A Ceremonial Month: Embracing the Path to My Wise Future Self

June is the halfway point to the year. It might be an arbitrary mid-way pause and yet it still serves as a place maker of time. June also represents a season on its own. For folks like me in the Northern hemisphere, it is the shift from Spring to Summer. It is the turning of the year into a delicious time of play and pleasure. For our friends in the global South, it also represents a pause to turn inward and rest during Winter.

June is the mirror that reflects a passage of time, especially for students. It is the season where we acknowledge an ending before a new beginning can start. This is the time of year that many students graduate from all things related to school – daycare, kindergarten, middle school, high school or further education. Graduation is the event that honours one thing completing before embracing the next adventure.

As all rites of passages, it is an end of a season and cycle-of-life shift.

And like all endings, we need to hold space for the grief of something ending, even if it was supposed to.

I recently attended a moving series of talks held by Kimberly Ann Johnson and Stephen Jenkinson. Their series centred around the ‘forgotten pillars’ of our society and it served as a call back to rebuild the foundation of how we live today. Some of the pillars were matrimony and patrimony and their connection to ancestors. The other two are kinship and ceremony.

It is these two that i will speak of here.
Stephen Jenkinson shares that a ceremony is the punctuation of a passage of time. I love this analogy as it captures the rightful placement at the beginning rather than just the ending. The ceremony is not meant to be the goal, but rather the pause between. So when my partner turned 50 in May, i knew we had to implement a more soul-lead ceremony into the celebration of his life. Turning 50 is a pretty significant punctuation. While I can’t believe i’m married to a 50 year old, i’m just a year away myself. His turning around the sun has given me pause to notice where we are in our life journey. It is a marker of sorts, not unlike Summer and June, as a practice to make sure we are where we want to be.

(In case you are wondering what i’m doing here in this photo, i hosted a special evening honour my partner, who wanted a jam night. We made our singing debut, that you can see a glimpse into HERE.)

Some of us had various rites of passage be stolen by Covid. Maybe it was your own school graduation or maybe a wedding or something more intimate. Whatever it is, we are not meant to cross a threshold alone. We are supposed to be witnessed and held.

And yet it’s not exactly a practice of jumping over the hot coals, but more like an exhale that embodies the ebb and flow of life. We are not just celebrating this number called 50, but also bearing witness to who he has been up until this moment. Period Pause Punctuation. The ceremony is like a comma that joins two chapters in one’s life.

Now begins the good work of setting intentions and manifesting into fruition the next steps.

We are not quite Crones or elders yet, so we are both embracing the invitation to apprentice in our future roles. Both of us are anticipating this next place in our spiral path.

I attended a family member’s wedding in May – all sorts of rites of passage in the spring re-birth season! The actual ceremony was rather quick, and the officiant did use the magic words of matrimony and community. It made me recall my own wedding ceremony of many moons ago.

At my own celebration, we had everyone sit in a circle, all 75 of us. I had a living altar of wildflowers from my mom’s garden as the threshold centrepiece. We endeavoured all the guests to repeat a community manifesto to declare their commitment to us. We lead the guests in song and i wore a dress in my favourite shade of blue. I love how we say the bride is walking down the altar, not dissimilar to the association we have to sacred altars.

At the time, i refused to call it a wedding as that felt so off-brand for me. Now i know why: I didn’t want to connect my story to that of a cis-het patriarchal framework of marriage. Stephen also has valid laments about the business of weddings. They have become more of a party than a ceremony. I’m so grateful that a younger version of me was able to create such a meaningful ceremony that future me (the one alive now in my body) deeply respects.

I studied to be a group facilitator at school. We had whole classes devoted to group process and holding a container. Facilitating circles and group gatherings have been a big part of my life for over twenty years. In fact, in my program, we sat in a circle for most of our classes. We practised leading group workshops and exercises, and learned about group guidelines and considerations.

Now, in the mid-way point of my life, i am integrating a more soul-aligned lens into my work as a community space holder and ceremonialist. Into all of my life, really. This has come at the perfect time as my own children embark on natural rites of passage. Side note: This is something i offer in my work. If you want to learn more about how to introduce ceremony into your life, i share more about my work here. I’d be honoured to be a part of your dream seed.

What is the point of me sharing this here? For one thing, it’s a hint at the way my work has been evolving.

It’s also because I had a realization recently that is connected to one of the things i grieve with the loss of my mom. It’s the knowledge about women’s bodies and having a place to go for information and guidance. I only recently noticed how old she was when she was going through perimenopause and have so much more compassion for her, even though it was also a very hard time for me, partly due to her treatment of me. I wish 16-year old me knew what i know now.

And now i sit here in my own change process and am alone. Sure, i have friends who are in perimenopause and recently crossed the field into menopause. But what i needed all along, and didn’t know is the eldership of crones and older women.

