Monday, September 21, 2020

Random home photos and the question that heals

The other day I got a chance to hear a beautiful conversation.

I was in a group being led by a yoga teacher- therapist named Wendy.

And a woman who had lost her husband of 43 years was talking about how she didn't know how to live without him. I've known him for almost my whole life, she said, and I don't know who I am now. I feel so lost without him. I keep wanting him next to me. 
Why? Why can't I let go, I know he's gone... but I just can't accept it. 

Listening to this woman from behind my Zoom screen was strangely more powerful than seeing her face. Who was this tiny voice out in the world, opening up and sharing her most tender feelings?  I could feel the rawness of her words and my heart instantly softened.

The yoga therapist was so gentle and kind--she had lost her own baby boy years ago--and at the right moment in this conversation, she reassured this grief-stricken woman that everything she said was so normal. This is simply our humanness, she reminded her, reacting to our heartbreaking loss. Of course we want them back--of course we want their physical bodies right next to us again. Of course your heartache feels unbearable at times.

She talked about the "dance" we all do when we're struggling to get out of a dark time in our lives. It's always three steps forward and a couple steps back. 

And I don't know why. 

Maybe because I had just limped past the heaviness of Patrick's September 15th angel-versary date, but I found this dance of healing to be a beautiful analogy. And so true. 

(Today, where are you? If you're a few steps back don't be discouraged. I'll wait for you)

Then Wendy offered the sort of words that were tinged with her own familiarity with suffering and healing.  

She said, "I know it's hard. I can feel the enormity of your hurt when I lean into your loss."

".....when I lean into your loss."


Can we all just stop and think about that comment for a second?

My first thought was, how brave. Wendy wasn't simply listening to this woman's grief like some interested observer, but she was willing to open her heart up to the intensity of this woman's emotions. And even allow herself to feel the impact of this woman's sorrow.

As a former therapist I know this can be tricky, especially for women who are sensitive care-taker types. This example happened to be in a class on grief with a trained teacher, but what happens in real life when someone is emotionally distraught, how do you react?

Maybe the idea of leaning-in toward somebody's intense grief is totally uncomfortable. That's ok too. 

On thing I did find interesting. After each person had a chance to speak from her heart and have Wendy respond, she then lead the group (who only listens) in what she calls a "falling-out" breath. 

I hadn't heard of this before.

This falling out breath is simply a deep inhale and long exhale that's intended to be a physical release of the other person's emotional energy. So our bodies aren't unconsciously taking on all that emotion. 

And it's also a way that Wendy is teaching healthy boundaries, showing you that in the face of intense feelings you can listen and be fully present and compassionate without walking away feeling the other person's turbulent feelings inside your "tense" shoulders.

Maybe you might try this after an intense conversation.

By the way, I used to love the month of September. 

Everything about it. The changing colors of the leaves, the scent of wetness in the cool mornings, the giddy energy that came with a new school year. And of course, to me September was the official beginning of all the holidays and traditions that I so adored.

How bizarre that September 15th should be the day.

Although I've stopped asking "Why?"

Or worse yet, "Why me?"

Because--believe me dear friends--these are the questions that will keep you chained inside a pit of grief. 

These days I've discovered the One Question that invites awareness and healing is, What am I supposed to be learning from this?



What have you been learning lately?

I would love to hear.

Abundant blessings,

sharing this post with friends: 


Rita C at Panoply said...

I love this. Thank you for sharing this and all that you are and are going through. I've been so immersed in trying, for the past 18 mos, to help a brother who always helped others. It's emotionally exhausting but I have learned so much in the process and small successes, the best of which is a reconnecting with that big brother of my childhood. I will add practicing falling out breath to my toolbox of trying to cope with the stressors.

ali said...

Thank you for sharing these words.
I recently learned- or rather realized that not everyone physically feels other people's (or animals) pain. I was watching a show and the person raised his hand to hit a fish over the head- I didn't cover my eyes fast enough and a "lightening bolt" feeling clutched my stomach. I said out loud "ow"- and my husband questioned me. I said -I have physical reactions sometimes to seeing difficult things. He thought this was strange. I get "gut wrenching" reactions to stories I hear or see that are traumatic and painful. I thought everyone had this capacity. I guess I'm just more sensitive to it??

Annonymous said...

Very powerful post with many words I need to ponder in my mind and heart. Thank you.


Linda @ Itsy Bits And Pieces said...

Beautiful post, Leslie. The idea of a "falling out" breath is a new concept to I want to put into practice. I also try hard to ask what I am supposed to be learning as I go. Your home is so lovely, Leslie! xo

Melanie said...

What beautiful words of wisdom from your yoga teacher-therapist. "When I lean into your loss", that is a powerful way to BE with someone.

I'm going to have to look up more about that falling out breath. That's something I'm not familiar with.

I feel like a terrible friend for missing Patrick's death anniversary...September 15th. That was my wedding anniversary. I must've been too caught up in the day. And too focused on Philip's upcoming death anniversary (the 25th). But excuses. I am so sorry.

Oh,'ll be 11 years and I still sometimes ask why. The question "what am I supposed to be learning from this?" in relation to the death of a child...I don't think there's any answer to that. I don't even think the question is appropriate in relation to the death of a child. That's just my humble opinion. I would love to hear your take on this or any words of wisdom you may have.

As far as what I've been learning lately though: 1) telling myself positive messages instead of negative ones. It's something I'm really working on. 2) Asking for what I need.

Much love and hugs to you.

Leslie Harris said...

