JNANA YOGA: WHEN GRIEF VISITS

Timelines placed on grief are illusionary. Grief does not abide by them. Grief is a guest that visits with it’s own timeline.


This past weekend was a new moon, eclipse, and the summer solstice.

I gathered with some other Black women in ceremony and decided we would grieve together. We planned out a ceremony, brought our own traditions in and collaborated.

We grieved hard. I cried so hard I howled like a ghost. Like every ancestor that ever walked before me also grieved through me. We grieved our sexual abuses, our losses. We grieved hopes and expectations unfulfilled, loves unrequited, liberation not yet attained. We grieved dreams and desires that never came to be, seeds planted that never fruited or flowered. We offered up our grief into the water to be transformed. After we had a sacred fire, and a feast, and we stayed up talking until dawn broke.

I suppose in my striving to make space for grief I had made an assumption that my grief would move through me and be gone.


But it’s days later and it hasn’t been so. My grief resonates in my chest cavity, my tender heart aches, my stomach is still twisted. I keep bursting into tears at inopportune moments. I feel so heavy. I find myself a bit disappointed that the grief is still here. I feel robbed of the pact I made with the universe. I made time and space for let grief move through me uninterrupted and yet it remains.

The reality is that timelines placed on grief are illusionary. Grief does not abide by them. Grief is a guest that visits with it’s own timeline. I opened the door, and invited grief in, and now it has set up a temporary camp in my heart. My impulse is to fight it.

As a yoga teacher, I often feel like I need to perform an extra layer of positivity. I feel like if I’m not happy and positive all the time no one will want to come to classes, no one will want to promote my work or partner with me.

There is, of course some truth to that – grief is a hard sell.

But I never became a yoga teacher to sell positivity. I became a yoga teacher because I believe that we each contain the path to liberation within us, and as I travel further along my own path, I become better equipped to leave the light on for others who walk a similar path along the way.

The reality is that even when I do a lot of yoga and meditation grief still comes to visit. The visits are not any easier, and the duration are not shorter. What does get easier is recognizing it and honouring it. I was supposed to work today – I had a portrait session, but I literally could not get out of bed. So I didn’t. I asked for help. I made arrangements and had another photographer step in to help me, I offered a few alternatives to my portrait clients and let them choose what they wanted, and once it was resolved, I cried as I ate a little food, had a nap, cried some more and went back to bed. I’m now taking a break to write this, but if I cry later it won’t be a surprise. This is what honouring my grief looks like today. So here is what I am learning, and what I am remembering in this time of grief:

  • Not all transformation is instantaneous. Some things transform quickly – like wood to ash in a fire. Other things transform slowly over time, like a river rock growing smooth in rushing water.

  • Tears are water, and water sometimes moves in waves. Tears come and the wave swells, and after awhile the wave recedes. This is the nature of water.

  • All things are impermanent – my breath, my feelings, my thoughts, my experiences all change with time. This grief is here now, but it isn’t possible to go on grieving forever. The feeling may swell and recede like a wave but no two swells are the exact same. Eventually the grief will be replaced by another feeling and sensation.

  • All things are transient, including my tears. Once I cry them they fall and are absorbed by my clothing, or a kleenex, or they evaporate – they do not remain as tears for very long. With this awareness I can witness my grief begin to transform in real time.

  • It’s okay to ask for help. Close friends are often willing to help us when we are in deep grief but they don’t always know how or even that we are in grief. Acknowledging our grief is the first step. Naming it and sharing our truth with another is the next step in reaching out for help. Reaching out doesn’t guarantee we’ll receive help in the way we need it, but if we don’t ask, we also don’t give others an opportunity to show up for us.