Readers: Greetings! If you have been following this blog, please read on. If not, I invite you to return to the beginning in order to get the most from this article on moving through grief to grace. Toward the end, you’ll see an asterisk(*), following what might be an unfamiliar yoga expression. At the bottom of the page, it is clearly defined.
Way 2: Loving Community
After Sarah Grace died, it was essential to surround myself with loving people who could understand that I was bearing the unbearable. My beloved friend Eileen Quinn told me she was sending a letter to the 350 Kripalu residents to tell them what they could and could not say when we met in the hallways. Together we concocted a script for them. We wrote that it was important to acknowledge Sarah Grace. She was my daughter; she had a name.
They could say:
“Congratulations on an amazing delivery.”
Or “I am so sorry that Sarah Grace died.”
They could not say,
“I know how you feel.”
Or “You can always have another baby.”
Or, worst of all: “It must have been God’s will. She is with God now.”
Our letter was put in all the mailboxes. I was spared ignorant condolences. Instead I was treated with gentle respect by everyone in building.
Equally as important is the loving community of my own multidimensional self, which relates to the yogic koshas, or layers of the self. Immediately after Sarah Grace died, I discovered that there were all kinds of parts of me that needed comforting too, not just my broken heart and shattered soul. I realized I had to offer succor to my aching arms, and my excruciatingly painful breasts. I understood at a visceral level that my body had emotions too. I had known this intellectually through my yoga practice, but now I experienced it in living color. My body was grieving. It had waited nine whole months to feed its baby, and she was ripped away. My body couldn’t do its job. My physical being – known in yogic anatomy as the ‘anamayakosha*, the first layer of the self ‘ – hurt in a myriad of ways.
My arms, which had been waiting to hold Sarah Grace—how they ached! I started to pat them, telling them they had done a good job. My breasts were in agony. I told them how sorry I was. I realized that the milk that had been stored up and ready to feed my daughter was instead going inside, to feed me. I thanked my breasts. I felt so bad for them that I actually said, “I’m sorry for your loss,” as if my body was an altogether separate entity. I began to sooth and cherish my multidimensional self, the community that made up me.
I was doing all this by sheer instinct. Years later, when Positive Psychology entered my life, I learned that cherishing and loving the self is called “being in one’s own choir.” All parts of me make up the choir that is Megha. Paying attention to all the members of my choir is a Positive Psychology tenet that resides under the umbrella of resilience.
* The five Koshas, or layers, relate to the parts of the self. In yoga anatomy, there are five of these layers:
First layer: Anamayakosha: the physical body
Second layer: Pranamayakosha: the breath
Third layer: Manomayakosha: the mind and heart
Fourth layer: Vijnanamayakosha: the witness
Fifth layer: Ananadamayakosha: Bliss!
Megha-Nancy Buttenheim, M.A., is the founder of Let Your Yoga Dance: Grace in Motion®. An international presenter and corporate trainer, Megha is a 27 year teacher-trainer at Kripalu Center in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. She is also a faculty member at the Nosara Yoga Institute in Guanacaste, Costa Rica and Kind Yoga School in Cape Cod, MA. She brings her passion and expertise as a lifelong dancer, actress, singer, yogi, and educator in experiential learning to all her workshops and trainings.