April 25 2020 – Being Well Resourced

Being Well Resourced: An introduction

Many emotions are stirring in the collective and personal pot. They are always stirring, but with fewer ways to ignore them right now, it might just be feeling a little too much. So I decided to share what I have learned and experienced about resourcing ourselves in everyday life.

Let’s start by acknowledging that we are human and have many diverse ways of behaving, feeling and expressing ourselves. Our past has created habits that are hard to let go of. Some of us may be relatively intact, others are falling apart, and everything in between. We are in all kinds of situations and they require us to cope in all kinds of ways. So let’s just give ourselves a break and forgive ourselves for being as we are. The way we are is very sticky. A list like this invites us, just as we are right now, to move through life with a little more awareness, ease and kindness.

Experiencing

Life can only be meaningful if we are experiencing it. We can fill our minds with endless knowledge, but it’s no use unless we live out what we take in.  It’s like having a big field of grass in front of you. The moment you reach out a foot and place it one step in front of you, you shift from looking at the big field of grass to experiencing the big field of grass. The mind doesn’t need to get in the way of this. You reach out another foot. You start to feel a trust in the ground that supports and take another step. One day you look down and notice you have worn a path through the grass, and this thing that you became more aware of and started giving more attention to, has now become a part of you.

Breathing

It was the first thing you did when you came here, and it’s what we are all doing right now. When you have no other resource, breathing is always available. We can forget we have it as a resource. Breathing can become shallow and strained from trauma and stress. In this way, our breath is a useful barometer of our current internal state. When we become aware of our breathing, we become aware of life itself. So it’s worth cultivating this powerful life force gift. The more you practice breathing the more powerful a resource it will become during times of stress. There are endless breathing exercises you can do for one thing or another. A good place to start is with these two exercises.

  • Conscious breathing: Find a position, sitting/lying/standing where your muscles can relax and you can best focus on your breathing. Close your eyes and move into the body if that feels okay.* Feel the ground through your body and settle here for a moment. Bring your attention to the breath, just as you are right now. Track the journey of the breath, beginning with the air moving in to the body. Be curious of whether the breath moves in through nostrils or mouth. Notice the temperature of the air as it moves in and the temperature of the air as it moves out. Notice where the breath arrives. Does it arrive to chest or move further down into belly? Continue to witness the breath in this way, without judgement or trying to change anything just yet. Be curious. Cultivate conscious breathing as many times during the day as you can. You might be at a traffic light, walking along a path, doing the dishes, putting your child to bed. Take a pause as you are, feel the ground, notice the breathing.
  • Belly breathing: Breathing into the belly calms the body and makes the best use of the lungs and this life force energy. Breathing high up in the chest is a shallow breath that is for getting us through a short burst of stress or a high intensity exercise. Chest breathing can become a habit and feeds the cycle of stress. Paradoxical breathing, which is the opposite way to natural breathing, may have occurred as a result of stress and trauma.  This is how to do natural belly breathing:-
    • First become breath aware as above exercise and notice whether your breath is through nostrils or mouth, into belly or chest, how your body feels (note areas of tension and relaxation) and what your rate of breathing is. Notice whether your belly moves in or out when you take an inhale.
    • Nasal breathing: Consciously breathe through the nose only. If you struggle to do this then do what you can. You may have congestion or have become used to mouth breathing, which is the body’s way of getting more air into the lungs just like when we do cardio exercise.
    • Belly breathing: Place your hand on your belly. On the inhale bring air down into the belly so that the naval moves outwards and the belly expands. Exhale and feel the belly contract as the naval moves inwards.
    • Checking for paradoxical breathing: Place your hand on your belly and check for paradoxical breathing. In paradoxical breathing the belly will move in as you inhale and out on the exhale. Notice this is the opposite to natural belly breathing as above. Try both and notice how your body feels. You quickly see that a natural belly breath allows you to take in much more air so that you can breathe deeper and in hale/exhale for longer. A natural inhale also lifts the chest and opens the shoulders, which releases tension. The exhale squeezes the air out of the body through an inward movement, expelling what is no longer needed. So learning to breathe the way that you were born to breathe is a very big deal for the body, the mind and how you meet various situations in life.
    • Lengthen and deepen: Once you have learned natural belly breathing, (Inhale: belly expands, Exhale: belly contracts inwards), you can try lengthening the inhale and exhale and push the breath deeper into the belly.
    • Holding the breath: You can also try holding the breath for 2 or 3 seconds at the end of the inhale and then holding the breath out for 2 or 3 seconds after the exhale before moving to inhale again. Some well practiced individuals have a 1 minute breath, which may be used for deep states of relaxation (in for 20, pause for 20, out for 20, pause for 20!)

Presence

Well you can’t do much if you are not even here! Check this out right now. What are you experiencing right now? What is your body doing as you are reading? What is the mind thinking? What emotions are showing up and where are they showing up in your body? What sounds do you hear right now? What are you feeling and tasting right now? Our mind often takes us away from the present moment, and sends us off down rabbit holes of past and future thinking. It likes to analyse and pick everything apart and judge. It goes to all this effort because it thinks it needs to protect you from the present moment. Within the present moment our past can suddenly show up. Within the present moment, unpleasant emotions and sensations can show up. But by not being here now, we are also missing the joyful stuff that shows up as much as the opportunity to start being with the not so pleasant stuff that is asking for healing. At some point, you realise that the effort it takes to avoid the present is causing you more exhaustion and suffering than just turning towards the present and being with whatever shows up.

Exercises that cultivate presence:

  • What are you already doing:  Sit with your feet on the floor, breathe in and breathe out, read this next question and then close your eyes. Ask yourself, what are you already doing in your life that brings you into the present moment and gives you a feeling of peace and ease? Let the answer unfold as you sit with your eyes closed.  This might be a good place to begin practicing presence. Cultivate this one thing you are already doing. Deepen into it. Connect and be with every aspect of it. Some ideas might be:
    • breathing
    • listening to a particular piece of music
    • walking in nature
    • playing an instrument
    • dancing
    • gardening
  • Noticing through the senses: Stop as often as you can during the day and notice through the five senses. If you forget then try setting three alarms on your phone or device to remind you to “notice” each day.
    • What internal and external sounds am I hearing right now?
    • What am I tasting?
    • What am I touching? (may just be the ground beneath you)
    • What am I seeing?
    • What am I smelling?
  • Noticing thoughts, feelings, body: Same as above but this time you notice thinking, feeling and body sensations happening. Try to be curious rather than  analytical or judgmental.
    • What thoughts are here right now?
    • What feelings are showing up and where in the body do I feel these feelings?
    • Are there any other body sensations going on right now?
  • Mindful daily tasks: Try doing one task with your full presence every day. If you move away into your thoughts, try and catch yourself moving away and gently bring yourself back. Engage your five senses as above. Some ideas to try:
    • Mindfully eating breakfast
    • Mindfully brushing teeth
    • Mindfully making the bed
    • Mindfully drinking tea
    • Mindfully walking in nature (slowing down the pace, taking time to feel your feet on the ground, listening to bird song, flowing water, the breeze through the trees, nature is a very special experience in so many ways. If you can’t go out right now you can still walk mindfully right in the space you find yourself in.)

