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?

The Alchemy of Resilience

It is week 10 of Pandemic Living: As we are settling into a routine of sorts, it comes with resistance as this is not the life I want to be living. I want to see my friends in person and hug them, and i miss my everyday life of going to my office to work, getting groceries, and picking my kids up from school.

And yet, like all change, I was in denial at first, and am moving into a place of acceptance. It hasn’t been easy, and at times it has been mixed with grief, anger, fear, and such sadness. My Window of Tolerance is shorter than ever before and being stuck at home (a place i love typically and know i am very privileged to have) makes it hard to settle into this life.
But like a butterfly, we are going through these stages of Metamorphosis. At first, we were defiant and messy in adapting to this new life, then we worked on a new plan to accept the transition (called Liminal Stage). As we are starting to accept that this life during a pandemic is nowhere near as short-lived as we hoped, we need to start working on what comes next. Transition is the time to claim the life I want. It’s when I need to turn inward and practice Introspection. When we are asked to do this during a pandemic with no clear end in sight, this transition is more challenging.

Once we start accepting the reality, we have reached the Integration stage. This Initiation process means we are moving closer to our true Self and move to a version that is hopefully better than before. When we reach integration, that means we are more able to bounce back and seek out things we love to balance the shit and hard times of this so-called life.

A big part of how we adjust to change, both Rites of Passage like parenthood or unexpected change like a pandemic is Resilience. We all go through change but some of us adapt and bounce back better. I know this is a buzz word, and yet when we are living through a massive global change, resilience is a necessary tool to help us get to the other side of that rainbow we keep seeing everywhere.

Not only are we experiencing a pandemic, it is also a collective trauma, as I have mentioned before. Trauma is not just something that hurt us, but also something where we were not able to experience the good stuff that we were looking forward to. This is where grief comes in about things we have lost during this time. Children look to their adult caregivers to help support the healing after trauma. This helps them build resilience and immunity from future trauma. But how do we offer this to others when we are still struggling too?

There is hope.

Resilience is how we weather the storm. It happens when we tap into our own inner strength, believe it’s there, and use it when things are hard. This is our Sense of Self.

Some definitions of resilience include 1) the ability to restore balance and come back to your centre 2) the ability to overcome difficulty and move through trauma or adversity, 3) the capacity to recover quickly so that you can take in pleasure and have a healthy nervous system response and 4) resilience is acceptance of adversity. It is not just about how we recover from a challenge but also accepting when we cannot change something. That’s how we integrate and move on.

Alchemy is the magical way of combining ingredients to get to an even better new item. As a student of resilience, it is a big part of my work as a trauma therapist. Here, I’ve curated a recipe of sorts to help build your resilience.

6 Factors of Resilience
* REST – Find more peace and strengthen your relationship with your Self; learn to self-sooth, regulate and manage your thoughts; nurture yourself with good food, practice self-care and self-compassion; access those old resources that worked in the past; take news and social media breaks; get outside to be in nature; sleep as well as you can.
* Acknowledge your FEELINGS – Be mindful in moments to slow down the overwhelm; learn tools for worry brain or anxious mind; notice you sensations in your body and respond to them; be honest with yourself and your family about how you are feeling; allow time to feel your feelings and let others do the same, notice your fears specifically and help yourself get to the end of the fear by naming it – this helps lessen its effect on you.
* GRATITUDE – Kindness for self and others; intentionally notice the good in the day; notice how much of the news you can take in; share things you are grateful for in a journal or with a loved one; seek out the things that you appreciate now.
* Reach out for SUPPORT and Connection – Connect with others; hold space, empathy, listen without trying to fix; find new ways to connect by also respecting boundaries and safety; find the shared experience instead of the ways you are struggling more.
* PLAY – Be creative and find joy; do things you enjoy and have been meaning to do so that there are things you look forward to and are proud of; laugh and have pleasure in your body; being creative and curious helps us build resilience as it shows our brain that we are not stuck in flight or fight response; find ways to move your body (song, dance, throw a ball, get outside)
* Have a ROUTINE – You don’t need to over-schedule yourself, in fact the opposite is true. When you have a rhythm that your body recognizes, it experience that bounce back quality. Find things you can control to help balance the overwhelm and uncertainty in your body; cook or do thins in your home that you know you can do. This certainty helps deepen your adaptability and helps get to a place of radical ACCEPTANCE.

Mother told us to pause and retreat. So retreat with nourishment and reflect. Go inward. Danielle LePorte

Collective Resilience
We are all enduring this experience of the pandemic, albeit in different boats. Common threads coming up include a heightened sense of fear and anxiety, the social disconnection from being forced to distance can increase loneliness or at worst violence in the home, and the overarching thread of the unknown. ((Cue Into Unknown song in Frozen here))

This then impacts our health – our individual health, the interrelatedness to others in our personal life, as well as our collective larger community. When we seek out ways to practice enhancing our resilience, we are not only helping ourselves but our community. As humans, we are built to survive and also thrive. As i mentioned in a previous article, our brain has 3 systems, Defense, Social Engagement and Drive: This is where our Drive comes in, which is our uniquely human brain’s capacity to thrive.

