“Tears Water Our Growth.” – William Shakespeare
In this very heart-warming Self-Care Goddess Podcast episode #63, Erin Burden shares how she was shattered and “lost in the wilderness” by the death of her daughter Dakota, who ended her life in 2018. Erin shares some coping strategies for grieving moms or those who want to help people grieving based on her own experience.
This blog post summarizes just a few of the golden nuggets from our insightful conversation, for the full details listen to the entire episode here or on your favourite podcast platform by searching for the Self-Care Goddess podcast.
Why Do We Suffer When We Lose Those We Love?
Suffering is universal. All creation suffers. If we have compassion for people, we suffer with them or if we lose them in unfortunate circumstances. After the loss of a loved one, very often a lot of people start blaming themselves, “I could have done more”, or “I should have said this” and there’s a lot of regret involved. Erin advises that we must realize that no matter what; it was their time to go, embrace the reality and get rid of all the guilt & sadness. Erin believes in God but they are a lot of people that don’t have a faith or are very angry with God, when they lose loved ones. Our body and mind are very sore during this time and the pain is in every cell. Suffering and grief are a natural response when something or someone you love is taken away. This pain of loss can feel overwhelming from shock, anger, disbelief, guilt and profound sadness. Erin wanted to do something to honor her daughter Dakota so that people will always remember Dakota. They had started the yoga teacher training together so Erin pursued yoga. In the process, yoga helped her to heal and cope with her pain.
I invite you to listen to the Self-Care Goddess podcast episode #17, “Overcoming Addiction, Crime & Sex Work Through Self-Care”, on the Self-Care Goddess Podcast.
What Is the Grieving Process?
Erin shares with the grieving process, and that there are various stages of grief. It can go from happy and fine one minute and then just break down the next minute – grief is messy. Although Erin recommends reading David Kessler and Elizabeth Ross, “5 Stages of Grief” book. Erin believes that there aren’t five distinct stages. You can be anywhere, and you can be in all five of them in one day or even one hour. The grieving process is complex, and everybody grieves in their own way. There is no right or wrong way. And in the process, she found that a lot of people may stop talking to you, but there are also a lot of people around supporting you. Some people may get tired of your continuous sadness, including your immediate family but we can’t shut on and off our feelings like a switch. Personally, Erin likes to spend a lot of time alone, put on podcasts and walk in nature. When we identify that we can be “feeling crappy” today, go cry for an hour or two and allow your feelings to eventually subside. Then go home, bathe, and remain happy.
Check out the blog post of my amazing and truly inspiring conversation on episode #29, of the Self-Care Goddess podcast “How To Build YOUR Resilience For Better Mental Health”.
What’s The Difference Between Yoga and Grief Yoga?
The main difference in Grief Yoga is the intention you’re setting before the class begins, and you also focus on poses that stimulate your Vagus nerve. Stimulating your Vagus Nerve, helps you to be in your parasympathetic nervous system -which is your rest and digest part of the autonomic nervous system. And healing can only take place while you’re feeling safe and supported so engaging your Vagus nerve helps to send those signals to your brain and body. Erin found that Yin yoga worked best for her when she was in-depth with grief and she could only move her body a little. The lovely thing about Yin is that gratitude does the work. One can get into a pose of restorative yoga, lay there and open up slowly – especially when someone is not comfortable, learning, building strength and endurance to live alongside the pain. Erin says that she is always going to have this hole in her heart and feel ‘gutted’ but she can endure it easier because of Yin yoga helping her. Yin is different from restorative yoga where you are holding the poses for three to five minutes. Although, I’ve been practicing yoga for more than 10 years, it’s not only physically challenging, but also mentally challenging to be super aware and connecting with your breath during the session. But I love that that Erin is using Yin to get comfortable with feeling uncomfortable – helping her endure the pain on the mat so she can take it off the yoga mat.
I invite you to listen to my Self-Care Goddess podcast episode #25 “How Yoga Can Help You Detox – Mentally, Physically & Emotionally”, on Self-Care Goddess Podcast.
Overcoming Grief with Breathwork
A lot of emotions when grieving arises because everything is stuck and nothing is moving. Most often you just want to lay there in bed and not do anything so it’s great to go out for nature walks and do yoga because that movement will also move the feelings around. In Chinese medicine the lungs are organ, that is connected to grief and sadness. Breathing properly by oxygenating each and every single cell of your body can help us better cope with grief. Proper breathing means breathing with your diaphragm, deep belly breathing, nasal breathing, etc. we’re allowing our lungs to expel the stagnant energy and being allowing ourselves to live in the present moment. Energetically speaking, when we’re using the breath, first acknowledging the grief and sadness, we’re not trying to run away from it, but breathwork allows us to release it. So breathwork helps us in managing the grief – how you live alongside it and continue living your life alongside the pain. It is a powerful tool that we have access to anytime and everyone can do it. The beauty about breathwork is that in one session, you can have a transformation, you don’t have to wait many sessions. And then you can take what resonates and do them within your own daily routine.
