by Megha Nancy Buttenheim
Welcome back to my series on seven healing ways to find grace within grief. If you missed the first entry, I invite you to return to the beginning in order to get the most from this article.
After my daughter, Sarah Grace, died, it was essential to surround myself with loving people who could understand that I was bearing the unbearable. My beloved friend Eileen Quinn had the idea of sending a letter to our Kripalu community members to tell them what they could and could not say when we met in the hallways. Together, we concocted a script for them. We wrote that it was important to acknowledge Sarah Grace. She was my daughter; she had a name.
They could say, “Congratulations on an amazing delivery” or “I am so sorry that Sarah Grace died.”
They could not say, “I know how you feel” or “You can always have another baby” or, worst of all, “It must have been God’s will. She is with God now.”
Our letter was sent, and I was spared ignorant condolences. Instead, I was treated with gentle respect by everyone.
Equally as important was the loving community of my own multidimensional self, which relates to the yogic koshas, or layers of the self. Immediately after Sarah Grace died, I discovered that there were many parts of me that needed comforting, not just my broken heart and shattered soul. I realized I had to offer succor to my aching arms, and my excruciatingly painful breasts. I understood at a visceral level that my body had emotions, too. I had known this intellectually through my yoga practice, but now I experienced it in living color. My body was grieving. It had waited nine whole months to feed its baby, and she was ripped away. My body couldn’t do its job. My physical being—known in yogic anatomy as anamayakosha, the first layer of the self—hurt in a myriad of ways.
My arms, which had been waiting to hold Sarah Grace—how they ached! I patted them, telling them they had done a good job. My breasts were in agony. I told them how sorry I was. I realized that the milk that had been stored up and ready to feed my daughter was instead going inside, to feed me. I thanked my breasts. I felt so bad for them that I actually said, “I’m sorry for your loss,” as if my body was an altogether separate entity. I began to sooth and cherish my multidimensional self, the community that makes up me.
I was doing all this by sheer instinct. Years later, when Positive Psychology entered my life, I learned that cherishing and loving the self is called “being in one’s own choir.” All parts of me make up the choir that is Megha.
Megha Nancy Buttenheim, MA, E-RYT, Megha Nancy Buttenheim, MA, E-RYT 500, is the founding director of Let Your Yoga Dance® and a faculty member for Wholebeing Institute’s Certificate in Positive Psychology. letyouryogadance.com