What I needed was a multi-generational community, and kinship.

This has been on my own mind for the past 2 years, since my own mom died.

I was not raised with intergenerational wisdom and i now see that i needed it as a child, as much as i still need it now. I am at the wild edge of unbecoming someone i once was. I am shedding old identities, and one that has a physical manifestation – Menstruator. This past month, i had my first menstruation after an absence of 6 months. I was so ready to embrace Menopause that it threw me off to bleed again. I forgot what medicines and practices are important. An impatient Part forgot that nature still is in the driver seat. Silly me, who told me i should assume to know the future?! I got it alongside a new moon no less, so i’m honouring this alignment as a gift – a chance to plant some intentions for what my own ceremony may be. But more importantly, what i need in my life now to nourish me and support me as i embrace this new identity.

We all need guides. We are not meant to go it alone. I am awakening up to this need now. Better late than never right? I think a big part of it is seeing how alone my own mom was at this time. I’m not sure if this is the narrative i have told myself so much it has become truth, or if it is factually accurate. What i am noticing though is that i don’t want to enter this next stage of life alone.

I spoke about honouring some Blood Mysteries before. I held a ceremony for my daughter and last year. I plan to conjure up a similar one for once i cross the portal into being post-menopausal. Until that happens, i am casting a vision to grow Village aunties into being. My aunties will not be blood related so they will need to be curated via neighbours, friends, book guides, online mentors, and community members I am starting to meet.

I am exactly where i am supposed to be.

How to get Ready for the Fall: Stepping into Being a High School Mom

September is the second January, a time for new beginnings, and also the ending of things. One has to go with the other; one in fact necessitates the other. As Jessie Harrold puts it, “while you are becoming, you are also unbecoming.” This is the dance with grief, and not being afraid to notice it in the corners of your inner dance floor.

It can be as simple as the new season meaning the end of the previous one. Where i live, that means the end of Summer and a crash into Fall. I can’t help but notice that it’s not just leaves and ripe apples that fall to the ground, but us as well, when we are faced with the reality of this change. It does come all at once. So it can be dysregulating, or at least a bit jarring, so we need to slow down and brace for it.

For those of us with school-age kids, it means the end of a summer or seasonal break. However it looked and especially if it meant a bit of ease off the routine and time off for yourself from other responsibilities. If you love Summer like i do, it also means intentionally relishing every last drop of that watermelon, the warm lake water, the fluttering of butterflies.

Not all of us have children, and yet September does mean a fresh start, whether it is for our own work or school programs, or digging up our wee gardens and their bounty. It also means preparing for the cozy season of Autumn.

“I have done nothing all summer but wait for myself to be myself again.” ~ Georgia O’Keefe

I am faced with this reality of many new things at once – not just the rotation of Earth and a new season, but as a mom to teens, i now am officially a high school mom. This is a messy and pivotal practice of Radical Acceptance.

There i said it – i am a Mom of teens now. This is a new Rite of Passage of Matrescence. I was just starting to get comfortable with my role and identity as a school-age mom (and i guess i still am with an 11-year old). And yet, i am at this threshold, this sea change of not quite a high school mom, but no longer just a mom to young kids.

One thing i’m noticing is that I’m more familiar with this age because I remember my teen years more. Maybe that is what’s guiding me and also adding a bit of anticipatory worry to my body. My own teen years were not easy, and the start of high school was especially messy and jarring. So, now i need to create a Nurturing Shadow Part for my own Inner Teen who is very much present for me now. Thank-you Rachel Macy Stafford for this reframe!

When i’m faced with this crossroads, i’m using what i know about Rites of Passage to hold me. Typically, this passage is when we move from one stage of life to another. It is marked with ritual and ceremony. Or at least it is supposed to be. Our culture has lost its way in truly marking this transition. We might host gender reveal parties or proms, but that only acknowledges a part of the story. We need to honour all three stages, otherwise our leap into the new experience can feel untethered and overwhelming. And, if we stay stuck in grieving what was, we can spiral into a felt sense of suffering in our mourning. It becomes more than just the understandable period it is meant to be. We resist the inevitable – the only constant is change.

So, we need to honour the Separation from what we were. That can be in ceremony or ritual. We need to say goodbye. We also need to learn what we need to hold us in the Transition. A map, an elder, a book of common humanity. And we can’t forgo the right we have to be honoured in the Integration. A lot of us get lost in the first 2 steps that we either miss the integration of this new phase in our life, or we don’t become the butterfly at all.

I already had my graduation and experience, and yet it hurts all over again – because it wasn’t held in its fullness. My path on the journey into high school is long over. This is their story now, their growth. Their Graduation comes with honouring endings first. We can’t celebrate until we grieve and close what was, even if it wasn’t always good and roses.