Movement

Movement is so important for shifting energy build up and tension in the body. We can spend long periods of time in front of a screen so its great to learn a few simple stretches to do at regular intervals. Along with releasing muscle tension, moving and stretching helps to releasing stress and big emotions. When you feel you might explode use that energy to move. Now that energy can be productive to you and stops you from giving it away in anger to others. Free movement invites self expression and deeper connection. A guided movement like yoga can be helpful as a way of preparing for stillness. In the style of yoga I teach, meditations complete a practice that begins with  breathing, physical movement and stretching. Some of the meditations use the singing of mantras, a particular breath, or meditative movements. Find what works for you and have a few “go to” exercises at the ready. Movement can be with others too. I like kitchen dancing, trampolining and singing with the kids. Therapeutic dancing seems to be growing in popularity. Have a look at Five Rhythms Dance classes or Movement as Medicine classes. There may be some Zoom classes you can try and many are by donation. My husband likes to run, which I can imagine is also very grounding. The whole family enjoy walking in nature. I used to enjoy year round sea swimming. I’ve switched it now to a paddle in the local stream and a cold shower! There are endless ways to move. You Tube and various apps are always there to inspire. So let it all go and if all else fails just scream really really loudly (the car is good) and pound your fists into the ground or a cushion for a minute or so. I kid you not it helps!!

Self Compassion

Our inner voice can be full of judgement and criticism. Now more than ever we need to be cultivating self compassion. The ego is made up of many parts that play on the stage of our life. It is helpful to get to know these parts, especially our healthy adult self, our inner critic and our inner child. This kind of work is best learned about and experienced through therapy. Internal family systems therapy or Family Constellations workshops are especially useful.  Here are some exercises you can try to cultivate self compassion:

  • Mindful self compassion: When you feel in stress, bring a hand to the heart and take a pause. Breathe into your body. You may even breathe into where you feel this unease showing up in the body and place a hand there. Offer yourself some kind words such as “I am suffering right now. This feels so hard. I know it is going to pass soon. I am with you in this.” Notice what happens as you do this exercise.
  • A daily self care kit: choose some self care activities that you can do each day to cultivate self kindness and a clear message of I am worth this. Choose simple things that use the five senses. For example for touch you might buy a beautiful hand cream and apply it at the end of each day. For sight you might watch your favourite TV show.  For smell you might walk around the garden and smell your favourite flowers, or massage a nice smelling shampoo into your head as you feel the shower on your body. For taste maybe buy yourself a bar of delicious chocolate, spend time lovingly cooking yourself a favourite meal, or mindfully drink a smooth, flavourful coffee. For sound listen to your favourite music or sit outside and listen to the bird song.
  • Get to know your inner critic: when you are unkind to yourself, what is it you are saying to yourself. Get to know this part of you and realise that it is not the whole of you. One way to quieten your inner critic is by cultivating a more compassionate self. You might try answer your inner critic from your compassionate self e.g. when the critic says,”you are stupid and no good,” your compassionate self might reply, “this is your perspective, but I am trying my best right now and I am as I am.”
  • More information: The above self compassion practices are based on the work of Dr. Chris Germer and Dr. Kristin Neff, and Dr. Paul Gilbert, (Paul founded self compassion therapy.) You can look these names up for their web sites, useful resources and contacts.

So I’ll leave it there for now and I hope you have enjoyed reading! Above all else, go very gently with yourselves. This is YOUR life and what you do with it will nourish all around you too. We are all connected and we each have our very valuable part to bring into life.  Give this you as much support and kindness as you can. If you struggle to be nice to yourself, consider a therapist who will hold you in a kind space of being with all that needs to show up and be heard. One day you will learn to show up with kindness to you too. I’m still working on it myself. The beat goes on. Feel free to question and comment.

 

*Some people struggle to be embodied (move into themselves). There could have been a lot of body related trauma in the past. Be mindful of this and don’t overwhelm yourself. You can still do these exercises but you could begin by imagining them. If closing your eyes feel unsafe then keep eyes open and fix your gaze on one spot in front of you that feels grounding. For a breathing exercise imagine air coming in and moving down. Over time you can slowly start to bring it into the body.

30th March 2020 -Grief and Covid

IMG_20200331_131527

So many emotions are whirling around in this body right now. They build up each day with little room to “be with.” For now I just notice. Most of my time is taken up with getting through each moment, mostly indoors, with 2 young children. My husband is trying to continue a working day, moving what he can of his work to an online platform. There is a lot of incoming information from social media that changes constantly. People are wanting to connect, now almost exclusively through social media. Household tasks still need to be done. I feel a pressure to home school, take some exercise, eat well, mind the mental health, feel grateful, avoid physically meeting people, keep up with people online, keep screen time for the kids down, keep offering yoga through social media, learn how to use Zoom and Facebook live, keep up with the wellness posts on my facebook group, avoid getting Covid-19 and avoid giving it to others. My heart is breaking for some of the situations that some people will have been plunged into. Situations of abuse, isolation, emotional unraveling, financial hardship and the trauma and exhaustion of those working on the front line. I notice a hugely intense internal world filled with rumination, frustration, irritability, anger, fear, delirium, exhaustion, self criticism, creativity, humour, grief, sadness, love, helplessness and when I can, moments of stillness to just be with all of this. Those moments of stillness don’t feel too useful right now. I notice what is going on inside of me and from here my needs are clear. What feels helpful in this moment is to move and to write. 

Before this huge event ever hit our world, my husband and I had been coping with the death of our little boy, Oisin, who died 5 years ago. I am meeting so many of those early emotions of grief and trauma, awakened newly, through this Covid experience. I feel the whole world just moved into shock, and with that a sense of derealization and confusion (“is this really happening? what is happening? I can’t get my head around this. I have no template for this.”) I’m not sure how you write worldwide Covid crisis into the stages of grief. It is clearly a different event to being told that your son has an incurable brain tumour, and yet all the hall marks of a collective trauma and grief are present.

There is a sudden demand for us to shift from stability into the unknown. We have to face the prospect of death, if not of ourselves then of our loved ones and members of our community. In one governmental announcement, we suddenly had to adapt to a new way of living. That’s where we are right now. We are having to get on with the business of living each moment in this newly re-organised regime, and do so having barely time or ability to process what has just taken place. Now we are forced into moment by moment living. It is a survival state of being that can appear mindful, and yet is perhaps the opposite side of the same coin. We are living moment by moment with a focus on the external tasks that need to be done, and might need to numb out from the true internal state of our being right now. Mindfulness is the  awareness of ALL of it, with clarity and with compassion. It’s tricky enough for me to put the distinction into words, I just know they are different and yet related, for one may fall into the other as we move beyond the polarity of this or that.  

It wasn’t until the schools were closed that things started to land on the “yes this is actually happening on my door step now.” There was a certain denial that I went into. As we all started to make the sudden changes to our usual schedules, I appeared to be coping just wonderfully. I posted hopeful and positive posts on social media. I embraced the whole online yoga teaching thing and swiftly made a video for my students. I saw this as a chance to fully move inwards and be with the family, like a kind of retreat. My mindset was that this was a chance to focus on meditation and presence of being, and was an opportunity for us all to slow down and move inwards. I had already gone on a career break anyway so I wasn’t expecting that much to change for me. I had already been through my big trauma when Oisin died, so I figured I had my coping skills well honed by now. For me this was everyone else just going through a little piece of what I had already been through. This was a mass wake up call for the world.

Then I started to feel ill. Fear and uncertainty started to creep in. Suddenly I found myself ringing the GP with “symptoms,” which was a cough, a sore throat and fatigue. I was referred for testing, and then more restriction came in and my testing got cancelled. So then I was socially isolated with 2 small children for 2 weeks. Just as I was starting to feel well and was about to come out of social isolation, more restrictions came in. Things just got a whole load more real. I noticed a shift in my emotions. It all started to feel very intense.