Thank you Rita for sharing your personal story with your brother. You sound like a “giver” yourself and I wish you well with your dear brother. Pace yourself. I’m glad you found something in my post that might be helpful to you.

Leslie Harris said...

Ali I can relate to you. I’m someone that absolutely can NOT see any animal hurt or mistreated in real life or on TV. My boys and Jim know to turn the TV instantly whenever that commercial showing mistreated animals comes on the screen (I
think it’s CNN). Then a few years ago I remember a yoga teacher explaining how the eyes are windows to the soul and that sensitive people need to be aware of the way certain scenes might affect them. It made so much sense when she said this. And It made me feel understood. I hope this helps you feel better. Being a sensitive person is a beautiful quality but you just need to take ‘care’ of your feelings.

Leslie Harris said...

Thank you for sharing this Nancy.

Leslie Harris said...

Thank you Linda. I’m glad you liked that falling out breath too. I found it pretty effective, I just have to remember it in those real life situations. I’m glad you liked my pictures. I always loved how warm and cozy your home looked, especially in Fall.

Leslie Harris said...

Oh Mel. I certainly don’t expect you to remember that September 15th date. Especially with your anniversary ( happy belated to you both) and Phil’s September 25th date. I’m so sorry you have to go through this too. I wish I could give you a big hug on that day but I will be sending you and your beautiful boy lots of loving energy on that day.
I do know what what you mean about “my one question” I carry with me in life now. I agree. I also don’t think there’s any possible Human answer having to do with the loss of a child. Ever. But I’ve discovered in the aftermath of catastrophe loss, that there is much I can learn about how I’m experiencing the trauma in my body and in my mind. And maybe because I never thought I would survive the loss of my child, I’ve been on a path of learning. How to bear the unbearable? What helps in the moment? And this has lead me into research in the field of quantum energy and the daily practice of meditation that has been a game changer in terms of pain management. But I also appreciate that every person deals with profound loss in their own unique way.
So when I think of my question and how I use it in my life, it’s really more of the spirit in which I approach my life, and less a literal question that I apply to each situation. Gosh I hope that makes sense.
Thank you reading this and leaving such a heartfelt comment. Love you,

Sunny Strawbaler said...

I just wanted you to know that this blog post is so important for people to read. Thank you for sharing it with us all. This question of 'what do I need to learn from this?' has been coming to me too. I am grappling with family dynamics, an adult child who is going through very difficult times and making decisions on the schooling of our youngest two - and anything that feels bigger than I can handle, I give to God and ask Him that question! His answer is usually "You need to trust in me". This certainly has brought me comfort and strength that I have never before known. Sherylee.

La Contessa said...

NO MORE antiquegoddess on insta.........after 7 years I feel broken and done!I had so much fun sharing my LIFE and MY HUMOR and MY was my CREATIVE OUTLET.

THE ITALIAN is THRILLED!THink of the housework I will get done NOW!

I also have been diagnosed with ARTHRITIS in my spine and neck so THIS COULD BE A BLESSING FOR ME.


I still have my CARD with PATRICK riding around in my RED VELVET POUCH which is my wallet in my basket bag!
I find it hard to GIVE HIM AWAY!!!!!!
I will one day but NOT TODAY!


Blondie's Journal said...

I'm happy that you shared your experience in Wendy's class, and her words, which are affecting all of us now, it seems. And that's good! "Leaning" in to someone's loss is such an insightful and better way of describing how sad and helpless we can feel for someone who is suffering, especially when saying, "I know how you must be feeling." is never right. Without knowing these words, I've felt them in my heart many times when comforting someone who has experienced something traumatic or heartbreaking. And I agree with the other ladies, the falling out breath is sage advice.

I really believe you've learned a lot since Patrick's death because you have written posts which have really touched so many lives. And you continue to share how your grief ebbs and flows. I particularly take away thoughts from your posts that I know I'll be able to keep tucked inside a little envelope in my heart, to take out one day when I know its time.

Lots of love for that beautiful home of yours! Such a wonderful mix of classic and modern, casual and organic. I'd love to pop in for a good long visit.

Hope you and your family are doing well.❤️


Calypso In The Country said...

Whenever I see you've written a blog post, I have to set aside time to sit and really read through every word. Sure, I love breezing through blogs to see all the pretty inspiration - and I love your photos as well, but I need time to absorb what you write. You truly are gifted with your words and observations. You express the things we all need to hear and I thank you for that. I just know that you help so many people who read your blog. Yes, we all need to learn to take that "falling out breath" when dealing with difficult situations. It's also a great reminder that we are all still learning and growing every day. Hope you are well and I am sending you hugs.

annie said...

Leslie, I came over to read about your beautiful rustic fall table, but I kept scrolling and came to this post about your Patrick or the lovely idea of leaning into someone's grief. Oh are such a gifted writer. The way you describe this zoom class has left me with a feeling and thoughts that will forever stay with me.

Unknown said...

a while ago, something happened with one of my daughters, and i had to be physically and mentally with her for several weeks. And you know, it is a hard journey, this being strong business. It takes reserves of strength. And even we rest our heads on days like those, you don't really get any rest. you do start the why's on your own. But they are silent why's because that doesn't really help her to voice the question as well. What helps is really what you are writing about Leslie: the alternative to me telling myself to get a grip and to get ahold of myself in a grocery parking lot before i go into to shop; or for her to try the falling out breath practice - at some point. i think about you and patrick and your family every week, i kid you not. I'm just so glad to read this post. It has helped. and through me, it will help her as well.

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