All Endings come with Beginnings
We cannot just jump into this new phase of life, and take it for granted. We do need to grieve or at least say bye to what we are separating from. That’s one reason why i wanted to be a part of my kid’s graduation ceremony planning committee – to honour this transition for them, and to also ensure that ritual and ceremony was bought into it. So, i lead the students in some gentle ritual and ceremony. They have been together for 10 years and i felt this was important to be honoured. We tied string together to connect them, and they all shared kind words about each other. We danced, we sang, and we ate – all good party necessities.

We are both going through our own journey of life, in parallel moving forward direction. One thing i had to reckon with is that my path is a few cycles up the mountain. Whereas they are at the mere precipice of this Hereo’s Journey. That’s why i’m so grateful there are elders to guide us both, to offer a map and lightpost. One such reference is Bill Plotkin’s work on the Five Phases of the Descent to Soul. Our Soul Journey includes Preparation, Dissolution, Soul Encounter, Metamorphosis, Enactment. Knowing there is a map or process helps us feel less alone in the unknown version of our own personal story.

Rachael Maddox does a wonderful job explaining this model in terms of the entry into motherhood HERE. She calls it the Motherverse: the transition and integration of becoming someone entirely new, in this case a mother. In my own work with Kimberly Ann Johnson and the MotherCircle program, this concept is incorporated into the arc of transitioning into motherhood and integrating this identity into all of me.

Rites of passage don’t have to be reserved only for the major stages of life like graduating from university, marriage or childbirth. Any change from a stage in our life is a paradox of no longer being something and not quite being something entirely new yet. It is the fine balance of both/and AND ALSO neither/or. When we honour the initiatory process of transformation, it gives our Soul the gift of maturation.

When i come back to my core values as a mom, these are my guideposts – i may not be there to stop the hurt from happening, but a core value of mine is to be present to love and guide them in ways they need (rather than how i might have needed it). This reframe comes from my Inner Nurturer, the one who holds space for my Wounded Teen.

I am initiating myself into this stage of Motherhood and life. So, as life itself is a living ceremony, i thought it was the perfect time to get a tattoo. Ritual and ceremony are so important to me, and i was pondering how to mark this transition. My youngest kid declared ‘about time, Mom!’ when i told them. And, i do find it a fitting marker – not only am i now a teen mom, i am also entering a new stage in my own life maturation process. But i’m saving that for next month’s journal entry!

I am casting a vision of the future, or at least this first year of high school for my oldest kid. We don’t have to have it all figured out just yet – we are a mere 3 weeks into our chapter of high school. Knowing that there are stages to a Rite of Passage gives me grace – i literally have a grace period before either one of us “has to” integrate and accept this new identity.

When we know that it takes time to transition into something new, this gives us agency and also self-compassion to let the feelings of grief and separation linger. It’s when we get stuck in the grief that it can turn into suffering.

My Lost Self

“What must I give more death to today, in order to generate more life? What do I know should die, but am hesitant to allow to do so? What must die in me in order for me to love? What not-beauty do I fear? Of what use is the power of the not-beautiful to me today? What should die today? What should live? What life am I afraid to give birth to? If not now, when?” ~ Clarissa Pinkola Estes

This is the ending and a new beginning: a death and new version of me. This is the end of my life with a mother of my own. This is me entering a new phase of life self-mothering myself more intentionally.

A Rite of Passage has three distinct stages – separation, transition and integration. In the story of my loss, i went through the separation and then a transition time. Now, i am in a new stage now as I integrate and incorporate the loss of my mom into my life. I think i didn’t experience what others have access to, namely because my mom didn’t want a funeral. This rite of passage wasn’t marked and it wasn’t witnessed in the way that needs to be. These markings are for the grievers, as a path to help them be held in their grief, and to know it leads to something else. There needs to be another side to grief, a threshold as opposed a place that feels stuck in a web.

I’ve been finding my Lost Self again; This is some of the soul work i’ve been doing. It’s been an intentional practice of checking in with my soul self, and asking her what she needs. I think i lost her for a while, years ago. When Prairie posted a reel about this concept on Instagram, my soul jumped in excitement. It so desperately wanted me to notice this was what i too have been feeling.

We banish in ourselves what we want and then resent other people for doing just that. This resentment is connected to jealousy, not anger. It is a messy reminder of what we also have wanted for ourselves but are afraid to ask. What is it you want? I appreciate Brené Brown’s reframe on resentment: Instead of seeing resentment as a form of anger, it is more helpful and accurate to see it as something someone has they were wanting for ourself. And yet on the other side of it I think it’s also this balance of making sure I live my life more fully in a way that my mom never could.