Every day there are more diagnoses, more deaths, more news, more stats, more facebook posts, more shared videos, more online conversation, and more fear. Equally there seems to be more words of hope, more reflections on the greater meaning of this virus, more attempts to connect with each other, more humorous videos, more online well being offerings and more acts of kindness and creative ideas.  Whether the information coming in is good or bad, it feels intense, and all without the usual ways of coping. All of the me time I had has been taken away and replaced with a world of almost 24 hour children, home schooling (home surviving!) and restricted access to nature.  

I feel powerless and no doubt I am not alone. It is a hallmark of grief and trauma. I also notice emotions of saddness, anger and despair as the losses start to stack up. As our new routine establishes itself, I notice there is a space now to feel emotions and be curious about them. What I have lost comes into awareness. I have lost freedom and sovereignty. I have lost service to others like teaching yoga and hugging my friends when they are down. I miss my friends hugging me and I miss their smiling faces and warm close proximity. I miss the total freedom to be in nature whenever and wherever I wanted it, and also sharing being in nature with others. I deeply miss swimming in the sea along with the swimming community and our sharing of laughter, friendship and wonderful home baking. I miss my parents whose flight from the UK was cancelled, and I miss not knowing if I will be able to visit my UK family and friends in July. I miss the alone time that I had whilst the children were at school. I feel the losses of my children and husband too. There is so much loss we have all just had to face. 

Then there is the feeling of utter helplessness and guilt. I am not there with my fellow HSE colleagues because I took a career break as a clinical psychologist. So much of me wants to go back to work and help people in the mental health units, in desperate mental health situations, in painful isolation and situations of abuse. Yet the wisdom within me knows this is a time for me to care for my children and I had made this space in my career to be with a very deep grief. I know I must continue to be with this grief, because to me this seems the only way I can ever be of true service to others in time. So I have to allow a space and time to come to peace within myself, to accept the uncertainty of what is happening right now, and to accept that both desperate situations are happening and also something very profound is unfolding for humanity in general. We have no control, but I am used to the free fall of no control, and I embrace it. It is much simpler and safer than trying to resist what just is. I trust the unfolding of life as it is because it has never once left me in doubt. We go through all this together as parts of the same whole, and it is just going on like this.   

I wanted to write a blog that discusses mental health through a personal account of how I am experiencing this  Covid-19 pandemic, and what I notice  with regards trauma and grief.  I write through my experience because I prefer not to assume I am an expert on you. There are many opinions right now. I have trained in clinical psychology, yoga and numerous therapies and yet the human experience for me is where true wisdom lies. I wish for you, through reading about me, to fall into your own heart and deep wisdom around what is present for you right now, and I hope it will guide you through this time.

September 25th 2019 – She joins him to dance in the sun

img-20190923-wa0003September arrives, and brings with it so many transitions and dates once again. It has been a month filled with some very specific transitions for members of our family.

Fionn is now 3 years of age, and has been settling into preschool for 3 short mornings each week. “It’s tricky” he tells me, and indeed it has been. Cillian turned 7 years old this September, and started first class. He seems to have settled well. Barry and I celebrated our 11 year wedding anniversary this September, reminding us always of the twisting roads and hills we have been travelling along together.

When September begins, as others are caught up in the buzz of the school return, we find ourselves entering a parallel universe. In one universe we have our children transitioning into school, and the sadness that Oisin is not part of that. Then we have another universe that enters into a reliving mode of what happened 5 years ago. 

This time five years ago, just as Fionn is doing now, Oisin started preschool. Similarly, he found the transition difficult. This was when we first began noticing all the signs and symptoms that we initially put down to anxiety about his new preschool. That was until the symptoms became too unusual to explain, and so began the first blog I wrote. It all started with the month of September.

Then just a few days ago, on September 20th,  Barry’s dear Grandmother, Kathleen Boland, died. She was 100 years of age, and died peacefully in her bedroom at Ballymore Eustace. She was surrounded and cared for by her loving family. One of her palliative care nurses also nursed Oisin some 5 years earlier.

Kathleen was known very affectionately as Granny Tick Tock, due to the old wooden clock that ticked behind her chair by the fire. Now her clock will tick no more in this world. Kathleen Boland enters a sweet timelessness.

For as long as I have been visiting the farm in Ballymore Eustace, Granny Tick Tock was always in her home at the beginning of the lane, in her chair beneath the clock, by the fire and ready to chat and hear the news. Most of the time she was the one giving the news. She got to know the comings and goings of everyone, because everyone stopped into Granny before they headed on their way. Her mind was as sharp as a pin.

In the last few years, she often spoke of her readiness to die, and yet death never took her. We don’t know why we go when we go. It all just plays out in its own mysterious way, yet somehow it seemed exactly the right time when she finally did leave us.

I enjoyed my visits to Granny Tick Tock, and always felt welcome and at ease in her company. I made myself tea and we’d sit and chat about alsorts. We enjoyed a laugh, and a cry too. She’d tell me how difficult old age was, and how stiff and painful her joints felt. In her final weeks I took to massaging her hands, and in her final days I massaged her feet. It gave her immense relief, and I recall doing the same for Oisin in his last days with us also.

Granny Tick Tock’s strength and courage inspired me. She birthed 7 children into the world. One of those children, John, died of illness at just 3 years of age, the same age as Oisin. Our shared pain of child loss brought us close to each other. When she wept, it was as if little John was gone from her only a moment ago, and I know that feeling so well. The pain doesn’t go anywhere, it’s always raw and accessible and for me this is because love doesn’t go anywhere. It too is raw and accessible in every moment. I notice this grief as a very tender and beautiful gift that we can choose to embrace with no fear. We can use it, perhaps as Granny Tick Tock did, to move through life with courage and humility. Perhaps her great strength came from a broken heart.

At 100 years, she had no illness other than old age. The day before her death, a Red Admiral butterfly flew right into her bedroom. Hello Oisin!

Oisin and Granny Tick Tock shared a lovely connection. On his last day with us he insisted on visiting her. Here is an excerpt from the blog I wrote of Oisins final visit to Granny Tick Tock….

Excerpt from blog: Wednesday 21 January 2015 – He’s dancing in the sun

…Oisin gave us a beautiful final day. We walked in the bright sun along the lane to the main road. His humour still present, he put up his right hand and managed to wave at the cars as they passed. The small movement in his right hand was about the only bit of mobility he had left, and he used it to its fullest. He pointed his finger repeatedly to go in the direction of Granny Tick Tock’s house, where he used his finger again to request one of her delicious marshmallow biscuits. We gave him a taste on his lips. It must have been magical for him, as by now he was unable to eat and swallow much more than a few drops full of pureed food and water. We had to explain that Granny had a cold and we didn’t want him too close. His determined finger won out and we took him over to Granny, who rubbed his head. I will never forget her words, “Have a peaceful death. I will be joining you soon.”

When death comes to visit us, it feels like there is a thinning of a boundary between form and formless. There is an opening here that invites us to step in to our true nature. 

With gratitude, blessings, love and light to you, our remarkable, Granny Tick Tock xxx

 

 

 

 

 

 

15 February – Happy birthday sweet boy. You’re still a sun dance kid

Here is the sky from our window, as we arrive at Oisin’s 8th earthly birthday. The picture captures the airplane vapours, kissing in the beautiful sun lit sky. Oisin loves to dance in the sun on his special dates. He ensures we get treated to a superb sky. Thank you sweet boy. It helps us. 

