked a therapist friend for a magic wand. Of course she didn’t have one & instead suggested I saw a therapist which I reluctantly did. She helped me to dig into the box which held my feelings & I discovered that it wasn’t so scary after all.
A few months later I started yoga & attended a public class despite believing that I’d be the oldest & least bendy in the room & the only one wearing baggy clothes.
After a while & deciding that I loved Yin most I asked my lovely teacher Emma for 1-1 lessons. As I write in the article, I thought I wanted to learn the poses, but what I found was a safe place to grieve.
Each of these steps was huge, especially asking for help because I was brought up to believe that I could fix everything on my own. And, looking back I realise that;
Each step was preceded by giving myself permission both to go against everything I’d learned & to be open to the possibility that there could be another way.
What does giving yourself permission mean?
I first came across the idea of consciously giving myself permission in Brené Brown’s work. She’s an advocate of writing herself permission slips especially to feel & as she says ‘you might be the first person in your life to grant yourself the permission you need to experience emotion.’
As she says, permission is about intention setting &, whilst I agree with her, I believe I can be more than that, much more.
I believe it’s about giving yourself permission to be you.
Think about this for a moment, since you were a child your parents & caregivers tried to mould you into the person they wanted you to be. In order to be that person, you’ve put on armour and defences which cover up the real you deep inside. And over the years (especially as you tried to become a mother), you’ve added more & more layers of armour. So maybe now, you’re covered in so much armour that you don’t know who you are.
What if giving yourself permission to grieve opened the door not only to finding happiness, and maybe even joy but also to discovering your true self hidden under all that armour?
How fabulous would that be?
What if I can’t give myself permission?
I understand that asking you to ‘go against everything you’ve learned & to be open to the possibility that there could be another way’ is huge. . So if giving yourself permission is too hard, ask yourself whose permission do I need? I’ve heard Elizabeth Gilbert talk about this & she suggests that breaking the contracts that have been with us our whole life might need a higher level of permission. If this is the case imagine the ultimate authority, perhaps the supreme head teacher who can gran you the permission you need.
In this instance your permission slip would be something like this… ‘I am the head teacher & I give you permission to (or not to)…….’
And yes, in addition to granting yourself permission to do or to feel something, you can give yourself permission not to. These days I’m pretty open about being childless & sometimes I don’t want to talk about it, so in these instances I give myself permission not to. And of course you can do this too, as long as it doesn’t become a strategy to add more layers of armour.
So pause for a moment & ask yourself, what permission do I need to give myself to be open to grieving?
Then write yourself whatever permission slips you need.
I first came across the concept of finding specific places to grieve in Lisa Manterfield’s book, ‘Life Without Baby; Surviving & Thriving When Motherhood Doesn’t Happen’ & I didn’t quite get it (the original concept, as Lisa acknowledges is from Martha Beck’s book, ‘Finding Your Own North Star; How to claim the life you were meant to live’).
At the time I had the idea that you’re either grieving, or not, it’s not something you can turn on or off. And maybe that’s the case in the early days but I now believe that, after the initial tsunami has passed, you can give yourself the appropriate time & space to dig into your grief.
Creating a safe place
As I’ve said my safe spaces were initially my therapist’s office & yoga lessons. After a while my mind & body created anchors of safety including the sound of Emma’s voice, particular pieces of music, a bracelet I always wear for yoga, my yoga mat & a couple of poses where my body remembers letting go.
Any combination of these anchors relaxes me & puts me in the safe space where I know it’s ok to let go. Now my safe spaces include to my own yoga mat in whatever class I find myself & I’ve also used these anchors to create my own space at home in the spare room where I go to read, write, listen to music & podcasts, do yoga & be with whatever comes up.
So ask yourself how can I create a nurturing, empathic & safe environment where I can surrender to my feelings?
And what anchors can I create for myself?
And the 3rd P?
I’ll give you a clue by quoting the final paragraphs from the article:
‘What I do know is that box, which once held everything I didn’t want to feel has gone forever, and in its place I feel everything inside. I’m connected to places inside me I never knew were there, deeper and more beautiful than I could imagine. I’m more content, confident and peaceful and, for the first time in my life I feel comfortable in my own skin.
I spent years running from the pain and now I realise now numb I used to be. Opening myself up to feeling grief and sadness has let much more happiness and joy into my life. Thanks to my Yin practice and to Emma I have no words to describe how wonderful and magical my life is.’
As I look back 5 months from writing it, I realise that giving myself permission & a place to grieve have brought me to a place of peace deeper than I ever thought possible. I feel peaceful throughout every fibre of my being & it’s lovely.
My 3rd P is peace
I believe finding peace is absolutely possible for you. We are the same & if I can get to this place then I believe you can.
There’s (hard) work to be done which might test you & take you to places where you are challenged with every fibre of your being but the results are absolutely worth it.
What if, giving yourself permission to grieve enabled you to find peace; how magical would that be?
Please take the first step.
What do you think?
Did my words resonate with you? What permission do you need to give yourself to take the first few steps towards a new life?
If you’re not sure what those steps are, you’ll find help in my book Finding Joy Beyond Childlessness.
And you can find out more about the magical Emma Peel here.