Monday, August 21, 2017

Hold Your Power; Carry Your Fire

My yoga teacher urges her students to activate our power center—the source of self-confidence, inner strength, transformative action--as a foundation for opening the heart. She guides us in breath of fire, vigorously pumping the solar plexus area in and out in coordination with the breath. “Hold your power,” she calls out; “own it.”
I could do none of those things in the first couple years after Noah's suicide. I was so broken, depleted, and out of balance, I had no center to energize. The only thing that flowed freely in my system was tears, which leaked down my temples when I lay in what was supposed to be deep relaxation at the end of class.
We survivors know what it's like to feel powerless. When the person we loved was still alive, many of us felt powerless to help them get help or stick with treatment or believe it gets better . After they took their lives, we often feel powerless to understand what happened or to see a way forward for our lives. Over and over, we mourn not only the person we lost but our helplessness in the face of their despair.
After suicide, survivors need to reconnect with our power. We need to fight off the engulfing sense of shame and self-blame, to assert that we’re more than survivors after suicide. We need to rekindle our life force, maybe by exploring a new purpose, activity, or relationship that we find fulfilling. Rabbi Baruch HaLevi, a survivor, calls this carrying the fire: “To Carry the Fire is to choose to live with a purpose--the purpose of making meaning of the loss, the purpose of finding opportunities for possibility, for growth, and even for blessings. To Carry the Fire is to decide to live passionately, purposefully, and completely, not merely for ourselves, but for our loved ones as well.”

I’m immersed these days in the new venture of promoting my grief memoir, I’ll Write Your Name on Every Beach: A Mother’s Quest for Comfort,Courage and Clarity After Suicide Loss  (Jessica Kingsley Publishers). Each book talk I do floods me with anxiety. I’ve had to literally fortify myself to find the strength to speak publicly about losing Noah. I’ve tried breath of fire, calming breath, de-stressing self-percussion—all techniques I recommend in my book!—along with chamomile tea, red wine, even belting out the blues at top volume while driving to the event. My aim: to be calm enough on these occasions to be a vessel for the message of the book. For my most recent talk at Vromans Bookstore, I overshot the goal with so much fortification that I ended up numb. Not so numb that I didn’t feel buoyed by everyone who’d come out to support me in a SRO crowd (thank you all!), but more cut off from my grieving self than I wanted or needed to be. 
Before future talks, I’ll set an intention of simply being authentic in offering my story to others. For that, I’ll need to activate my power center—but only so far as courage meets compassion. 

To my fellow survivors (and maybe others, too): What reconnects you with your strength and replenishes your vitality? Give yourself the gift of that experience, maybe in small trial doses in the early stages of bereavement, then later, as often as you can without exhausting yourself. Catch your fire. 

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