death of a loved one

To fly, give up everything that weighs you down

The personal challenges of letting go in the wake of the death of a loved one. By Sue Clark

How many of us present a face, a public persona that conceals a struggle within? How many emotions and experiences do we hide every day? How many practice yoga, go to the gym, shop, all the while covering deep feelings we feel unable to reveal to the world, family or even friends?

Recently this has hit home in the hardest way. Helping a relative with online shopping over lockdown but separated by hundreds of miles and a strong persona, unwelcome of interference, I gradually suspected all was not well. But still, even I was shocked by the recent truth of discovering how deep the depth between appearance and reality can be.

As she became increasingly unwell and repeatedly hospitalized, I was thrown into another’s world revealing a life of hoarding and clutter. New things were piled with old in a house filled to capacity with years of memories fighting to find space to breathe. This came after writing about the ‘joy of letting go’ in the last issue of OM. Now I faced the reality of letting go; not only in the form of death itself but the practical aspects of letting go of someone else’s accumulations.

Being with a loved one as they struggle through this reality is painful, humbling and yet a privilege. Every day on her behalf I now make decisions and let go of things. I am finding this brings a kind of peace and connection with a grounding and appreciation of each new day. Swimming in the cold Devon sea, walking among apple trees now heavy with fruit, hearing birdsong: this allows me to catch thoughts that surface. In short, I am talking about awareness and gratitude, not as a concept but every day, in every moment. Most importantly, letting go and sharing allows me to have real conversations that matter.

Many will relate to aspects of letting go; maybe a loved one, either through death or separation.

Many will be facing this alone and wondering how to cope. Others will be hiding an inner demon they dare not share as mental health is rarely considered polite conversation even among friends or family.

So let it go, if once a concept, became and is, very personal for me and a mantra to live by. I am not suggesting it is the next thing to tweet, buy, do or even post, but instead a feeling and practice that becomes more important than wearing a mask of acceptance when, or if, everything is not okay. Years of study may or may not help, but I find the grounding and understanding from Ayurvedic training and practice continue to support me as I adjust. Intuitively, I feel my Vata is way off, so I have reverted to an almost mono diet of warm soups and mung dhal with warming spices to soothe. Reasoning and deep anger tell me, look after Pitta, so extra sleep and long walks in nature with simple herbal teas like freshly-picked lemon verbena from the garden. And yes, of course, there is Kapha, showing in grief, sadness, congested lungs, alongside a weakness felt to the core; here, I offer time and love for myself.

Most days I go to the yoga mat, keen or tired, happy or sad, but in the end it is the practice itself, the letting go and starting anew again, that truly strengthens, providing a flexible frame for both body and mind.

Dedicated to my aunt: 5/9/46 — 3/9/20

May we all be filled with loving kindness
May we all be well
May we all be peaceful and content
May we all be happy (and may we learn to let go)

Adapted from The Path with Heart, Jack Kornfiled.

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Om Magazine

First published in November 2009, OM Yoga magazine has become the most popular yoga title in the UK. Available from all major supermarkets, independents and newsstands across the UK. Also available on all digital platforms.