When i became a mom, i went full steam ahead into that identity. I didn’t know another way to enter this new phase of life. I started to notice jealousy or even resentment towards other mom friends who had a more full life. It was only when i noticed this pattern come up that i realized it is because i wanted this for me as well. It’s been a journey back to me and all of me these last few years. It’s been an intentional practice of soul work, where i’m re-connecting with the various aspects of what makes us whole as humans. For many of us, it is our soul self that has been lost, or kept in the shadows. If this concept resonates with you, read this article to get a better sense of how to practice it for you.

One way i did this soul work was to sign up for events that speak to my soul. This helps me do the work deliberately, as an apprentice to it (a term i learned from Francis Weller). For instance, i recently attended a day workshop, a retreat for myself. It was absolutely the treat and reset I needed. With the name of it actually being TEND, I knew that I was in the right place. I joined a few other women who also can relate to this feeling of caring for so many others, that we also need to receive this tender, loving care. There was also a photo session experience, where i was able to fully embody parts of myself that i have lost, that have become lost along the way. It’s been a cathartic practise to sit with the photos, and see my FULL self reflected in them.

Another way to dive into finding myself again is to reflect on where my heart has taken me. Jessie Harrold shared her concept of “Rites of the Heart” again recently. While the term is not new, when i saw it on her instagram page last week, it really resonated with me. These are the (not so) little things we do for ourselves that are on our own, in private but are just a meaningful. It can be quitting a job and starting a private practice, it can be starting a garden in your new home, or deciding to embrace your new sense of style. They are the change of heart that comes with deepening into our soul’s calling. This shift then trickles down into our everyday life: I honour them with rituals like like a candle when i take a bath, or play a special song when i cook, make a cup of a special tea when i am feeling a need for a hug. I love this as it makes sacred the small things we do to give our soul vitamins, by making them rituals and intentions, instead of things we start to take for granted.

I have been really coming into my own with my sense of style. I have embraced (literally) the boho feminine goddess that has always been in me. This lost self is finally free and so happy to be. And, she’s been seen in the best possible ways. Last week, a friendly stranger complimented my outfit and shared she’s been an admirer of my style for some time. Not only was i touched, especially when she said she sees me and notices me – i am also now noticing that she voiced something i was missing with the loss of my mom: the admiration, the noticing of details, being a witness to how i adorn myself.

I don’t want to lose that. This doesn’t have to be a lost self.

I can incorporate (see what i did there???) ways to feel connected to my mom in my life now.

I have a mom still – her teachings and stories are within me. What i don’t have now is the active involvement, guidance and love from her moving forward. And i have so many questions for her that i didn’t get to ask – like how was menopause for her, or what are my great-grandmother’s names? And i wont’ be able to get her appreciation of my outfit, or share pride in our knitting. I won’t get to say i’m sorry to her when i’ll be in the throws of raising teens.

Ugh – i’m not sure how to be a mom without a mom; a mom to teens without my mom.

I have been reading a lot about this transition. Books are a way that i find anchor in a messy storm of life. They help me know i am not alone, and also act as a guide. One book that i just finished ways Rachel Macy Stafford’s latest gift Soul Shift: The Weary Human’s Guide to Getting Unstuck and Reclaiming your Path to Joy. In it, she breaks down into doable steps how to just do that – get unstuck and find your path to joy. I appreciate it has a step-by-step guide like a map. And yes, it includes the necessary involvement of soul work. THIS article does a great job in unpacking the book.

I also have been reading Women who Run with the Wolves for the third time. It’s my bible, really and truly. I read it every Sunday evening, and especially when i take a ritual bath. It’s the first time since becoming a mother, and also in this transition phase I’m in. One thing that’s been amazing isn’t that I’ve been really resonated with this book because I have, but actually the things that I underlined over 25 years ago that are still resonating now. And when i read it now, i have both the capacity and place in my life to make sense of the words and guidance the book shares.

Another lost self of mine is one that chooses pleasure and treating myself to things that i enjoy. My mom didn’t always model that. Recently, I saw a woman going to a movie. It looked like she was there by herself and yet she was there to enjoy a movie. This is something my mom never did. Outings were not something she prioritized, whether it’s watching movies or going out to restaurants on a regular basis, or having date night with her husband. She claimed it was because she didn’t need to or want to, but i never truly believed that. Mind you, she did other things that were more home-based like painting, reading, and watching shows. And yet I’m not sure if I’m seeing her through the lens of my life (where I feel like that is lonely) when in fact, maybe it’s exactly what she wanted, and she’s a homebody or introvert. I will never get to know this now.

A part of me wants to create a version that helps me feel better towards the life she had. And yet another part feels more sure that my mom was a product of patriarchal motherhood that idealizes martyrdom. She didn’t know how to live her own life without being on the periphery of her family’s. She didn’t know how to do it because most moms didn’t back then. And if they did have their own life, they were shamed and judged for it; or worse, banished by the other moms who couldn’t fathom that for themselves.

