May we rise from these challenges wiser and stronger, more resourceful and resilient, more connected to ourselves, our local and global communities, and our beautiful planet Earth.
The night I found the love my life dead, my heart and life were shattered into a million pieces that never quite fit back together in the same way.
Surviving the experience changed me.
There is so much to grapple with in dealing with a sudden and tragic death, especially when the human is your daily person, the death is by suicide, and burden of trauma has worked its way into every cell of your being from finding the loved one.
It will be 5 years in just two short months for me since I stepped into an unknown, scary new reality. My first and foremost goal in navigating the years following that moment was to not let the experience completely destroy me.
There were many days it did, but I kept fighting for my life and my sanity. Some days the fight was to just keep myself alive and from becoming an addict, but my ultimate goal was to learn to thrive again.
I share this with you, because I had to learn skills for navigating the unknown alongside a massive, sudden life and trajectory change while carrying a ton of emotional baggage, depression, and PTSD.
Considering the corona virus times we are living in, many lives have changed dramatically and suddenly, people are suffering and families are facing tremendous grief. This piece is here to remind you that if you are feeling confused, scared, depressed, isolated, angry, panicked, frustrated, grief, heartache, or sadness – it’s ok. This is a time to feel big.
It’s also a time to go deep within and to get ok with the unknown and change. It’s a time to look at our habits of mind, our values and ethics, our coping strategies, our relationship to our families and communities, and to the natural world.
If you are struggling out here in the unknown – in this new version of life that has shaken up the planet in just a few short months, I am offering this piece to support you with some of the skills and strategies I had to learn when my heart and world imploded.
I am currently quarantined on a sailboat in the Caribbean Sea off the island of St. Kitts. I have a lot of time to think, create, nourish myself, and to choose to find my own personal contentment. This way of living didn’t come naturally to me – I had to work for it.
Unraveling old coping strategies that were no longer working for me while navigating PTSD, depression, addictive tendencies, complicated grief, an empty nest, moving, leaving my job, and the death of my Granny was never easy work.
But I stuck with it.
Sometimes I found myself in complete despair and devastation with no tools or hope to get me to a place of recovery. I was often lost and felt alone in my grief and pain, but I made a few hard and fast rules for myself to get through my darkest days.
These lessons I took from surviving my partner’s suicide seem pertinent to surviving the challenges that many are facing in the wake of this pandemic. Living with sudden changes, uncertainty, and economic hardship is rattling. The fear, anxiety, and being in isolation while being inundated with media, mixed messages, and ultimately a lot of division, confusion and fear of each other is a lot to cope with.
Often times the coping strategies we have devised or employed aren’t really so helpful or even possible to use at this time of quarantine and learning new ones in the midst of all of this chaos is not easy.
These are some of the key things that worked for me in my darkest and most terrifying days – the strategies I’d come back to time and time again that became my building blocks for a different version of life. Not necessarily better or worse – just an entirely new version, which may be what happens on the other side of this pandemic for many people.
~*~Nourish yourself in all ways healthy and tender~*~
Practice loving kindness to yourself through nutrition, positive self-talk, resting when you need to, and consistent self-care and self-love practices that work for you.
~*~Be fluid. Be supple. Find contentment in the unknown~*~
This takes time and practice. Remember, what doesn’t bend breaks. Allow yourself to move through the layers of feelings that come up to ultimately find acceptance. You may feel grief, anger, fear, sadness, etc., but the more you allow yourself to feel it all, the more you can let go and find ultimate acceptance and contentment.
Focus on the blessings in your life that are worth living for. A simple way to begin a gratitude practice is before getting out of bed each morning list all the things you are grateful for, either silently or out loud.
~*~Listen to your own body, observe your mind, and be in the present moment with the natural world.~*~
Turn off your TV, your phone, and your computer and take breaks from all of the technology and media and get comfortable with all of the parts of yourself. Allow yourself to feel your feelings, to notice your habits of mind, to feel the air on your skin and your breath, and notice the natural world all around you. That hasn’t changed. Nature is still there doing her thing – striving for a state of balance and harmony.
~*~Find a daily movement practice that works for you.*~*
There are so many options out there. Find a practice that works for you and stick with it until it doesn’t serve you anymore. Sometimes we have to change our movement practice when our bodies, minds, or circumstances change. Be willing to adapt and find what works for you today, knowing that it may not be the right practice for you tomorrow.
~*~Stay out of the “what-if” thinking~*~
Spending too much time spinning out the different scenarios, worrying about the unknown future, and trying to work out all the variables in a time of uncertainty is a big energy and time zap. We have never been in this territory before. Many questions will have to stay unanswered for now.
That’s not to say that coming up with plan A, B, and C isn’t a bad idea, but spending too much time trying to work everything out is counterproductive. Life is uncertain. We create routines, habits, and patterns to feel safe and more in control of a reality we truly can’t control. There are times when the uncertainty of everything is more evident than others. Learning to roll with that reality and stepping away from the “what-ifs” and into the present moment can be relieving for your body, mind, and spirit.
~*~If your coping strategies are not working for you anymore, find new ones~*~
There’s lots of info on this available with a quick internet search, a self-help book, or by talking to friends or family to hear what strategies they are employing. Be curious. Experiment to find the right mix of tools and practices for you today.
~*~Cultivate a spiritual practice~*~
You don’t have to be religious to have a spiritual practice.If you already have a spiritual practice in place, tend to it and continue to have faith in the process. If you don’t already have one, start simply. It can be as simple as a practice of maintaining loving kindness to yourself and everyone you come into contact with, or practicing feeling more reverence and gratitude for everyday objects and events. There are many options here – the important thing is that you find something that resonates with you that you can trust in and continue to return home to no matter where you are.
~*~Plant new seeds~*~
Symbolically planting new seeds can be a very valuable practice during times of upheaval and change. You can do this both literally and figuratively. Set your intentions for what you’d like to grow in this next chapter of your life as you plant seeds in the soil. Planting seeds of thought, like plans and ideas, can also be helpful. When you scatter seeds they don’t all grow, but if you keep planting them something will take root.
I am creative and resourceful.
I am resilient.
I am loved. I am safe. I am alive.
I am healthy.
My existence is a miracle.