4.2
July 26, 2018

How to Steady ourselves when we’re Drowning in Heartache.

Early this morning, as I was slicing lemons and ginger, waiting for my coffee to brew, I looked out of the kitchen window and saw that it was sunny.

I paused, waiting for the thought to settle in.

It was sunny.

The sun was shining and the birds were chirping, and that meant that life was still happening.

I was thrust out of the darkness of my thoughts and became radically present.

Something heartbreaking happened to someone I love yesterday and ever since getting the news, I’ve felt a bit untethered. I feel helpless.

When we experience heartache or loss it seems to be all we can think about—or all we feel like we should think about. It’s big. It’s heavy. It’s scary. Something that had previously not been a thought or concern suddenly consumes everything—tainting, obscuring, and barreling through whatever else we’d previously thought was so important.

Yesterday, for hours, despite total uncertainty, I also felt an odd sense of stability. I was secure. Calm. Focused. I was in perpetual movement. I sent the texts, I made the calls, I went to the places that I needed to go.

Everything around me seemed to be swirling and spinning, but I felt something stable inside. While I know I was running on adrenaline, there was also a softer energy guiding me—a stream of steadiness coursing beneath the chaos and disbelief.

Nothing made sense, but that was okay.

When I finally got back home, I tried to settle down. I took a hot shower, I meditated, and I journaled. As I wrote, I felt the rigidity in my chest and arms begin to slowly soften.

But in that slowness, my resilience crumbled.

Within the stillness, I felt lost and alone—totally unequipped to handle the immensity of the situation and unsure of how to process it.

My strong parts had turned to mush and my strength dissolved.

I cried. Streams of silent tears ran down my cheeks as I let go of all of the emotion I’d been shielding all day. I cried until I couldn’t cry anymore.

And then I came back to my breath.

One slow, deep inhale and one soft, smooth exhale.

Sometimes, life feels totally out of control, like everything is moving and we are just trying to make sense of it, but we can’t, and there’s no time, and whatever we are dealing with is just too big. But it’s not. We will figure it out.

But we have to let ourselves feel the weight of the emotions we are carrying.

We have to let ourselves grieve—to feel the pain, the fear, and the heartache. And we have to feel it fully. We can’t release it unless we allow it to surface, and we can’t move forward without moving through it.

But we also have to find a way to keep ourselves from getting lost in it. We need to know how to bring ourselves out of it.

We need to be able to feel the depth of the emotions without allowing the intensity of them to consume us. We have to feel it, but we also have to be able to let it go.

But how do we do this? How do we stay strong for those who need us, and still wade through our own grief? And how do we provide support for those who are suffering, without losing ourselves in the process?

We have to be able to steady ourselves. Ground ourselves. We need to know what we need to feel centered and rebalanced, and then we need to do those things.

We might still feel shaken, but we can also feel a subtle sturdiness inside.

If we can shift the focus of our attention, even momentarily, we will become able to see the truth that exists outside of the imminent emotions we feel—the vastness that exists beyond the heaviness of our current thoughts.

We will also be better able to assist those who need us.

Connecting to what it is that makes us feel alive, and centered, and whole nourishes us. It calms us and gives us strength. It also separates us from the intensity of whatever we are dealing with.

As I drank my coffee this morning, I journaled and prayed. Then, I changed my clothes and went out for a long walk.

As I moved along the sidewalk, I felt the heat of the sun on my skin and watched the sweetness of the occasional butterfly fluttering elegantly in front of me. I focused on the purples and pinks of the flowers lining my path and reached out my hand to gently brush the leaves of the trees and the bushes that I passed.

I listened to the comforting words of an audio book that somehow filled my ears with exactly what I needed to hear.

And I breathed. I focused on my breath.

When I walked back into the house, I felt better.

There were still things that needed to be done and I would do them.

And I felt better.

~

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Lisa Erickson

author: Lisa Erickson

Image: Hanna Postova/Unsplash

Editor: Nicole Cameron