If you are feeling lost, you are not alone. Life is full of transition, curve balls, and changes of the heart. Each need to go through a process in order to be integrated into our life. That can be after a break-up, adapting to life again after the pandemic, or maybe you are in a messy change of heart with your career path. If any of these is the case, start with where you are at – find your presence in the here and now moment. Orient to your surroundings, ground into your body, and from this place ask yourself these questions: 1) What is your want right now? 2) What did your 8-year old self dream for you? 3) What makes your mind body soul smile and relax? These prompts may be just the right dose of inspiration. If not, maybe one of these articles can serve as a starting point.
* How to Find Yourself Again
* 7 Tips to Help Find You When You’re Feeling Lost
* My Dream for Women

“[T]o be ourselves causes us to be exiled by many others, and yet to comply with what others want causes us to be exiled from ourselves. It is a tormenting tension and it must be borne, but the choice is clear.” ~ Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes

I am Now a Motherless Daughter: A Club i did not sign up for

My mom died recently. It’s beyond words to have such a loss happen. While a part of me knew that it would come eventually, none of us were prepared for it to be so soon and so sudden.

Having my own personal experience with loss and the grief that is tethered to it has been an awakening. I don’t love all the new insights i have found and yet they have been transformative.

For instance, i see more clearly just how scared we are of death. It is not the death itself but how to hold the feelings that come with it. It reminds us that our own end is inevitable and that feelings that are messy and raw will be attached to it.

We are left alone to grieve. On the other side of life, we celebrate birth and rebirth – we have customs and rituals for rites of passage like the birth of a new being, graduation, getting a new job. In death, while we have rituals, they are still left to do in the shadows of the day. People may come to an event and then leave us alone in the aftermath.

They say grief is a type of trauma. While not all grief is trauma, all trauma has grief: Of what didn’t get to happen. Some grief is trauma because a person may die unexpectedly, in a painful way. Too quickly.

Like my mom.

We were just starting to see each other more, after 2 years of playing it safe for her. We were just starting to talk about sleepovers for the kids, and adventures to do together. I have been doing my own inner work and healing and was planning to reach out to know more about my ancestral line, my Family Tree and all the recipes and rituals of my heritage.

Those dreams are not dashed away with her ashes. There is so much regret there, in that grief and loss.

I have never lost someone close and important to me. When i was told my mom died unexpectedly, i was leaving to pick up my sister from the airport so that we could be with my mom. We were on our way to visit her together. I don’t think i will ever forget the scream that came out of my body when i was informed of her passing. I remember collapsing on the floor and my partner’s hesitant understanding of what i had just heard.

I went into auto-pilot and feel like it’s been that way since. As the eldest daughter, one who is trained to hold others’ grief and support them, it fell on me to do that for my family. No one stepped in to help guide us and hold space for us. No one offered companionship in what was needed to be done, or how to do it.

We had to learn each step on our own.

Ways to Care for Yourself after a Death
I don’t wish that for anyone. So, i wanted to share a few observations with you now, as a possible resource for when you lose someone. Because you will – death and loss are an inevitable experience for us all.

1) Get Help
We are still figuring out what help we need. But we need help to be fed and calls to make. We need help to distract us and to hold us when we cry. Ask a friend who you know has experienced a loss who may be able to help put you in the right path. Find a friend who will provide you the support you need.

Think about reaching out to a Grief Expert. That can be a Death Doula or companion, a grief therapist or group, a Wills lawyer, or even some of the many books out there. Like this one, I’m Dead, Now What. I’m also reading Finding Meaning, and am so grateful for the work of Amy Wright Glenn, who i have trained with several times.

I’ve been taking this training with Janina Fisher and am so grateful for its timing. It’s serving as a guide for me in a way that helps me make sense of things, when so much doesn’t right now.

We are not meant to grieve alone. We are grieving the loss of someone we lived. We grieve what matters so need community to companion us as community is what helps us heal.

2) Take Time to Honour Your Loved One
My family doesn’t have any rituals for death to honour, so my sister and i found ways to do it for ourselves. We created rituals that felt right and meaningful for us.

For instance, my sister and i carefully, lovingly, and thoughtfully put together what my mom would wear when she was cremated. We also put together a care package for her journey into after-life. She did this a lot for us, so it was fitting we would pay her back and honour her this way. We collected things that were meaningful and important for her – her reading glasses and a notebook for her thoughts and ideas, a favourite book, some yarn and knitting needles, letters from us and photos of us all. We also included some crystals and lavender to help her be cared for.

While this was a big emotional task for us, it was also so cathartic to honour her this way. It gave me a place to put my feelings, and to show her the love i was not always able to display.

3) Keep Talking to Her and About Her
I think people are afraid to ask us how we are, not just because it can bring up our sad feelings, but also because it is a fear of needing to hold us in them. And yet, it is so helpful to have a space to unpack our thoughts. That is what Holding Space is – and not everyone can do it. I want people to ask me about her. I want to talk about her, even if it makes me sad. It reminds me that even though she is gone, my thoughts and memories of her are still ever present.