Vapour Trail
“First you look so strong
Then you fade away
The sun will blind my eyes
I love you anyway
Thirsty for your smile
I watch you for a while
You are a vapour trail
In a deep blue sky
Tremble with a sigh
Glitter in your eye
You seem to come and go
I never seem to know
And all my time
Is yours as much as mine
We never have enough
Time to show our love”
                                          Andy Bell

 

My friend and I are captured in the above picture, as a wave breaks over us. We are swimming buddies, along with a community of other swimmers who meet here at this beach. Very few wet suits in sight, but plenty of laughter and friendship. As with all of nature, the ocean is my therapist. I long to merge with it, and feel deeply privileged to take in the fullness of these human experiences.

Oisin and Ocean

I stride into the ocean with a hunger.
Oisin, Ocean and I become one,
merged into the vast energy of the waves.
I scream from the cold sting of water,
and know I am alive.
I live on beyond you, sweet Oisin.
When I scream, they think it’s from cold.
Perhaps a little.
But mostly I scream out the pain,
releasing it from this grief filled body,
and surrender it to the sea.

                                                       Sheila Boland

19 June 2018 – Teachers

teacher logo
Cilly teaching Fionn.jpg

The school year is drawing to an end. Cillian’s first year of primary school is drawing to an end. He has grown and matured so much. He has learned so much. Cillian has a strong internal teacher. He seems to have such wisdom. For him to remain connected to what is inside, he needs sensitive teachers on the outside. Cillian’s first school teacher has been exactly that. He seems to have really understood each child and their needs. Classes seem to have been fun filled and confidence building. Each child was given a chance to shine and where help was needed it was noticed and responded to with support.  I know I speak for the entire class when I say that we are all so grateful to him for the support he has given our children this year. Interestingly we have found a school that has also been affected by the death of a much loved colleague, a young teacher who died suddenly not long before Cillian started in the school. I know that some of the staff in the school have read this blog. We seem to share a collective sense of inspiration from these radiant beings who came into our lives, made an impact, and then left. Through us, their teachings live on.

I hold in mind another young man who came to our mental health team as a very promising and inspirational psychiatric registrar. Everyone who came in contact with him liked him. He had such a fresh approach and seemed to really understand people. Sadly he became ill with cancer and died recently. I hardly knew him but when I heard the news I was so shocked and sad. I felt an instant connection to his parents and what they must be going through. I went to his removal to say goodbye. To meet and shake the hands of two people who brought the most incredible young man into the world. I have no doubt that his colleagues have been inspired by him and would consider him as one of life’s teachers also.

Huntingbrook Gardens, Kildare
Huntingbrook Gardens, Co. Wicklow

Teachers have the ability to plant seeds that grow into gardens within a person’s being.  I didn’t see it at the time but now it makes sense to me to say that Oisín came into the world a teacher. He left seeds of wisdom that move in me like mantras for living life. There is one teaching that still feels like it is waiting for me to understand it in all of its depth. Whenever I took a video of him, he would often look into the camera and say, “Hello! I’m Oisín. What’s your name?” then he’d throw himself back in fits of giggles. A while after his death I found a recording he must have taken himself somehow, and it was exactly the same message, “Hello! I’m Oisín. What’s your name” and the familiar giggling as he threw back his body. The words hit me at such a deep level. That’s when I first saw him as a teacher.

Oisin might be viewed as a spiritual teacher, although that doesn’t quite fit for me. I don’t have any particular label for him. I’m not sure how I really feel about the word spiritual. I just have a strong sense of a highly conscious being who has taught me and others so much. Some people go on retreats to be in the presence of a spiritual teacher. I chuckle at our Skype encounter with Ram Dass, who offered to have a session with us not long after Oisin’s death. I had no idea how well known he was as a spiritual teacher at the time. It’s as if these people come along the path at just the right time. Who knows! I’ve been invited to a few retreats by friends since Oisin’s death, but have been selective about which ones I attend. I’m drawn to things that connect us with the internal teacher. That’s why Kundalini yoga and I go together so well. It teaches a philosophy of the teacher being within. The intensive weeks of yoga teacher training connected me very deeply and powerfully to this internal wisdom we all have. At the beginning of every Kundalini Yoga practice, we always tune in to the internal teacher through the “Adi” mantra. The yoga teacher simply creates the space and energy for each student to come to their own awareness.

Experiencing Oisin’s death brought me into close connection with this internal teacher. I learned about grief, trauma and healing, just by opening to the experiences as they unfolded. I noticed that Oisin’s death naturally gave rise to the emotion of grief. I learned that it is a natural emotion that comes and goes, and attempts to “get over” grief seem as pointless as trying to “get over” angry or sad or happy. Why would I want to do that? They are just feelings and by allowing them a natural passage through us they may come and go without any particular judgement or distress. I also experienced trauma following Oisin’s death, which carries with it a very different quality to grief. The death of a loved one can be traumatic when it is someone we never really expected to die at that point in life. It gives rise to feelings of helplessness and having no choice. We had to go through all of these unplanned, unprepared for, out of control experiences. The trauma was in the moment of receiving the diagnosis that Oisin would not survive. The trauma was in the daily experience of witnessing him moving towards his last breath and his final heartbeat. The entry into silence after all the intensity of caring for him. The intensity of the funeral. All the energy of those moments can overwhelm the mind and body. It’s only noticed when the silence and regularity of life returns. It’s there, all trapped in the body. It has no words and yet it needs to speak. If ignored, it starts to speak for you, in not so nice ways. I have also noticed this as a clinical psychologist to so many hurt and damaged people that come for help. When it comes to healing from our past experiences, it is always the same. There is a story in every person that needs to be heard and acknowledged, for what happened. The story must be told from deep within the body, not from the intellect. The story needs to speak of what didn’t happen that needed to happen. Healing is in the responding to those needs, giving love and compassion to that part of the self that has been so wounded. Healing is moving forward and expanding into who we are and what we are here for. In this process, it seems to be empowering to be witnessed and gently guided by a trusted and compassionate other.

sheila yoga nature.jpg

Yoga was one of my ways through the trauma of Oisin’s death, and has remained for me a strong and powerful teacher. I needed to be with my whole system. I needed to be in my body. There are no words for how this experience has impacted within me. Yoga was just waiting for me to use it for this purpose. It had already offered me so much as I walked through those 4 months with Oisín’s illness.

canella
Canella Michelle Meyers
Aherlow Castle
Aherlow Castle, Co. Tipperary

As time has moved on, I have met other “teachers” that have supported me. One lady, Canella Michelle Meyers, came as a gift from a beautiful friend.  That seems to be how all of these teachers have come along, and it is with deep gratitude to the generosity and intuition of friends. Canella lives in Vancover, Canada, and she has ancestry from Cork, Ireland, where Barry and I have lived for the last 5 years. She also happens to share a passion for Kundalini Yoga! She has been interviewed on a podcast, click here, if anyone wants a slice of her beingness. I had a couple of sessions with her, and then she posted up a retreat she was offering in Aherlow Castle, Co. Tipperary. I didn’t go last year but this year I jumped with that BIG DELICIOUS Yes, which only the heart can do when it KNOWS something is for your highest self. Canella is this shining bright star, this essence of fun and joy, this truthful being, this mirror that reflects consciousness as it shows up in the moment. Her work is so nourishing, so present and experiential.

All of the people who attended the weekend were so healing to be around. It was like coming home to a home where everyone gets each other, where intentions are heart felt, where words are meaningful, where all the nonsense that goes on between humans has fallen away. The food was divine. I could literally taste the love in every bite!! Aherlow Castle itself has an energy to it that spoke so much of the retreat. A hidden gem. Still, silent, waiting for it’s visitors to come upon its vastness! The owners of the castle are two clinical psychologists  who seemed so humble and grounded. I guess this sounds like one big plug but it’s well deserving. I feel deep gratitude for this wonderful experience.

