Saltwater, sweat and tears

How I am grieving

Tears

One year ago my tears started to flow. I have never been someone who cried. It was very rare. I was brought up with the attitude of “get on with it” and “there is no need to cry”. So I didn’t.

But the man who taught me “not to cry” was the man who opened me up to complete vulnerability and the abundance of tears. My dad was dying.

Death and dying is a strange thing. It is hidden. We rarely talk about death. It’s so far removed that we are uncomfortable and don’t know what to say when a friend’s loved one pass on. Because we don’t want to upset them. We don’t know what to do with all that grief and emotion. And the crying… Especially someone else’s tears.

We don’t know what to do with all that grief and emotion. And the crying… Especially someone else’s tears.

Dad was going through extensive surgery (3 times in about 3 months. One unsuccessful femoral artery bypass, one amputation which turned necrotic, and one successful amputation ~ although the recovery wasn’t) as there was hardly any blood supply to his legs. He was in pain and on drugs. He had carers to help him. It was challenging. He was a very independent man. Mum hated seeing him in so much pain and felt powerless and upset. I was upset. And crying.

“I know of a cure for everything: salt water…in one way or the other. Sweat, or tears, or the salt sea.”

Karen Blixen

In the end, he had enough. 3 mayor operations, being in the hospital, knowing the other leg would also have to be amputated, the number of drugs, the dependency on carers… He didn’t want to live like that. I hated that he was in so much pain for those 3 months. But I’m grateful that it offered me the opportunity to spend time with him. To say goodbye. And I said my goodbyes.

During his service in the church, I cried from when we sat down until we carried him to the hearse. I didn’t stop. It was like a waterfall. During this time I was surrendering and I was allowing. I was present. I wasn’t doing ~ I was being. I learned (and still learning) the act of being present and being with what is truly important. The noise of “shoulds” disappeared and instead, I found clarity.

The noise of “shoulds” disappeared and instead, I found clarity.

Saltwater

Throughout the time of his journey to death and my own grieving, the sea was my comfort. I went to the beach to cry. I could sit there and just be, breathe and cry. Whatever the weather. Going for walks in the rain, sitting looking at the waves in the sunshine, smelling the saltwater come rain or sun.

In the summer the sea was my healer. I dived in as soon the water was just warm enough. I would swim or float. It was my sanctuary. I felt safe, held and comforted by the sea. I could just be or I could cry. Salty tears in the saltwater.

Grieving is strange. It’s a visceral experience. But being in the water was truly healing.

Sweat

Being brought up to “get on with it” I did. I was coping absolutely fine. I wasn’t crying continuously, or unable to be part of daily life. I enjoyed work. There is something comforting about the daily routine. Teaching my yoga classes was also healing for me. It was my prayer, my meditation. My yoga practice was both me teaching as well as my own movement medicine. Practising yoga I got back into my body, I could breathe again and I started to get connected. I had to practise – otherwise, I couldn’t breathe. I might be crying during the flow, I might just lie in child’s pose for a while. But movement was my medicine.

Movement is medicine ~ for body, mind and spirit.

I got into other movement practises too. Practising in the outdoor gym on the beach with a trainer guiding me through core poses, upper body strength and handstands. Yoga has always been my preferred and really the one “exercises” I ever enjoyed. This was hard and different. I had to concentrate and focus. The grief was there (still is – it’s just changing) but being put through a practice guided by someone else in a way I didn’t usually move was healing. For my body, yes, but even more so for my mental health. Movement is medicine ~ for body, mind and spirit.

A year on and my crying has stopped. I can still well up. I now get teary watching Queer Eye and Bake Off (yes, really). I am probably more balanced with my crying now than before dad’s passing. It still feels strange not to have him around. I can still hear him, smell him and feel his presence. And I miss him.

My grieving is changing. And I guess grief is just that: a part of me now, always changing, evolving, moving like the waves of the ocean.