That’s why i’ve come to chat with her. A give her a simple hello, or “Good morning” Mom.” Ironically, i know she wanted that more in life, so i guess i am trying to make up for that now. It helps to hold my grief in a more softer way. Seeing things that remind me of her are quite hard and yet also wonderful, as they keep me tied to her.

4) Take time for Pleasure
This may feel selfish or counter what we are told about grief. As we know that grief is tied to trauma and our nervous system, it is so important to titrate the hard feelings and stay in your Window of Tolerance. That’s why i kept my special date with my partner. I wanted to have a place to soften, and stay present in the here and now. That’s why the fresh flowers we get in ritual are so healing. They may forever be connected to the loss (i’m afraid of seeing peonies next year) and they help us see something beautiful right here right now.

So, make sure to take time to laugh a little, indulge in a gift for yourself, savour a glass of wine or chunk of chocolate. That is doing your body and healing process a favour, i promise.

5) Hold your Feelings

Just because you’re sensitive that doesn’t mean you’re not strong

The difference between holding your feelings versus holding in your feelings is where the healing starts or stops. When we keep them in, we start to feel more sorrow and suffering. That dance of feelings keeps us tethered to the loss in a way that does not honour our own place in the world. We grief what we loved. So we need to come back to feeling what was loved. It does not serve us to keep them in – we need to let ALL our feelings be felt and seen. This is the hardest part of grief – we don’t know how to hold some of these harder emotions. One place i start is to name them and see what my body needs in relation to the feeling. If i’m sad, i let the tears out. If i’m angry, i scream or dance really fast. If I’m lonely, i reach out to a friend.

If any of these tips is hard for you to put into practice, that is the place to start. I think it serves us to start to prepare for loss long before it shows up at our door. My own inner work was not enough – i had just started to tell people about my mom’s health and my worry of losing her. I wish i added the parts of what i need to care for me.

Another way that i hold my feelings is by writing. As a Narrative Therapist, i treasure this part of me. Here is what i wrote to my mom and for her when i said goodbye.

Motherless Mother: In My Own Words
My mom was so much more than my mom. And yet I think her role and identity as Mom is what shaped her life.

Her new role of grandmother was probably one of her favourite parts of who she was. And she was more than a grandmother.

She was a chemist and knew so much about herbs, plants and the science behind them as healers. Her thumbs were the greenest I’ve seen.

She’s creative – she could knit anything and had such a beautiful eye for detail in her paintings.

My mom has such a gentle soul and yet such a fierce spirit. She’s been through more than anyone needs to be in a lifetime. And yet she also fought for what she wanted. She chose to go through those adventures with an open heart.

My mom was more than just my mom and yet she’ll always be my mom. I’m so grateful for her guidance and love. I’m the mom I am because of her.

She gave her all to us so that we could live our best life. She martyred herself in how much she devoted her life to her family.

While I’m still in disbelief that she is gone, I know in my bones that she wanted to let go before she become a bother. Even in her last days, I think she was thinking of us. I also love that this was her last bit of control, choosing death over a long painful last chapter.

The woman who died was not my mom
She was a woman who needed peace in her body
My mother was magic:
She was a beautiful soul
She was complicated and strong
Brave and vulnerable
Creative and a collector
Gentle and fierce
And under it all, it was all love

I will miss my mom when
I see hummingbirds
I hear rain hit the glass windows at the cottage
I need a hug
I eat Burek and crave Ijvar and poppyseed strudel
I reach for a tissue or hard candy
I lean in to smell my peonies

I will miss her when
I put my hand out of the car and feel the breeze
i see catch the rainbows in the sky or when they dance on the floor
i am curling up with a good book
i need guidance with how to mother my children
i am planting in the garden
i am knitting
I want to tell her about something i’m proud of at work
i set the table for our gatherings

“There is a wild woman under our skin who wants nothing more than to dance until her feet are sore, sing her beautiful grief into the rafters, and offer the bottomless cup of her creativity as a way of life. And if you are able to sing from the very wound that you’ve worked so hard to hide, not only will it give meaning to your own story, but it becomes a corroborative voice for others with a similar wounding.” Toko-pa Turner

My mom is now with the wild women, the wise women that guide us. May she rest now and be my wise woman from beyond.

Thanks Mom for your love and care, your commitment and the foundation that you created for us. You are now a child of the universe and i will forever seek your guidance.

Coming out of the Covid Cave

Now that it is April, it feels fitting to look at how this next season can help us move forward from these past two years. I love how the seasons offer a rightful place for contemplation and compassion for what is. Just like planting seeds in our gardens, so too are we planting seeds of hope for this next stage of our life. Spring is a perfect time to plant intentions versus be reactionary.