I invite you to watch my wellness video “Be Present Through Breath Awareness”.
5 Coping Mechanisms
Besides yoga, nature walks and breathwork, some other coping mechanisms that Erin talks about in my podcast include:
1. Journaling: Erin does a lot of journaling. She writes letters to Dakota and thanks God and Dakota (for choosing Erin to be her mom) because having a practice of gratitude is one of the highest vibrations.
2. Meditation: Erin also endorses the Cacao Ceremony at Mexico. I invite you to read my blog post “Using CACAO as a Catalyst for Healthy Living”.
3. Temazcal/Sweat Lodges/Saunas: The indigenous tradition to connect to the elements of the earth in a sweat lodge with intention is a great experience. In my Temazcal experience I cried the entire time because I was so stressed and tensed. My intention was to get some clarity on what to do next with my mother’s health. When I left the Temazcal I knew exactly what to do. These are the sort of breakthroughs that you get when you set the intention. For more insights on this amazing, powerful ceremony listen to the Self-Care Goddess podcast episode #40, “Temazcal: Ancient Ceremony of Cleansing & Purification.”
4. Color Energy: Erin says that Dakota used to support and advise her in using colorful bathing liquids. She would playfully say “Mom, you need this” and Erin would think she’s crazy spending quite a bit of money on these bottles of color energy. However, the color energies work to heal you. Erin uses bright yellow and green because these colors affect your mood and help to heal faster.
5. Aromatherapy: Inhalers with different blends of herbs and oils are also helpful with different moods.
All these healing modalities were helpful for Erin to heal and make her stronger wanting, “to live in the light of Dakota’s life rather than in the shadow of her death”.
Is There A Timeframe?
Everybody is different. Erin went to a counselor straightaway after Dakota’s death but she couldn’t talk. Her husband had to talk for them. On Erin’s Facebook group of grieving moms, one mom after 27 years started doing podcasts for her son. All these 27 years she ate and ate and put on so much weight and now after so many years realized she needed to do something else. It’s taken her 27 years to try and look towards healing herself. Erin is glad that she has started on this healing journey sooner. “I know God’s helped me with a lot of this” she says adding that each person has to do the grief themselves at their own pace. You can’t rush it. You don’t get any rewards for rushing your grief. When you’re ready, you’re ready.
How Can Family And Friends Support Us At This Time?
We all know that people mean well but it’s important to know what to say and how to behave to make the grieving person comfortable. Some people may say “she’s in a better place” and that really sparks moms, especially if they don’t have a God faith, they may feel this is inappropriate. Some of these comments may really upset the grieving mum. Erin has learned that instead of asking people, how many children do you have, or do you have children? It’s better to say, “tell me about your family”.
Once Erin was asked how many kids she had and she didn’t know what to respond, in the beginning after Dakota’s death, so she just turned around and left the room. A year later when someone asked a similar question, she responded that I’ve got three girls and one died. People even go on to ask “How did she die?”. The rule is – “Is the answer going to make a difference in your life?” If the answer is no, don’t ask that question.
Some people are good enough to be miserable with you and wait for you to share details whenever you are comfortable to initiate this conversation. Erin has one such friend who is comfortable with Erin’s sadness. She’s prepared to just sit with her and spend time together. Erin suggests that in the beginning, we could support them by bringing them meals. Don’t expect them to talk and just be there when needed. Some people will fall away, they’ll get tired of texting ‘come out with me’ or ‘let’s go do this’. Having somebody to support you as a friend, without any expectations is the best thing. Just simply be there. Once in a while, one of Erin’s nephew, would text her ‘Hey, Auntie thinking of you, I love you’. Just the realization that people are still thinking of you, even though you didn’t take their phone calls for years or message them back or go to any family functions and yet receiving these small messages feels good, from Erin’s experience.
For free guided meditation videos and Breathwork demonstrations subscribe to my YouTube channel.
Take Home Message
Erin has been invited to teach yoga at a woman’s retreat at Vancouver Island on Dakota’s death anniversary. This was a heavy one because she has always secluded herself on that day. She believes that this is a message from her daughter helping her to heal and move forward with her life. This is learning to have a different relationship with the person not present physically. Erin believes that they’re around us and reaching out in different ways but accepting the reality and subscribing to the coping mechanisms will help us be receptive to these messages. All the healing modalities we are working with especially breathwork and yoga are opening you up so that you’re more receptive to the messages from nature. The realization “I want to be embracing that grief” and inviting more women and grieving moms to embrace it with her is the ultimate healing strategy.
Connect with Erin:
“Grieving Moms retreat 2023” https://yogawitherinb.com/mexico-retreat
Listen to the full podcast episode #63 on the Self-Care Goddess Podcast.
I look forward to connecting with you and learning more about your story and your health and wellness goals. Schedule a FREE introduction call here.