Teachers. All of us. We all have something to teach. Quietly or loudly, clearly or subtly. In our grief. In our joy. It is ALL teaching. Consciousness shows up and teaches. We just need to open our hearts and listen.  Recently, I too have become a teacher. I made the step at last into teaching Kundalini Yoga. I teach a small group in my home. So here I am. Little me doing something so small and yet feels BIG. I can only handle little baby steps at a time. The world seems such an overwhelming place. Yet each one of us can play a part. Each one of us is a teacher and can each start with our own self. Teaching self how to be with self. The true teachers are those who teach by giving a person the space to realise the teacher within. Nothing is expected in return. It is a delight enough to simply have been with this person, at this moment, in service to something collective between us all.

18 January 2018: Unfolding Of The Day

Windows Phone_20140614_005So here we are again. The third anniversary of Oisin’s death. Here I am again. Writing another blog. In some ways the third anniversary of Oisin’s death feels like the third year of life. I can’t define who I was before or the life I had before Oisin. It’s like Barry and I and the life we knew simply died at the click of a button. I remember the feeling of glass smashing all around us the moment that we were told Oisin would not survive. The glass rained down on everything that I knew myself to be and cut through it all. As painful as it is, this life feels REAL and TRUE. It’s like everything else was a bubble. It’s not really about being happy. I’m not sad either. LIVING to me means being in the acceptance of it all without much of a distinction between good or bad, happy or sad, right or wrong. The lines disappear and it’s all just one flow that comes and goes in moments. It is very natural, simple, ordinary and human. No filters in the way. No need anymore.

Christmas. I didn’t feel grief, which was a very strange feeling not to have. I’m not really sure where it went. For a while I assumed it was hiding somewhere ready to pounce. It has troubled me at times. I kept wondering  was I repressing and dissociating. Had I unconsciously buried all of the heart ache. I though maybe I had become cold and emotionless. Why would I be doing this? I thought I had done WORK on myself!! So anyway I passed through all these feelings and thoughts and arrived at some realisation that grief hasn’t really gone anywhere. Its simply changed form a little. I seem to be functioning a little easier with every day life. I have to treat myself and the world around me with great tenderness for that functioning to happen.  I feel Gratitude for having this incredibly special little boy in our lives. For the human he was and for the vast shining light that he is for us now. Yes it would have been nice to have had him for longer, yet at the same time, the time we had was so beautiful I don’t think 100 years together could have changed how special and wonderful the time was. Time doesn’t seem to take on the same linear form anymore. It just comes in moments and the moments with Oisin were pure magic from start to end.

Whilst grief didn’t show up too much over Christmas it has shown up during my return to work. My return to work arrives at the same time as Oisins anniversary. I work where I used to live. Where Oisín used to live. I often go for a walk to reconnect with myself during my lunch break. It’s hard to sit and be social at times and I know my colleagues get that. But then I go walking and I see where Oisín used to play, where we lived, where he went to preschool for such a brief time. A pleasant walk to get a cup of coffee becomes a painful trip down memory lane. I spend most of the walk in tears and through all my seeming strength it shows me just how fragile I can be given the triggers.  This journey through grief seems to become more silent over time. You don’t really mention it as much. Look at my blogs. More time passes between them. It barely feels appropriate to post any more. Time has gone on. What do people want to read all this for now. I’m not some reality TV programme! What do I do it for. I don’t know. It feels like it is honoring the special Oisín events.

We haven’t planned anything for Oisin’s 3 yr anniversary. I find that our ability to plan ahead has gone. We lit a candle this evening, as have friends and family. Perhaps it’s a sense of indifference that isn’t necessarily disconnected or dissociated. It’s just that dates come and go but really they are still a string of moments. Oisin’s death is still present before, during and after today. Not sure how to put it into to words really.. We might go on our beach walk in Myrtleville again. Some sort of ritual and space for reflection seems to fit on these occasions. Barry took some time during his lunch to visit the Honan Chapel in UCC, and Oisin was remembered in a memorial prayer.  He sent me a picture of the art work on the floor. It is a beautiful mosaic representing the river of life.

There is no doubt that the pain of Oisin has opened me. It has opened me and it can feel so raw, but the love and wisdom that comes from this opening is incredible. There is expansion and merging with self and all around. Everything is connected. Yoga has been such a powerful tool for me as I go along this journey. The word yoga means to “yoke” where self and infinite merge together. I am so grateful to have found this practice that I can do as often as I like. It’s like the ultimate tool for modern day living and I’m ready to share it with others. A woman who has inspired me lately, Canela Michelle Meyers,  recently posted that suffering is not suffering once we start opening to it. A loud YES to that, dear Canela!

I was due to teach yoga last night. Then Cillian got sick and suddenly I was cleaning up puke and passing him tissues. Yoga was cancelled. Then this morning, Fionn took a nasty fall. He’s fine now. As all of this drama unfolded, our silent vase of lillys sat on the kitchen windowsill, witnessing it all. Barry bought them home last weekend. We saw the first lilly begin to open last night. By this morning almost all of the lillys were open, revealing their delicate pink petals. I look at them and see a beautiful heart opening to the mixed feelings of the day.  xx

mde

4 August 2017 – A year of being Mum.

IMG-20170804-WA0001

Happy Birthday sweet Fionn

facebook_1501879377585 (1)

The last time I wrote I was embarking on motherhood to our new born, Fionn. He arrived peacefully into the world, through a home birth, on 4th August 2016.  A sweet boy from the outset and continues to be so. One year on, this blog celebrates the gift he has been in our life after Oisin’s death.

A year of being mum

Ram Dass once said, “if you think you’re so enlightened, go and spend a week with your parents.”  Similarly, I think, go and spend time with your kids!  See what you can learn about yourself.

Staying at home with Cillian and Fionn for the last year has been my greatest and most powerful meditation by far. It is an experience of learning to truly LOVE and SERVE. A lesson in how to truly BE in every moment and SURRENDER to every moment. It is a lesson in SELF awareness. Oisin, Cillian and Fionn are my ultimate teachers.  My Gurus!! They are like a MIRROR, reflecting all that  I struggle to tolerate within myself. So much to learn when we listen beyond the behaviour. When we tune in to what a child is trying to communicate. Communicate in all their unique and often misunderstood ways. Through hitting. Through screaming. Through showing off. Through phobias. Through play. Through the way they are with others. Through how they treat their belongings. Through their sleep disturbances and toilet behaviour. So many ways they try and tell us…. if we have enough clarity in ourselves to SEE and to LISTEN. If we have enough patience. If we have enough  self love. If we don’t take their actions personally. If we can control our need to be in charge. If we can silence our embarrassment and feeling constantly judged. If we can silence our own upbringing and our own patterns of behaviour. Oh its a tough gig!!! All on little sleep. Frazzled. Demented. Brain dead. And.     GRIEVING.   Yes.   A tough gig.