I am coming out of my own Inner Winter, alongside a long Winter in Toronto. I cannot claim that Covid is over (far from it), but i do trust that my place of hiding is not serving me anymore. This may be a bit early to share, and yet i have been sitting with this need to shift for some time.

I have noticed that the longer i sit in my Protective Cave, the harder it is to come out of it. I have created rooms within it, to keep myself busy and be distracted. This has only benefited my fear of being restless or bored, so that my mind does not wander. And yet, i always encourage the people i support in my therapy practice to not bypass the big hard feelings.

As a mental health practitioner, it is not lost on me that my own mental health was challenged these last two years. I may be a therapist, one skilled in trauma, and yet i too am a human experiencing a global pandemic. As Covid continued to wreak havoc on our communities, we experienced other secondary impacts of this collective trauma. Family violence, sexual assault, racist acts, depression, anxiety and suicide all increased. Unhealthy coping strategies increased and a lot of us started to numb out. Our most vulnerable community members’ health was threatened even more. We turned inward because we were taught that being around others was not safe, that sharing meals was too dangerous.

Staci Haines is a somatic therapist and trainer, who works from an intersectional lens. She wrote the book Healing Sex which has been a longstanding resource for me, in how i support sexual assault survivors. Her latest book The Politics of Trauma, Staci shares that the 3 most important pillars for healing are having an embodied sense of Safety, Belonging, and Dignity

We are not meant to heal in isolation, in fact our body’s Automatic Nervous System has a Social Engagement System built in. Thanks to the work of Polyvagal Theory, we know understand more how we heal in community, in co-regulation and compassion. To be clear, i’m not ready to jump back without a mask and kiss strangers, but i do want to start being in community again.

We faced hard truths about our relationships, as well as how painful the feeling of loneliness is.

Crises are experiences of accelerated growth, for better or worse. They can be transformation points that inspire opportunities for change. We are supposed to adapt, grow and transform – through trauma and life in general: We need help to get through it.

While this may be true, it is also hard to re-enter life in a fully expressed way now. Who are we now? Are we Better than Before? Have we regressed? Kind of like in Bridgerton, when a scandal befalls a family they need to push through and present themselves at the Promenade Park. (Clearly, watching the latest season in a week has left a mark on me.)

This is our time to walk at the park.

Think of yourself living in a cocoon. Maybe you are still wrapped up in its comfort. Or maybe you were also restless to get out and start that next shift of metamorphosis. Where are you in this change?

Or maybe you’re like the serpent, the snake that is shedding old skin that no longer serves you. Back in October, i shared more about this concept of shedding old skin, under the lens of adjusting to motherhood. The analogy fits here as well

I want to be clear that a global pandemic is not the time to intentionally work on self-development, and yet we are inevitably changed by this experience. What we can do is reflect on who we are now, and what we want to keep or discard based on this experience.

One of the biggest things i have noticed is that true rest is paramount for my health. My physical health as well as other parts of wellbeing. My mental load is more manageable when i’m rested. My body is more resilient. My emotional barometer is more regulated, and i have more capacity to honour my spiritual and social rituals.

The opposite of Rest is Restlessness

I was listening to a powerful episode of Brene Brown’s Unlocking Us. In it, she was speaking to her guest who challenged Brene to reframe her feeling of being restless, instead of getting to true boredom. It is with boredom that our mind and body is fully rested. It is being in this space that allows our soul space to be creative. This is the sweet spot we are looking for. Rest that is truly restorative is what helps build our capacity and ability to handle adversity. While it may need to be curated for each person, it is the felt sense of calm and regulation that we are looking for. So, for me, it was discovering that being outdoors and co-regulating with nature heals me. Taking breaks from social media and screens also gives me a mindful pause. Laughter and play are also key for my soul to get the belly ache that has been missing for too long.

I’m noticing that when i give myself true rest and foundational self-respect rituals, it is then that i can really appreciate the bigger acts of self-care and compassion. For instance, a bath or glass of water, a meal or sleeping well should be seen more for the Hierarchy of Needs foundation that they are – the respect we give ourselves for merely being alive. In fact, Staci Haines 3 principles of healing are including in this model – starting with feeling safe, than establishing a felt sense of belonging with others. And then, finally embodying dignity.

The acts of self-love and care are what enhance our life, so that we can live the life we love and make it meaningful. It’s the shift from eating a meal for lunch at my desk to going for a walk outside and giving myself an intentional pause from work. I come back feeling more refreshed and present. I also come back with more capacity after tending to my other parts, so that i can keep going.

Covid took this from me.

I was working at a community mental health agency in March 2020. I worked with colleagues and saw others in person every day. While at times i wanted to hide in my office so i could be alone with my thoughts, most days what really helped me was being in community. I relished that shared pot of coffee in the morning. I loved seeing others on my walk or bike ride home.

