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During the early days of Covid-19, I never considered that the virus could take my favorite person from me, but my mother was in a high-risk situation. She had been living in a geriatric center trying to recover from a heart attack that caused severe brain damage. Even before Covid, I had prayed that if she wasn’t going to come back to us as the hilarious, free-spirited protector we knew, perhaps she should be put out of her suffering. Still, I was blindsided in July when there was a phone call, a shriek, a crack in the sky.
Losing my mother during a pandemic has been a surreal and confusing experience. My mind is grappling with that huge change while my day-to-day is repetitive and mundane. Six months into this crisis, with no events and few visitors to distract myself, it’s hard to figure out what moving forward looks like.
After having exhausted more traditional steps such as grievance counseling and still finding myself weary of the upcoming winter, I reached out to women of color who are spiritual healers, wellness practitioners and my own great grandmother for a new perspective. I chose to seek advice from fellow women of color because they’re also trying to stay afloat amid the added chaos of the country’s racial turmoil and uncertainty of women’s rights. I’ve learned there will always be another leg of the journey to heal. But how I handle it now will affect how I feel when it’s over.
I have plenty of downtime but still struggle with grief and anxiety, so it often feels like rest can only help so much. I called Tricia Hersey to see if I can still tap into the deeper healing she preaches, which preaches napping as a means of liberation and resistance. She said she’s been busier during Covid than in the last three years of running her ministry because so many people have realized they don’t know how to slow down – even now, when we are forced to.
“We’re always in this ‘go, go, go’ mode based on just living in a culture that says you aren’t enough unless you’re constantly doing something,” she said. “So to really heal your body and for your nervous system to reconnect, you have to push against that idea, remember the oppressive culture it comes from, and retrain that inner voice saying, ‘I have to do 300 other things’.”
Hersey knows that’s easier said than done, but she suggested I start with small adjustments – add 10 more minutes in the shower, meditate while walking, set aside anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours a day for daydreaming, birdwatching, or mindless activities, including napping. “It’s going to be a slow meticulous love practice because you’ve been brainwashed since you were born to think productivity is the way to survive.”
When it came to my grieving journey, Hersey pointed out that I can use rest to not only heal myself but ancestors as well. “Your mother’s healing can still be happening now,” she said.
Dr Jennifer Lisa Vest, spiritual healer
Dr Jennifer Lisa Vest studied both her family’s Native American spiritual ancestry and Afro-Caribbean traditions to become a spirit guide to help people learn about their life purpose and communicate with their ancestors. She also teaches women how to develop their own spiritual intuition, which is why I wanted her advice – I’ve grown more curious about how I might be able to communicate with my mom spiritually and get guidance from other ancestors.
Vest told me the first step is to meditate daily. “The more you set aside time to receive intuitive information, you’ll start getting more information and more powerful visions,” she said. “You should also start writing them down in a psychic journal or a dream journal. The more you write, the more will come.” She added I should then talk about what comes to me with others interested in intuition.
When I asked about connecting with ancestors, Vest suggested that I start by learning from elders in my family. “One of the ways I learned as much as I did was I was always talking to old people first,” she said. “If your elders aren’t around, find older people in your community. Ask them what they do to honor the dead and start to piece together a practice from that.”
Rose Hosking, my great-grandmother
Living through previous hard times, like the civil rights struggle and major wars, has given my 95-year-old Haitian-American great-grandmother coping skills. And she’s navigated her fair share of losses too, including my mother’s passing.
Though her father wrote multiple books about Haitian voodoo, grandma Rose was raised a devout Catholic. She told me her faith in God has helped her believe healing is possible, adding, “We just have to ask Him to take over our lives and guide us.” But she also mentioned that when it came to grieving the loss of boisterous, hilarious people like her last husband, she mostly got through slumps by remembering the days he made her laugh. She remembers the two of them laughing until she grabbed her side at inappropriate times in church, or when he would accept free bus rides from drivers who mistook his dapper suits for a clergyman’s. She looks at her favorite pictures of my mom that are full of life for a similar affect.
Our conversation made me realize that a lot of the things I was already doing to honor my mom or cheer myself up could be considered a practice, like putting up pictures of her or watching her silly home movies.
I realized I already know what my process looks like, I just have to recognize it and then let this feeling of loss run its course, knowing there is no magic pill for grief.
Sister Dang Nghiem, Buddhist Dharma teacher
Sister Dang Nghiem’s very centered life at the Deer Park Monastery near San Diego, California doesn’t prevent her from sharing classes on grief, as well as guided meditations via YouTube that touch on the Black Lives Matter movement and the pandemic.
I sought her advice on how to both stay close to inner peace and still engage with current events. In these overwhelming times, she’s been practicing “mindful consumption” of news. “You don’t have to consume 100 articles to understand what’s going on,” she explained. Sister Nghiem said she feels informed by reading one to three articles a day because there’s so much repetition in the news cycle. “When you calm your mind, you are actually much more aware of what’s going on. You touch it more deeply. You see it more clearly,” she added. Focusing on her mind-body relationship through practices such as mindful breathing and meditationactually increase her ability to engage with stressful or taxing events. “So many of us just go from one experience to another one, trauma after another. And we’re not even aware of that. And that takes a toll on our body,” she said. “It takes a toll on our capacity to hold [stress]. So when a stressful situation takes place, like a pandemic, like an illness, like the death of a loved one, we break apart.”
Sister Nghiem encouraged me to practice seeing my mother in myself as a way to cope with grief. “If we realize, ‘Wow, if I lose my mom, my partner, or my friends, that person gets to live with me, gets to grow old with me, also gets to travel and learn with me.’ Then our life is not so bleak,” she said. “You reach out and love more the children that are still alive, the other parent, the friends, the strangers. We see our loved one in them, continued through them.”
I noticed Sister Nghiem’s focus on her own mind and body gave her a radical empathy with other people’s experiences. Instead of just wishing me well on my own journey as she hung up, Sister Nghiem said, “Take good care of your mother in you.”
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: How to get through loss, advice from women of color | Life and style