1496608661793

Okay so yes I have to rise to all this whilst also grieving Oisin. Others have to rise to all of this with some other kind of suffering, another loss of some kind. We are not alone yet we carry these past things around so silently.  I have learned to be thankful for these experiences. We can use them. We can use them to learn and grow and become AWARE. If I struggle to see my children clearly, it is simply my own junk muddying the view. I’m a third time mum who has gone through a life changing experience. I don’t worry that my child shares a bed with me. I don’t worry that he still wakes multiple times at night. I don’t worry that he doesn’t take each nap diligently in his cot. Okay I am sleep deprived and yes I still do the whole anxious google thing (is he normal, ah yes, look there are loads of mothers posting the same, oh yes now I feel better again and I’ll just ignore those other sites that tell me I am doing it all wrong). I don’t sweat these small things. They are small. I have perspective on what is a small thing and what is a big thing. LOVE. TOUCH. SAFETY. CONTAINMENT. TO BE SEEN and HEARD FULLY.  These are the essential ingredients for kids. Not whether they are sleeping through the night yet. They will come to sleep and develop the ability to self sooth once they have had the essential basics. Fionn is ever changing. How little time we have. How wonderful each moment is when Fionn snuggles up tight and tucks his head in close. How wonderful when I see his little head pop up and look at me to see if I’m awake each morning. The smile when he sees my eyes open. Wow what a smile he has! Treasured moments.

1496608661462
1496608671132
IMG-20170529-WA0007

Summer with the kids

A pleasure so far. Flying by! Enjoying time with the kids before I head back to work in September. Spent time in the UK catching up with family. They all live close so Cilly got a good dose of grandparent time, cousin time and sleep overs. I even braved flying alone with the kids as Barry headed down to a conference in London and I returned to Ireland.

As always, Oisin was never far. As rare as Oisin’s type of brain tumour was (DIPG), our visit to Leeds was a chance to meet up with a family living near to my parents, whose daughter also died of DIPG the same year as Oisin. The family own a thriving Italian restaurant, Casa Mia. We met with the father, a dynamic business man who is putting his business skills to use within the DIPG research field (see their web page for more.) We spoke at length about the different treatments and research funding. We mentioned our involvement in Brain Tumour Ireland. Barry has had a particular contribution in terms of where to focus research efforts. I am more drawn to understanding what it is to be human, for us all to contemplate end of life and what that means to the human life we have.

As devastating as it was, witnessing Oisin’s death was a huge honour. I was utterly blown away by his death process, his grace and his dignity. It felt like we were in the presence of divinity when we were with him in those final days. As the human body slowly shut down, remarkably, something else in him became more and more free. I never saw anyone shine so bright, or move so many people. It really was the most beautiful, profound experience of my life. I will be forever changed by what I witnessed. Oisin’s end of life has inspired me to be that light now – why wait until we are all at the end of our lives to shine like he did?

As I write these words I bring to mind my dear friend whose mother was recently diagnosed with Motor Neuron Disease. I have known this woman my whole life and I visited her whilst back in Leeds. As with Oisin, I was so very honoured to be present with her in that moment. To bring her flowers. To sit with her in her garden. To share in the beautiful sunshine that visited us that day. To converse with her and be with with her family. It was full of emotion and I’m very grateful for that time with you all.

I bring to mind also my dear friends who I lived with in University, who recently lost their friend to a sudden brain hemorrhage.  I remember her. She is beautiful.  xxx

These huge human experiences are here for us all to stop in our tracks and notice. Notice life and how it really is one moment that dies into the next moment. No need to be more. No need to cling on. Just to be with the one moment as it comes and goes. To notice without judgement. We are all constantly dying and being re born as these moments come and go, if we allow ourselves to be so fluid. To be open and willing to be aware of the bits of us that get stuck and sticky in our mind and in our body. We can work on those bits from a place of awareness. When we do, it’s a whole lot easier than trying to swim around in them as if they were our only identity. They are not. You only need to see what I saw in Oisin to know what is true. Death. The end and the beginning.

1496608714618

Is child loss easier to deal with when another child comes along?

People often wonder if having another child helps grief. They are always quick to say, “now I know it’s no replacement but…”  I don’t think it “helps” grief. It is a distraction. That doesn’t mean grief has been helped. Its a generally safe enough thing to say to someone who has just had another child after losing a child. Makes everyone feel better to add a little positive spin.

How does anyone really answer questions of what helps grief. Is grief something to be “helped?” Can it be helped? Grief is just here. It shows up and says, “hello. Here I am.” I feel it in me, tearing and tugging at my heart, bringing to me memories, shock, disbelief, horror, yearning, longing, anger, sadness, devastation. It’s a wave washing over, and then it returns to the flow that is now my life. Now part of my human being-ness in this life journey I am on. The only change is the awareness. Grief itself has not changed simply because Fionn is in my life. Fionn is here. Grief is here. That’s it.

Grief has kicked me when I have already been down. I have noticed that on my tired parent days, on my irritable parent days, on my “i’m a terrible parent and my child is out of control and going to end up with some diagnosed condition because of my inability to manage him” parenting days, grief will come along and go “yeah and you also have a dead child.” Yup life seems pretty grim in those moments. It sucks the life force right out. I have been on my way to meet a a mums walking group and had to keep driving past them because I needed to keep crying. I felt so alone. Life seemed utterly awful and meaningless. I felt utterly useless as a parent. So I kept driving and berating myself that I couldn’t decide whether to finally go back and join the group or go home and curl up in a weeping ball. Eventually I pulled into the car park and joined up with the group. At some point along the way I admitted that I was struggling that morning, and the ladies listened without judgement. It opened up conversation. Then others talked about various losses in their own life.  It was great to take the walk and be connected with nature and with each other. Then the grief was a tiny bit easier to be with that day and I got through. Some days, even weeks, can be like that. Just as there are other days and weeks where it is not so strong and I can connect deeply with the Oisin who is around me now.

IMG_7778

The one constant is that Oisin is always around. He is always in awareness. He moves through my interactions. He deepens the way we relate to each other. My heart can fill with love and joy as much as it can fill with grief. It is helpful to notice this big wide space within the heart that can hold grief, love, joy, anger, sadness and more. The beautiful vast open heart need not be closed and shut down by any one particular emotion.

DSC_0075

Coming into Butterfly Beingness

September is coming up yet again. It is the start of many Oisin related dates, beginning with 30th September, the 3rd anniversary of Oisin’s diagnosis. It will be Cillian’s 5th birthday and he will be starting his new primary school. I will be returning to work and have a few ideas for integrating the experiences and teaching of the last two years into some kind of personal venture. Fionn will be spending two and a half days each week with our lovely new child minder.  At least our new house is all settled into and working out well. A little stability to support the transitions ahead.

Meets ups with Barretstown

One tremendous and generous support in our lives that deserves another mention is Barretstown.  We attended three camps and bonded well with other families so much so that we have continued to meet up. We all spent a really lovely day together in Castletown House in Celbridge, Co. Kildare, and plan to have another meet soon. There will be a Barretstown reunion camp in a couple of years. Who else out in Castletown House that day would ever have guessed by looking at us the thing that we all shared in common You never really know by looking at someone what is going on inside.

facebook_1501879351724

Celebrating the day 

facebook_1501879324554

So happy birthday dear Fionn! A lovely day had by all. It was Cillian’s last day of “star camp” and today he thoroughly enjoyed his time up on stage dancing and singing in the end of week show. His new school happen to be quite into their drama so it will be a great fit for Cilly. I’ve no worries about Cilly going to big school. He is just so ready. What a happy and confident boy he is becoming. It’s lovely to see him growing and flourishing throughout all that he has been through. 

So after Cilly’s summer camp show, we went for a birthday meal at one of our favourite restaurants that looks out onto Myrtleville Bay. Then we headed to the beach for a little run around and Fionn had a great laugh being buried waist high in the sand by his daddy!!!  We returned home for a big chocolate cake and a skype with all the grandparents. We lit a candle and sang happy birthday.

