Starting Monday, February 19th (7-8:15p.m. @ Wesley United Methodist Church) I will be offering a 4-week series on Yoga & Grief. Yes, I just started a 4-week series on Yoga & Chronic Pain. We are going to keep this party going and go into grief too. Correct me (in the quiet of your mind) if I’m wrong, but the chronic pain class seems like an easier, less vulnerable class to sign-up for. Most of us think of chronic pain as an identifiable point, area, or place on the body that is generating pain. Chronic pain has more or less logical symptoms like migraines or immobility in your shoulder.
Grief is not like that.
While grief can be felt in your body, it doesn’t make as much sense to say (to your doctor, employer, friend) that your low back pain or that overwhelming flu-like ache all over is grief. And I don’t know that we experience grief in a linear, sequential way in which you get to grieve one thing at a time, at the “appropriate” time, and then be done with it. Sometimes grief seems to me to be like a dust-bunny in the corner that attracts all the other random bits and unrelated pieces of grief to it and it becomes complicated and unwieldy, so that there are all these emotions inextricably wound together…and where do you even start? How do you unwind this anger from that sadness and that really complicated loss/change/transition?
On June 24th, 2002 Cassidy Power Bass was brought into the world. She had died a few hours earlier in the very same 9 month-full womb in which she came to life. She was my niece & the beloved first child of my older brother & his wife. They were in Colorado, so my family drove out there to be with them. It was an overwhelming, deep sadness that I hadn’t felt before & I haven’t felt since. We all held and stared at Cassidy, who had absolutely nothing wrong with her, except that she wasn’t alive, which was everything. From what I remember, there had been an abnormality in the blood flow of the umbilical cord for just long enough that she died. There was no one to blame or hold accountable for this horrible tragedy. It just happened.
I started my very first job as a pastor that August in a church full of young families in southern California. October is “Infant Loss Remembrance” month, so I held an evening prayer service of remembrance for all those who had lost babies; stillbirth, miscarriage, or any other heartbreaking loss of an infant. The week before the service several people sent me emails saying how much they appreciated knowing that it was happening, but they didn’t feel like they could “make it” through the service. After worship on the Sunday morning of the prayer service, people squeezed my hand and tearfully asked me to remember the baby they had lost 25 years ago, or their sister’s baby, or their next door neighbor who had a miscarriage last week, and on and on. Based on so many people talking to me about it, I expected a big crowd for the actual service. It was me and 3 other women; lighting candles and weeping for them all.
Cassidy’s death opened my eyes to the reality of a seemingly undercover world of grief. It isn’t that I didn’t know people were grieving. It became poignantly clear that we were all grieving so many things in so many ways and still getting up in the morning. It’s not just the big & obvious ones like the death of a loved one. The end of a relationship, even if you did the ending, requires grieving. The diagnosis of disease demands grief. Long prayed for adoptions falling through brings grief upon grief upon grief. Aging parents, accidents & injuries, job loss, community lost, dreams lost.
Grief is complicated. If we could rationally think our way through it, I wouldn’t be writing this blog post or offering this class. I’m offering a Yoga & Grief class as another way to move through it. We aren’t going to think our way out of this, so let’s go in through the window of the body and let your tired and hard-working brain rest a little. Sometimes I think that the best thing that a yoga practice provides is a chance to literally breathe more than normal – like actually inhaling and exhaling more. It pulls the pressure release valve in your body and simply brings relief.
In this class we will practice a chair-based yoga, which means that we use the chair for sitting, standing next to, and stabilizing. We do not get down on the floor at all. No experience with yoga is necessary. You’ll be great. We will talk about some concepts in yoga philosophy and stories from the Bible that provide yet another window to look at the experience of grief. This is not a “talk therapy” grief group. While I think that is really important to be able to do, this will primarily be a time to learn and develop the spiritual practice of yoga in your daily life, in the midst of grief & loss. Does that make sense? I hope so. Everyone is welcome. The cost is $5 per class, like all my other classes. Please invite your friends & family. I’m inviting You. Please come. It’s okay if you have to miss a class or two. You don’t need to register but it’s always nice to know you are coming, so send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you plan to come.
If you are in the midst of that really heavy, hard time of grief and can’t imagine getting to the class, that is okay. Trust your gut. It’s not your last chance. When you are ready – show up. Show up to a class that works for you and just start then, even if it isn’t called yoga & grief. If you have questions or concerns, please write me an email and we can figure something out. ok?
Peace on your head, you.