When I experienced grief after my Fathers death, I felt lost. Nobody had ever told me what it would be like, how it would feel or how to care for myself during grieving. There was no plan to put in place. When you are pregnant and a life is entering your world you are encouraged to write a birth plan, to learn about the process and to be fully engaged. Everyone talks about it and celebrates the event. At the other end of lifes precious spectrum, as death is coming, nobody was there to explain what the process might be, how it might unfold or what I should do after the last breath to mark the passing. Perhaps things go differently in a hospice setting but I was totally unprepared when my Father died in Intensive Care after several weeks of illness.
It’s very difficult to realign your mind with what has happened, there is a reality where that person has existed for your entire life, and then suddenly, they are gone. I remember feeling very confused, lost and in disarray. Reality seemed glitched, like everything was the same but everything was different. When I left the hospital and went home I looked at my hand, at the end of my arm, and it didn’t seem like it was me.
Then there were well meaning people who told me what grief was like for them, how long it lasted and what I should do. It took me a while to figure out that all grievings are different, just like pregnancies, and that there’s no set time limit or course of action that can be prescribed that will suit everyone. There were also the people who didn’t know what to say or how to act, they pretended nothing had happened, and that was confusing too. There was so much to navigate, apart from my own grieving, I had to really try and stay centred within my own needs (I failed for a while). I tried not be pushed off centre by what other people thought I needed, based on their own experiences. Finding understanding or compassion for those who felt uncomfortable with my loss was also part of the process. At the other end of the specturm I also found that some people were drawn to me and my loss, as a way to somehow release buried grievings of their own.
When somebody very close to you is alive, whether you live together or not, their existence still underpins yours. They have played such an important role in your upbringing and childhood that you have become part of eachother, but until they are gone, you may not know that.
When my Father passed I was 30 and had been living abroad working. I came home to be with him and I was with him when he died. Even though I was a fully fledged adult the loss shook my foundations. As I tried to go back to my normal routine I felt like one of my guide ropes had been cut and I was flapping around in the wind uncontrollably like a runaway sports kite, spinning in the sky out of control … or like a sailing boat, the rigging snapped, and the mast in danger of crashing down and the tiller unable to steer a clear course … or like a car travelling at high speed when a tyre blows out and it’s impossible to regain control. I lived several months like this and probably seemed like the usual me from the outside.
And then I found Shiatsu. The treatment I received grounded me, replaced my guide ropes, steered my kite to soar high, helped me to navigate my course again more clearly. I slept soundly for the first time in months that night. I felt reconnected to my body, to my emotions, to me. I felt clarity and knew what I needed to do and where I needed to be in order to allow my grieving to move naturally, so that I could evolve into my new reality.
If you find yourself grieving, be sure to seek some self care, not with a view to ‘making yourself better’ or ‘curing’ grief, but to help your journey, to help you travel smoothly.
How does it work? At the time I had no idea about the practice of Shiatsu and the energy meridians or acupressure points that it works with. All I knew was that it felt good and I felt at peace. Since training as a Shiatsu therapist I’ve learned that grief can affect all of the meridians but the one it mostly takes it’s toll on is the Lung energy. This may manifest in tight chest, asthma, chest infections, a feeling of disconnect or isolation and low immunity. Of course any of these things should be discussed with your doctor but Shiatsu can underpin any medical treatment and support your journey.