It has been challenging for me to decide when it is appropriate to share this personal experience with you. When is it a good time to share one’s experience of grief?
Before “Merry Christmas” just didn’t seem right and now with “Happy New Year”, it still doesn’t seem right… However, when I was out walking with a dear friend late last week she reminded me that people experience grief at any time of the year. We are never alone in this.
Through this experience there were two things that became very apparent to me:
- The body does keep the score – emotional and/or physical trauma can bring about discomfort in my body.
- When this happens, I need to follow my intuition and expand my team of healers when needed.
Above, is an x-ray of my pelvis and spine, a special memory with our family during my daughter’s graduation celebrations last summer and a photo from my recent Clinical Somatic Educator training in Denver. All of these pectorial representations came together at the end of 2018.
We lost our lovable, beautiful easy-going Bernese Mountain dog, Charlie (in the grad photo above), to lymphoma on October 24th; he was at 9½ years old. His health declined so quickly. Our family was devastated. I didn’t know how heartbreaking and all-consuming our family’s loss would be. He was such an integral part of our lives. There are so many daily reminders that he is no longer with us – coming in the door without him there to greet us, going for walks without him, sitting on the steps in our kitchen and not having him immediately sit right next to me, bringing out his favourite treat, popcorn, or peeling carrots without him there asking for a little himself…
My soma responded to this loss by going into freeze/flight mode (red light reflex). One of the ways this showed up was how my sleep was affected. I usually fall asleep laying on my back, one hand on my belly and one on my chest focussing on my breath. All I could manage was laying on my side in the fetal position was with a pillow to support me front and back as I fitfully slept. I dropped my movement and meditation practice. I cried so much. I tried my best to support my grieving family…
Thankfully, the biodynamic craniosacral therapist I see, Nicole Ainscough, created a space for me to see her on day 6 – a healing modality I know helps my soma find relief and balance. My upper back was so tight it felt like the muscles would snap. It was the head forward, abdominals contracted posture that was causing the upper back discomfort. That night my soma was open enough that I could fall asleep on my back once again. I am so grateful for Nicole’s kindness and the gentle healing modality she shares.
I came back to my guided meditation and somatics practice as well as my morning ritual of Ayurvedic practices – neti pot, tongue scraping, dry brushing, self-massage, warm water and lemon – all simple self care. It’s so curious how these practices that I need most can be dropped in a time of emotional turmoil.
The second challenge, that was intermingled with this time of grief for me, was that after much deliberation at the beginning of October I had decided to transfer from one Clinical Somatic Educator training to another in hopes it would be a better fit for my learning style. It meant I had to pay for and retake a week long module of training in the US as the information with the new school is taught in a different way. A week and a half after Charlie’s passing, with my family still processing our loss, I was on my way to Denver, a city I had never visited before with a group of people I mostly didn’t know. They had completed one module of training together already. Was I going to be an outsider or was I going to be welcomed into their tribe? It turned out to be a fantastic training that completely fit my learning style with a wonderful welcoming group of people.
We had a lovely guided practice each morning, lecture, and then we became the practitioner or the client practicing what we were learning on each other for the remainder of the day. I was very fatigued mind and body at the end of each day. It also snowed part way through the training and the 20 minute walk to and from the venue was very slippery. I could feel this in my hip flexors and hamstrings as they worked to stabilize me. There were challenges beginning to show up in my practice. I was grateful to be where I was to receive the help I needed while there.
When I returned to Calgary I attended two fitness classes a couple of days apart. My right hip and SI joint, the one that has given me trouble off and on for 40 years, really gave out on me. I was practicing my daily somatic movements, I went for a craniosacral therapy treatment and also went for a private clinical somatic education session and received some relief. However, the discomfort was hanging on and I felt like there was more to it this time.
It was a perfect storm emotionally and physically for the past three weeks of my life. It was time for me to open up to another exploration.
I hadn’t been to traditional chiropractor in over 20 years. I am teaching group SomaYoga classes at Montgomery Chiropractic Plus. I decided to see the chiropractor, Dr. Joseph Kelly, to gain his understanding of what I might need help with for the structure of my body. Somatic movements improve the function of the muscles that support the structure of the skeleton. I felt there was more than dysfunctional muscle movement from all that I had experienced in a short time. Perhaps that was the cause of the discomfort I was experiencing. Dr. Kelly sent me for x-rays that revealed my hip bones weren’t level and that my spine was curving off centre. He told me my hips and spine had been off for a while as there was a calcification build up along my left sacroiliac joint and on the right side of my lumbar vertebra. He was surprised at how well I could move and how healthy the discs in my lumbar spine were given what the x-ray revealed; he felt this was because of my SomaYoga practice.
The chiropractic care helped my sacroiliac joint, hips and spine to unlock. I followed the adjustments with somatic movements and stabilizing practices for my trunk and pelvis. It was wonderful how much the two modalities complemented each other and made for a speedy recovery. I went for my eleventh and last session yesterday where Dr. Kelly reassessed my movements. I did not have any circles to draw indicating pain points on the body diagram. He was very happy with the progress we made in my movement patterns and wants to see me in a month for a follow up.
Now, upon looking back, I am able to find gratitude that Charlie did not suffer a long time. He had a long life for a male Bernese Mountain dog. We were so incredibly lucky to have him in our lives. We had a wonderful dog sitter that Charlie absolutely adored and she and her mom were able to come and see him on his last day with us to say goodbye and share some funny stories they had of their times with him. We also had a very caring veterinarian who came to our home to help us peacefully say goodbye.
I may always have some physical challenges because of the spinal fusion I had almost 37 years ago – it is in how my structure cannot be changed. These challenges may show up when life throws a perfect storm my way and I fall back into past movement patterns that do not serve me. However, I am so grateful that I have the tools to help myself with my practice and have a team of like minded practitioners to support my health as well.