Grief and Loss to Yoga and Self Love.
I came across a social media post this week that asked what trauma or challenge I’ve been through in my life that has made me into the person I am today. This got me thinking back to a 2 year phase of my life where I suffered so many losses in many ways.
I don’t normally share my deepest traumas, but sometimes it’s good to tell your story, the sad and the happy parts. I’m not a great writer, but this comes from the heart.
The Grief and Loss
I was 19 almost 20 and in my first year at university, I felt all grown up as I’d left the safety and security of family and home and was living away studying and having to take care of myself.
Life was fun and exciting meeting new and interesting people from all over the world, I had a part time job to support myself and the Business Economics course I was studying was really engaging, but by July 1995 my world changed. Sadly my family unit broke down and my parents separated, so my once solid unit was no more, emotions were high and dad moved away.
It’s 1996 and I still had a good loving relationship with dad, but things weren’t the same. Financially things became very difficult for my mum and sister, the family business had been struggling anyway.
Now it’s April 1997, mum is very poorly, having suffered with a chronic digestive disease most of her life, she is rushed to hospital and given emergency bowel surgery, it’s from this point we discover she had bowel cancer, a large part of the bowel is removed and she begins the horrendous life draining treatment of chemotherapy. Mum was told that the latest statistics for her condition she’d have between 0-6 years if she’s lucky.
So we’re just surviving life a day at a time, riding the rollercoaster of emotions as the losses mount up. The loss that she may never see us graduate, our careers, wedding day happily married, and have children and all the usual things that mothers and daughters would look forward to. I was lucky and mum, although poorly made it to my graduation in August 1997.
Within weeks it came to the point where our family home was sold, for financial reasons and the grim possibilities that lie ahead. We had to get rid of a lot of things to fit into a 3 bedroom flat. Mum negotiated a reduced rent that she knew my sister and I could afford if she wasn’t around. We settled into this new home ok and I’m with mum more while my sister is backwards and forwards to university.
Come December the universe shines a little light on me and I meet my now husband, my rock and soul mate. I’m truly blessed that mum got to meet him. We get through Christmas and New Years taking as many photos as possible and making the most of what would become just memories.
February 1998 it got worse and we really hit an all time low when we’re told her cancer has spread to too many places in the liver to operate and so the diagnosis is terminal, weeks maybe months. My sister has just turned 21, is still at uni, I’m 22 and I’ve left my part time job to be with mum, times are tight. She deteriorates and there’s drugs and wonderful MacMillan nurses day and night, and I’m never really sure what day it is.
The emotions that flood through you when you have a loved one right in front of you, but you know in a very short space of time they won’t be, are indescribable, time stands still, but also rushes past at the same time. She planned her own funeral and I vividly remember timing the length of Nimrod by Elgar for her, a piece of music she loved which would be played as we wheel her coffin into the church for the service. Whenever I hear it now it still brings back these happy and painful memories.
You long for their pain to end, but you know your own deep heart wrenching loss comes with that. Then just before 2am on Saturday 28th March 1998 the nurses woke me to hold mums hand as she passed away at home with us and close family, she is free now, returning home to her source. It’s all very confusing. I’m numb and emotional at the same time, but we’ve hit the bottom and the only way is up.
The Journey to Yoga
My spiritual and holistic nature started before mum passed, so when it happened and in between the many deep emotional releases, I had a calming belief that her soul had just moved on and was somewhere looking down on me.
My understanding that energy can never die, it just changes state was comforting. I also have an innate belief that everything happens for a reason, even if it can’t be seen then or for many years. I’m still not sure why this became part of my journey and maybe I never will, but all I know, is that I’m happy now, married with two wonderful sons and she’s not in my life and that’s ok. The foundation she gave me was enough and the lessons learnt since of compassion, knowing that life is too short for disharmony, disagreements and words left unsaid is what’s shaped me.
My love of meditation began at university, I practiced “Loving Kindness Meditations” and “Mindfulness of breath” with a local Buddhist group, these practices were paramount in my healing. My interest in yoga began here too. As the years passed I learnt reiki, the gentle internal healing of Tai Chi. Yoga and holistic therapies (massage, indian head massage, reflexology, crystal healing to name a few) became a larger part of my life and living and teaching yoga has become my calling.
Yoga has taught me Self Love
Deepening my knowledge of yoga has allowed me to learn and connect back to my true self. Understanding my chakra energy is always a guide for me to reset and restore when I’m out of balance. Yoga awakens my conscious awareness on physical, emotional and mental levels. Although I teach, I will always consider myself a student of yoga, there is always something else to learn within yourself on this beautiful journey.
What yoga has taught me is self acceptance, to be comfortable in my true nature without judgement. There are times I am very serene and calm as most of you see me, but I still have moments where I’m tested, frustrated and angry and that’s ok. This is all very healthy, anger, fear are all human emotions and being able to sit with these feelings while they move through you is key. Emotion is just energy in motion and as with everything, it too shall pass. In fact it’s incredibly healing to release emotions that can get locked in our cellular memory that repeat until we address the lesson it’s trying to share with us and we can finally release, forgive within and move on.
This self acceptance leads to practices in self care and eventually a healthy level of self love. Taking away the strange feelings the ego may feel with the idea of “Self Love”, self love is a wonderful state to be in. If you can fully love yourself, and by this I mean taking care of yourself physically, with exercise and clean diet, nurturing your mind with space for learning and stillness, have healthy boundaries to balance your energies, and to know the joy of loving and giving, you will be able to love others in this way too, but it starts with you.
I’m not sure we can always be in a state of self love all the time as there will be things from our past and present and worries about the future that test this, but if we recognise the challenges that come up as exactly that, these small elements of our journey become the tapestry of our lives, then we can consciously return to the state of calm, joy and peace that self love brings.
For me it is the practice of yoga and meditation that help me return to this self love state time and time again, and I suppose what I’m saying here is that whatever challenges you’ve faced in life, hopefully they’ve made you a stronger, more loving and compassionate person as a result.
Love Zanna xxx
What a wonderfully written story. You are who you are because of your experiences and what a wonderful person you are!
Thank you for your really kind words. Experiences definitely shape you xx
Hi Zanna, I have only just had time to read your story. What an inspiration you are! You know a bit about my story and how my life has changed since my health condition diagnosis. Yoga has really helped me not only physically but mentally which for my condition is very important. I have just started an online mindfulness course for people with long term health conditions like myself. I am learning alot about myself but also how much meditation and mindfulness is in our yoga practice Luisa xxx
Hi Luisa, Thank you for taking the time to reply, I’m so pleased the yoga has helped you, on all levels. I can see a real difference and often people come to yoga initially for the physical benefits, but ultimately really engage with the meditation and spiritual practices too as they are so powerful for well being. Love Zanna xx