Pivoting to working from home and a computer made me feel safe, most of the time, but it was at the expense of my wellbeing and full expression of me. I discovered just how much i am extroverted and thrive in shared space.

This sense of community extends back to our oldest matrilineal lines. These were the times when we cried, ate, or sang together. Growing up, i loved taking dance classes with others. These communal experiences of shared delight alchemizes a sense of being at home.

I am ready to embrace and be embraced, despite the slight anxiety I feel.

Francis Weller says: “The strategies of the wound are isolation and withdrawal. It’s a form of hiding or absenting yourself from the encounter. Sovereignty is a gathering of one’s self together. And only the adult can hold the ground of sovereignty. The wounded part of us is not interested in sovereignty, it’s interested in survival. From that sovereign place our work is to bring compassion to those wounded territories, and help to ripen them up, over time, so they can more greatly tolerate the contact that intimacy offers to us”

This passage really resonates with me because that is why I stayed home and went into my dark winter cave. My wounded part was in control, so that she kept me safe. Now the push is to be vulnerable so i can increase my capacity to be intimate with others. I have already been intimate with myself, this is what i’ve done these last 8 months. Now i want to be intimate with loved ones and family and my beloved.

It’s easy to forget what we truly need, when the world is a dumpster fire, full of garbage and the push to hustle. That’s why it’s even more important to not forget what self-care is for you. We need to remember the resources that nurture you.

My biggest observation from these past 2 years is that i hate the word hustle, and i have come to despise the act of DOing at the expense of my wellbeing.

I’ve been working on reclaiming the felt sense of just BEing. Instead of jumping into the push to DO. It is my own way to decolonize the capitalist system in my own life. Let me be that goddess just being still and listening to the mockingbird sing outside my window. So BE it if my family catches me in the act.

We have taught ourselves to be really good at playing the Game of Life. You now, it’s where we move from one task to another, and keep adding to our list of achievements or success. We may have a never-ending to-do list and feel guilty for slowing down, reading a book for pleasure, or watching all of Inventing Anna in 4 days. I know i have been taught to internalize that idea of worthiness when i complete a task and check it off my list. And yet, we can’t continue to be in this space of DOING all the time.

I think that the sensation of BEing is the opposite of DOing. There isn’t focus on the outcome but rather the sense of being right here right now. It isn’t about being productive. This is a more feminine aligned value, vs the toxic masculinity we have been taught for decades. I am here for that. The ancient value of feminine energy has been put into our collective shadow, as a way of making us believe our worth is tied to our career or financial success.

Even in a global pandemic, during war, and other atrocities against communities, we are taught to push through and show our worth based on our accomplishments.

The opposite of trauma is titration. So we need to start this healing process and reclamation in small, doable steps so that our body does not feel overwhelmed by this effort to jump back in. This article offers some practical suggestions to help soothe yourself when out in the public world these days. This New Yorker article also reflects what life is like now in this psuedo-post-Covid world.

We need to move into Self energy, this is what heals the Parts of us that have come online to protect us from Covid. For me, i am in Self when i am in nature, being creative or playing. It is when i feel calm and confident, when i have clarity and compassion. My Manager Part and Firefighter have been on duty 24/7 and they need a break. We need to come back home to our Self.

How to Move Forward with Grace
Here are some things to put into place:

*Schedule a non-negotiable daily ritual for yourself
*Create a peaceful space
*Try something new just for fun – have a Beginner’s Mind
*Be Creative
*Move your body
*Plan a time to allow yourself to just BE
*Find your Village

It might be too soon to get around the value put on DOing. It helps to instead focus on doing small things frequently and spending more time in the place of Being. These are tiny experiments that can help you track if they feel risky for you. For instance, find the tiny moments and things that make you feel like YOU. It is a bit of a journey back to us as we want to be.

I learned that our brain relishes coupling hard moments with compassion. Ask yourself “What do I need in this moment?” And even more imperative – respond to that need. Combine something you have to do with something that nurtures you. Perhaps you need to go grocery shopping, so maybe call a friend or treat yourself to fresh flowers.

See if you can practice more BEing moments: These are the moments of just being present in the here and now. Be still, pause. Breathe and soak in the moment without needing an outcome. If that seems hard, find ways to practice mindfulness – play a new song that you enjoy and truly listen to its lyrics. Eat a fruit salad with your eyes closed and see if you can differentiate the flavours from one another. You might sit at the window and watch what is happening outside. Maybe you go for a walk without ear buds in and no plan. When you enter into this space, practice being curious about what shows up for you. Is it hard? Do you feel the urge to push? Bring acceptance to this experience and see if you can let it go.

This is my time to start my ascent from the dark, from that underworld journey. Want to join me?