I reflect on Oisin’s first birthday. It was such a huge affair with him being our first born. We had the biggest cake done up and personalised for him. Our house was full of all of his friends. He had so many friends. Children were drawn to him like a magnet he was such a gentle and fun loving boy. Looking back it seemed fitting that he had such a big party. Little did we know it was going to be one of only three and needed to pack it all in.

As you may know by now, Oisin was a humongous fan of the film Cars with Lightning McQueen.  When he was ill, one of his “let’s make every day beautiful” gifts was to open up the Disney store in Dublin. Oisin was told during that visit that a Cars 3 film was being made. He was so excited about seeing it. Sadly the film came too late for Oisin but this weekend Barry, Cilly and I will be watching it.  I’m quite sure Oisin will be with us through every moment. In many ways the film is full of parallels with Oisin and his journey. That’s what we see in it anyway, and there couldn’t be a more apt main message for us than in the Cars 3 promotional trailer.

“You can’t turn the clock back, but you can wind it up again.”

IMG-20170804-WA0015

17th August 2016 – Fionn

I wrote this blog almost as soon as Fionn arrived into the world. It remained incomplete until now, and finally I have some time to write some more now that Fionn has some longer stretches of sleep. Our two wonderful boys are all tucked up in bed. Our angel, of course, remains as radiant as ever; fluttering his wings all around, reaching out and touching people in the most extraordinary ways.

Fionn’s journey into the world received_10157230929905721

I have noticed many parallels between Fionn’s journey to us and Oisin’s departing from us in the great cycle of birth and death (or for me it is birth, life, death and rebirth.) In previous blog posts, I wrote about some experiences I had leading up to Oisin’s death. In particular I had a meditation experience where I became aware of a monk, and then a circle of them around Oisin’s bed. They seemed to be there for Oisin as a guide to help him transition. Well similarly, I had a strong meditation experience just days before Fionn arrived. I was doing a 40 day Sadhana  (yoga practice) “removing fear of the future” and the experience was so full of energy and imagery it seemed as if it was clearing something in me so that Fionn could move into the world. Sure enough he came along just a few days later, just in the same way Oisin seemed ready to leave us a few days after I saw those monks. Contractions began at exactly 40 weeks. 40 day Sadhana. 40 week old baby!! A special number indeed.

We planned a home birth from the outset. It seemed to fit us and I needed the care and sensitivity of a personal midwife to be with me on this journey. Here I notice another parallel with the death journey. In both birth and death, we were blessed with a guide,  a loving and wise motherly energy that walked with us and offered strength and knowledge. Tess, the palliative care nurse,  was this loving and wise energy as we journeyed towards Oisin’s death. Ellmarie was the loving and wise energy for us as we journeyed with Fionn towards his birth. As the month’s rolled on, any fear around home birthing left me. I trusted my body, I trusted all I had been through to this point and the birthing process was beautiful in the same beautiful agony that I described the death process with dear Oisin. It was dignified. It was graceful. Oisin was very present with us. We had his photo around the birthing space and we burned Frankincense just as we did when Oisin was in the “big bed”in Ballymore. We played music. Barry thinks I might have delivered Fionn to Mirabei Ceiba’s “Sa Ta Na Ma.” (the cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth). I have no idea of course what I delivered Fionn to, but as he journeyed into the world through the dark tunnel of the birth canal, I was holding tightly to Barry for the final push! Throughout, Cilly was sound asleep in bed, and delighted to awaken to this wonderful new little brother that had finally arrived in our family. It had very much been Cilly’s wish to “grow another”

img-20161001-wa0001Fionn

He came into the world very quietly. A very sweet and gentle thing. His eyes. Oh how his eyes can smile and speak to you! They sparkle and shine. They seem to speak of such wonder at the world he has arrived into.  Now at 10 weeks he smiles, he babbles, he flaps his arms around, trying hard to communicate everything he wants to tell you. He has so much to say already!

My other boys were born early. Oisin was 5 weeks premature and Cilly was 3 weeks early. Then here comes Fionn, breaking all records on the Wilton side of the family. My sister and mother had early babies. He is a big boy too. Already in 3-6 month clothes since about 7 weeks old!!  Yup Fionn is quite the individual and we feel very blessed that I could have another child to bring into our family.

Cilly is delighted. I can see already a wonderful bond forming between the two of them. The way Fionn smiles and smiles at Cilly. They have started sticking out their tongues at each other, and the other day Cilly took it upon himself to gently rock Fionn to sleep in his bouncy seat.dsc_0741received_10154545466128245

 

Grief

Ah yes grief. It’s still around, as present as ever. Behind the scenes of all that we do. The desperate sadness and heart ache of Oisin’s death seems as strong as ever. Still so hard to believe, so hard to make any sense of what happened. The trauma of the whole experience remains, and as time goes on it seems as though the trauma is growing within us, and has started to speak already, in various emotional and physical ways.  For me it has been helpful to remain aware of how trauma can “speak” and I try to stay open and listen, to keep working it through the body so it doesn’t get stuck and transformed into something else. When trauma, which is in all of us, starts to manifest in the body or mind I see it as an opportunity for healing. There are any number of layers we can go to when it comes to healing, from popping a pill, to talking therapies, to creative therapies, to body based work, to energy work to spiritual work.

img-20161002-wa0004Deep healing at the level of the original trauma and deeper still at the level of the soul, no two ways about it, involves moving through the hardest most painful emotions (like shame, grief, guilt. rage, fear). There is a readiness. It feels frightening and threatening to the ego. Like a death in itself. A final letting go of habits held onto for so long. Patterns of behaviour once used for surviving some pain that no longer serves us. Patterns that now limit us. Fear is the main barrier to be worked through before the pain can finally be looked at clearly and released. There are therapies that can help, and I have been so impressed with them I have trained in them myself. That’s why there is a help and
support section in this blog. We do not live this life to be limited. We are not  here alone.

I’ve had many tearful moments since the arrival of Fionn, as I long for Oisin, in human form,  to be part of this amazing new life. He shares it in spirit, but there are many moments when that just isn’t enough. We miss him…People say a new baby helps. Perhaps. In a way. We’re distracted into the whirlwind of a newborn baby. It’s made up the numbers again. Cilly has a brother back again. It also leaves a bitterness. Didn’t we already have it all. Two beautiful boys so close in age? Now here I am starting all over again. Now Cilly still has to wait for the best friend he once had, but Fionn will have a different relationship with Cilly. He will be 4 years younger. That’s not good or bad. Just different. It wasn’t in the original plan. I still feel utterly heart broken for all that Cilly has had to go through and that he should have to “grow” a new best friend. I know. Yes. Where is my gratitude that I could have another?  Others were not so fortunate. This bitterness. I can only be honest and admit it is there. We are as we are and I’m working on it.  Always trying to move through the pain of awareness.

Autumn leaves once morefb_img_1476774027086

A month after Fionn’s arrival there came September, a time for new beginnings. The leaves began to fall from the trees once more, scattering their golden carpet all around, for the children to kick playfully as they return again to school. For us, it is the beginning of yet another cycle of reliving. From the 30th September we relive, like a parallel universe, all that happened 2 years ago. It’s not a conscious process. More a shift in energy. An awareness that we have entered into some kind of murky fog. Perhaps, in time, the acute sting of those memories may loosen like the autumn leaves and we can sit and look at the colour and texture of the memories as we do the leaves on the ground.

A new house

One event to lighten the way ahead will be the move into the new house. It hasn’t happened yet and it’s hard to be in the moment with it all. I’m very very much looking forward to it!

