When an instant changes everything about your life, there is the before and the after.
Before the stillbirth of my daughter, I was an active, energetic thirty-five-year-old woman who trusted the relationship between my mind and my body. I had a sense of knowing that if I asked my body to do something, to perform, it would.
And then on that day, when my body wasn’t able to deliver our daughter safely, all bets were off. My mind no longer believed my body could do even the simplest of tasks.
I noticed this change during a retreat a few months after Adeline Grace was stillborn. We spent days immersed in the healing embrace of nature, taking deep breaths, attempting to fill our souls with fresh air.
Somewhere along the way, I began to notice a storm raging within me. My legs burned; my feet hurt; my lungs struggled to take in air; my frustrations grew. What I had once known to be easy was now hard. Really hard.
I kept telling myself to “just keep going,” that all would be fine.
However, sometimes our bodies know things that we do not.
They tell us stories and send us messages, and mine was screaming at me to slow down. I did not want to slow down because I knew slowing down meant having to face the sadness, the pain, the hurt, the emotions of not only the loss of my daughter but also the broken bridge between my body and mind.
I didn't know how to mend that bridge. I really thought I just needed to get physically stronger and everything would be ok.
So I started with what I knew. I forced myself out of bed and into running shoes. I tried all the things I used to do before, but nothing helped. I had very little energy and developed plantar fasciitis in both of my feet.
My body was literally rejecting everything I did.
For all of my good intentions and effort, there seemed to be so much resistance.
I realized what had worked in the before would not work in the after.
I had to find another way, a different way, a way that worked for this new me.
Follow Your Intuition
With that in mind, I made attempts to slow down and to listen to what my body needed.
I was having difficulty falling asleep at night, so I considered what might help me relax before bed. After several google searches, I found Bedtime Yoga by Yoga with Adriene (who is awesome and I now love her videos). Within that simple and subtle practice, I found a way to start connecting with what I had lost, to slow down, to feel my own body, and to acknowledge not only what my physical self needed but also what my broken emotional self needed too.
It felt natural and comfortable. I was at home, safe in my own space. There were no commitments. There were no preconceived notions. It was just me and my mat (and sometimes pillows to cradle and to support… or to soak up the tears).
As nature would have it, once you start doing something that feels good you start to crave more. I soon added a short morning practice to help connect with my intentions for the day ahead.
Listen to Your Heart
It’s amazing how our bodies hold onto and remember the pain of trauma. Any time I attempted to “push myself” physically, I was immediately reminded of the physical stresses of labor and the emotional pain of our loss. With those memories came the flood of emotions.
If I wanted to get strong, I was going to have to find a way to acknowledge my heart, as I integrated movement. Yoga encouraged me to explore my physical boundaries and yet allowed me to honor my emotional limits at the same time. There’s an acceptance around doing what feels right for you, not exactly what someone’s instructing you to do. It allows for exploration in a manner that feels right for you.
Cultivating Patience and Acceptance
No relationship is built in a day; it takes time. The relationship between my body and mind has been complicated by the loss of my daughter. I have this desire for everything “to go back to normal” as quickly as possible, as if returning to “normal” would make it hurt a little less.
There is the before, and there is the after.
No sense of normal will ever make the longing for her go away, yet my heart desires the simplicity of my former life. Yoga reminds me to breathe, to accept, and to acknowledge where I am now and what I’ve been through. No judgement or expectations, only an acceptance where you are right now.
That, my friends, is a precious gift, especially for someone who now lives in a state of longing for something she will never have.
I’ve been able to take this practice off the mat as I learn to live in my new normal. I’m able to use these practices to heal not only my mind/body relationship but also my heart.
When you’re hurting, try noticing your intuition. What is it guiding you towards? Try something different. Explore. Listen to your heart. What does it need most? Be kind to yourself by finding patience and acceptance. Give yourself a little grace.
Yoga has been instrumental in helping me do just that. I’m a long way from bridging the gap, but I feel like I’m on my way.