This is the time for intentional pause so we can commit to a Sacred re-prioritization. We need to root in the earth instead of be unearthed by this massive change that was dumped on us. We need discomfort to grow. Danielle Laporte recently shared that this is not about going back to the way things were, but rather transforming from my heart-centred place. It’s about an ego death, hence the opportunity to re-prioritize your values from your true Self.

Here are some journal prompts that may help you unpack this further:

Journal Prompts
1) How can I live my life according to my values? If not all day but some time with each day, how can i practice this?
2) What is my Passion Project – these fuel the fire within. It allows your mind to still, to become clear and helps you focus on something to look forward to. Spend some time imagining this and putting it on paper, even in draft form it helps get the wheels turning.
3) Shapeshifter Visualization – who do i want to be after this? How can i evolve into a different version of myself. How can i accept that nature has its course to take as well.
4) Create a manifesting collage (or “Wombifesting” thanks to Latham Thomas’ reclaiming of the word to allow things to happen versus mange them happen). Get your old magazines and glue sticks out and create a vision board of who you want to be 6 months from now. Two years from now.
5) What’s the thing you’ve been wanting and what’s the fear you’ve had that has come up now again? What’s standing in the way? What armour do you need do build up your strength to challenge your fear?
6) For those of us working a lot and now working at home – notice how you can work from home and order things online. How is this helping or harming your life plan? Ask yourself: Am I living the life i love? What can I change to be more aligned with it?
7) Looking at the above list of ingredients for resilience, What can you add or change to your practice to ensure more opportunity for resilience?

When we experience something traumatic, we are not doomed for it to take over us indefinitely. There is always potential for growth and recovery. So, as not a lot is in our control now due to the pandemic, we can still review our Locus of Control, and identify what is within our realm of control. This is where we can make choices for wellbeing. A new identity is forming now so it’s a good time to ask yourself why am i here? What do i want in my life now? This is about taking the opportunity for EVOLUTION, that than bouncing back to what was.

We are not on the other side of the rainbow just yet. As we are learning more about ourselves and what works for us, when we make intentional choices to do things that comfort us and balance the harder feelings, that is resilience. We are not on the post-traumatic side of this new reality, and yet post-traumatic growth is itself a journey of resilience. What you do now will help you recover in the new world post-pandemic.

How to Live a Balanced Life

It’s butterfly season right now, and this summer brings a happy supply of them where i live. As they are an anchor for me, I’ve been working on creating a tool with the butterfly as the inspiration. I love the quote from Rupi Kaur that reminds us that ‘growth is a process that takes time’. Indeed, strength is necessary for a caterpillar to become a chrysalis and then to transform and push out of cocoon. The metamorphosis of the butterfly is the perfect display of the rite of passage we all go through.

Some of us go through it more gracefully or intentionally, while many of us struggle as we did not have the best models of this sea change.

As a therapist, i am also a work in progress. I am my own wellness or resilience coach – I work hard to create my version of a balanced life by making a point to bring joy in, taking care of myself, as well as keeping myself connected to others. After reflecting on my own journey, i noticed an intuitive path that i took. With this in mind, i created this worksheet as a guide to help you.

I love Wheel of Life tools that highlight the various parts of us. The wheel is similar to the 6 Dimensions of Health Wellness: emotional, occupational, physical, social, intellectual, and spiritual. It was created to help people see the need for balance in this various realms. Reading this list, can you notice where you might need to make some changes? Did anything surprise you?

In order to build our capacity when we’re faced with challenges, we also need to appreciate wonder and awe, moments of pleasure and joy. That’s hard to do if you can’t know what gives us this sense of pleasure.

The resource I created is similar to the wheel, and a bit unique as it breaks down the parts into the holistic trifecta of Mind, Body and Soul (sometimes referred to Spirit).

I believe this balance is even more sacred now. I don’t think of the pillars of wellness as separate parts of our Self, but all 3 are interconnected for our overall well-being. We can’t have one without the others. As social creatures, our nervous system has a social engagement system that also needs community and connection. That’s why I included ways to feel connected to others. Even when apart, we need community.


Think of these butterfly parts as a way to create more balance in your own life. Each part is integral to living well. So, the Antenna symbolizes the Soul; the Head is the Mind and mental health realm, and of course the Body represents the physical self-care we need to stay well. The 4 wings around it are for family, friends, work, and community. I call it The Four Wings of Connection. Add what you do that nourishes each part, and what you wish to add in order to create more balance. See what comes up, what’s missing, and what you’d like to add moving forward. We are our own experts, so get to navigate the way we live our life – what do you chose? Use the butterflies you see in nature as a guide – take time to slow down and linger in one place.

what the caterpillar saw as the end, the rest of the world saw as the beginning. lao tzu

This season is a perfect time to set some intentions – both for the rest of the year, and to honour your experience this past year. It also serves as a guide to help you live your life with more intention, a life that you love.

I’ve created a free 2-page PDF that you can print and work on yourself, Get a cup of tea, a nice pen and take some time to sit with this. Click here to get a copy.