Working through my grief

I have to say its very difficult to go through the grieving process fresh after a tragic event. There are five stages of grief according to Elisabeth Kubler-Ross: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. As a licensed mental health counselor,  I have guided many of my clients through these steps and saw them go on to healing. For some strange reason, I feel like I am leapfrogging back and forth between the “anger” and  “depression” stages.

I have to admit I’m a bit pissed off at my father-in-law. Not because of all of his aforementioned shenanigans, but because I allowed him to matter so much to me. I actually allowed myself to become attached to his constant neediness. As much as I hated having to take him to the ER in the hospital way across the island every week for the past few months (he refused to go the hospital up the block because of a legal skirmish many years ago), I actually enjoyed some of my quiet moments sitting with him by his bedside. During his past few hospital admits, I took some strange comfort in sitting on the floor and playing bija mantras directed at healing him from my laptop, or saying the Gayatri Mantra and Ganapathy japas to remove his karmic barriers. I know Luke had some heavy karma from his war days. In my power I worked to rid him of it in the best of my limited ability.

The past few days I haven’t even gotten off the couch. I prefer to just sit with my family. Sometimes my wife will spontaneously cry. Sometimes my mother in law will say “I can’t believe it.” Occasionally there will be a phone call or Facebook message from a loved one. As I said before, Luke didn’t have many friends. In some ways I am grateful for that. I can barely be strong enough for my own family now. My mother and stepfather thankfully brought us a home cooked meal last night after we have been living on take out pizza and Chinese food since Sunday.

My mentoring teacher Ray Madigan was good enough to take over my classes for today and possibly Thursday. Ray has many qualities of my father-in-law. He is a no-nonsense tough as nails Aussie who also happened to be a labor and delivery nurse (I see a weird comical cosmic pattern here). He texted me this morning:

Just finished teaching your class. 8 students and a good group. Easy to teach them because they are well trained!

I’m not sure why, but I started sobbing after this text. They were tears of joy. Ray is a tough teacher and does not dispense compliments so readily. He also doesn’t sub, so I take it as a great honor he was able to take care of my students. In Ray’s toughness, he is also infinitely kind in his own unique way that would appear invisible to others who were not initiated. Very much like my father-in-law.

Tomorrow, we have the grim task of deciding what we are going to do with Luke’s remains.  Many miles away from the “acceptance” stage at this point…

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22 thoughts on “Working through my grief

    1. yogibattle Post author

      Thank you Sonia. I was so sad the past couple of days I could not even respond to your kind words. To be quite blunt, it feels like I have emotional indigestion after a horrid meal. Today I felt like I finally released something.

      PS, who is the author of the Taittiriya Upanishad translation you are reading? I would like to find a copy if possible. Many blessings 🙂

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      1. So...

        Glad you are feeling a little better. I lost my dad and father in law in the same week a few years ago. It was a very suspended time and I never got the opportunity to be in the feeling. There were things to be done, guests to look after and so on. It took a long time for me to start looking at what it meant to lose two fathers. My father died quite suddenly but I got a chance to see him before he passed away while my father in law died a long slow death from Parkinson’s disease. A few months before they died, I had taken a sabbatical from work and had started to explore the writings of Swami Chinmayananda. His translation is the one I am studying.
        Just recently, a very dear friend lost his father and I had written about but never got around to publishing it. I would be happy to share it with you via e-mail.
        Somehow being around when someone loses a parent makes me feel like another layer is healing.
        God bless you and your family Michael.

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  1. Marjorie Erway

    In my 80 years of life experience and 40+ years of Iyengar-style yoga, I believe you are right on track as you begin walking this path of grief. Sorry you have to walk it, and hope happy memories will soon return. Be assured that they will. Ray is a wonderful person and teacher! Lucky you!!

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    1. yogibattle Post author

      Thank you Marjorie! One day my wife and I would like to say “hi” in person next time I am on the Big Island. Until then, thank you for your kind words.

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  2. eileenbest2013

    I was a bereavement counselor and we learned the stages don’t go in precise order. You may feel any one or all at any time. So sorry for your loss. Your love for Luke comes through loud and clear.

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    1. yogibattle Post author

      Your words were infinitely helpful. Who does a mental health counselor turn to when he is having his own grief and loss issues? None other than another counselor! None of us are immune to grief, however experience with those who are grieving definitely gives one an advantage. Many blessings!

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  3. friendship Yoga/nancy Footner

    I am sorry for your suffering, but I want you to know you have given me, personally, a tremendous gift by sharing your relationship with your father in law and in particular your last few postings since his passing. I have a very difficult father, age 92, a ww2 vet and a remarkable person in many ways. He still lives independently, drives and takes care of himself for the most part. I have two sisters who are living closer to him than I am , and help out when needed. however, he can also be a real a-hole and for some reason pushes all my buttons when I am with him and I always get angry. I fell terrible that I can’t control be in more control of my emotions around the flip side of his personality which is narcissistic and controlling. I go to visit him in a couple of weeks with some trepidation but I really want to be more positive, kind and compassionate as we come closer to his final days. Again, thank you for sharing your experience. I don’t read blogs generally, and am not sure how I found yours, but now I look forward to reading into your future.

    NAncy Footner certified Iyengar Yoga teacher Iowa City Iowa http://Www.friendshipyoga.com

    Sent from my iPad

    >

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    1. yogibattle Post author

      I remember reading your words when I woke up yesterday and just started sobbing uncontrollably. It actually felt good. The fact that you could relate so specifically to my situation brought me tremendous comfort. As I can read through your words, you have the feeling of exasperation with your father. It must be archetypal in military men of that era. Great men who are a-holes! Of course I say that in the most kind and loving way. As the Bhagavad Gita says, no effort is wasted. That applies to whatever you do to make his life easier and your sisters’ life easier in having to deal with him. Some insight I gathered through Luke is that he was constantly suffering both mentally and physically. When he would bellow for me it was a cry for help even though he was too proud to admit. Every insult was actually a compliment, as he would not give anyone else the time of day. These men live in a very paradoxical world. It is our job to show them the world is what it truly is. Many blessings!

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    1. yogibattle Post author

      Thank you! I enjoy reading about your life and travels around Spain. When I was 28, I spent a month in Spain with two friends who lived there. One of my fondest adult memories (a least what I can remember after daily imbibing of Rioja!)

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      1. natjtan

        Tino vino, I think it has that effect on a lot of people! And thank you for reading too 🙂
        I learn a different aspect of yoga through yogibattle a more insightful side rather than just poses (and why not to like Lululemon!), thank you!

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    1. yogibattle Post author

      Thanks k8! I appreciate how your kind words are fast to come after many of my posts. I am also flattered that you actually try out some of the things I write about. With success nonetheless!

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  4. Felicity green

    Sad it is to loose someone that you connected with. We often are grieving for ourselves what we didn’t say or didn’t do while they were alive.its the unfinished business. Can we live so that we are able to stay clear of that. We all will die and we don’t know when.blessings

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