Another new baby

Another positive is our very first girl to arrive into the family, after 8 boys in a row! Welcome dear little Kitty, we are all so thrilled for you and you have arrived into the arms of beautiful parents, Niall and Izzy and your fab big brothers. Many blessings to you xxx

Barretstown Bereavement Camp

So that brings us up to October and the weekend just gone. Like last time, Barretstown was another really valuable experience and we are so grateful it is there for us. I may not know the other parents too well but this one huge experience connects us deeply. For me it is a space to be. Cilly is well looked after and occupied. Meals and washing up is all catered for. The staff are so nurturing and so much fun to be around. It frees us up and makes room for reflection within a community of people who get it. The grounds are very special, full of golden, autumnal trees and sun lit walks.  Beautiful rural views and a shimmering lake (upon which I had great fun canoeing!) The sun and moon were incredible during our stay there. So bright and full.  The staff told us it had never once rained on ceremony night, when the families gather by the lake to celebrate the life of their loved ones. img-20161015-wa0000
Our celebration of life ceremony was with candles, which we placed on a raft and watched them float away down the lake. Last time we released balloons – all but one. Cilly held onto his, but this time  he placed his candle on the raft and allowed it to leave. We stood around a fire and listened silently to music, whilst the children worked in the earth, making sand sculptures. Behind us shone the most spectacular full moon. Barretstown has become my sanctuary. Rather like Yoga Borgo was and still is in my heart. I feel we are safe there. We are light.  It means so much to be looked after, nourished and nurtured. Couldn’t we all do with this?  We need these nourishing spaces in our busy modern lives. img-20161015-wa0001

28 April 2016 – Barretstown Bereavement Camp

Walking the path

well worn pathI have been transforming at such a rate in the last year that my life is wavering away from a path that I had been walking. It has brought to me a time of unrest and also much creativity. I am noticing that new life is coming my way in different forms. The new life that our new baby will bring is clear. Then there is a move to our new house coming up in September. But there is another new life brewing and it is my path, road, destiny, which has been pointing itself out to me very clearly of late. I am grateful that I can remain in a middle way place for now, just being with this growing life within me, looking forward to having time out of work, time to see how things work through. I surrender and trust. I can only live in this moment, no matter how it feels. Every moment is a death and rebirth within itself.

Reflections post Barretstownbarretstown logo

Barretstown is located in the same village as Barry’s parents, in Ballymore Eustace, Co. Kildare. It offers medically supported residential and day camps for children and their families living with cancer or serious illness. (https://www.barretstown.org/). It also offers a bereavement camp, of which we have just attended our first of three.

Overall, a valuable experience. Cilly was well looked after by the staff. Children generally have two members of staff per child to look after them and take them to activities. The staff were called “Caras” which is Irish for “friends.” They couldn’t have done more for us. It was easy for us to leave Cilly with the Caras to go off to his fun activities. It gave us time to connect with other parents in the adult groups.

Many activities were not directly related to bereavement but created a chance to try something new (like archery or climbing) and get chatting to other parents in a non pressured way. There was a chance to participate in mindfulness meditation each morning. There was a time each day that the parents would gather as a group with a facilitator and talk about their experiences. Every evening there was a reflection, a ceremonial  lighting of candles for the children we have lost and allowing a silent space as a piece of music played. On the last night there was a celebration of life event and we released balloons by the lake on Barretstown’s very beautiful grounds. We listened to some words from the facilitator and music was played. We stood in silence as the balloons floated away. An emotional ceremony. Dear Cilly was the only one who decided not to let his balloon go and then his Cara tied it around his wrist. He decided that night to suspend the balloon above his bed and if he woke in the night he would pull the string of the balloon to help him to go back to sleep.

During our time being part of the adult groups, I noticed that whilst we had all arrived at the same place, there were differences in how we were standing [or trying to stand] after the fall. Some carried anger, some carried guilt, some felt isolated and unable to talk with others about their loss, some were able to see some of the ways their lives had been enriched from their experience. Barry and I connected with parents who were in a similar emotional space as us.

Some reflections on anger                                        anger.jpg

I could feel angry that we got the death sentence, that we got the rarest and most fatal type of brain tumour, that we never had a fighting chance or hope from the start and that all we had was four months.

I could constantly play over and over in my head the “if onlys”, “what ifs” and carry around guilt over the huge decisions we had to make on behalf of our little boy and his life.

I could feel angry every time someone remained silent to me, said the wrong words or asked an ignorant question. I’ve had them all.

I could retreat into silence and feel like I should be moving on,  should no longer talk about him for fear I will be judged as not getting over him,  should pack his things in a box,  should not cry or talk about him because of a belief it makes others feel awkward…but I don’t.

For me, anger is our pain and fear turned outwards. A way of trying to rid ourselves of an intolerable emotion. I try and connect with what lies behind anger. I notice heart break, pain, sadness, fear and those feelings rise up in me often. In any moment, tears of sadness can well up as I connect with the loss of what once was. In any moment the horror of a traumatic memory from that time can sting my heart, make a shudder all through my body, bring a sinking feeling in my stomach. Yet along with this whole cluster of difficult emotions and bodily sensations I also notice gratitude and an almighty love.

I’m grateful that he lived each day beautifully. I’m grateful he died between his mum and dad during his sleep. I’m grateful that his pain was managed at home and he remained as comfortable as possible. I’m grateful that we could take him out in the beautiful sunshine on his last days,  that he was surrounded by all those he dearly loved, that we could feel his body shake with laughter on his very final day. I’m grateful for those who held our hands along the way.

Whatever the circumstance. However we journeyed to this point. It’s all a twisted case of swings and round abouts, the bitter sweet, the “fierce grace.”I live with the pain of him not being here.  I live with the wonder of what he continues to bring me.  In the end, we all stood there by the lake in Barretstown, united in our suffering, each one of us left in silence to all that was inside, watching our balloons slowly float away.

I don’t find it difficult to talk about our grief and about what happened. I think talking gives others an idea of how to be, like a permission to acknowledge this grief. Grief is a universal concept. Everyone can connect with grief and loss in some way. If others remain silent, then I know it is triggering something personal to them. Not me. Some unspoken struggle inside. And that’s okay too. We all go on our own journey. We can all have compassion.

Middle ground                           desert.jpg

So here I am in a strange middle ground. This middle ground is different to the still centre I have come to know so well in the last year. This middle ground is like a desert with no way back and reluctance to move forward, as if moving forward is to acknowledge the loss and slowly erase my beautiful human boy. Time moves along anyway, I have no control over that, and a profound transformation is happening as if I were in some kind of cocoon. It looks like I’m living in the moment constantly, and I am, and he is with me in this moment. But it doesn’t feel like a choice. It feels like literally all I can do, because to do any more is too much.

15 February – When I Cannot Hug You On Your Birthday

IMG_1827
Oisin, born 35 wks, 15 Feb 2011. Arrived Early. Departed early.

When I Cannot Hug You On Your Birthday

There are moments that can last for days.

Where I move into the darkness.

Where I can barely function in daily life.

Where my heart aches for you to be with me.

Where life starts to take on a grey two dimensional existence,

and the pain is the only place that feels real.

I move into this darkness with an open heart.

I do so out of choice.

Because at some point along the way,

I find you.

I find love.

I find connection.

I find oneness.

I find who I really am, and who I really am is who you really are.

Polarity leaves.

Boundaries leave.

Duality leaves.

I am still.

Peace.

Light.

I cannot control this loss.

I have no power to bring you back.

I cannot have you in my arms and see you turn another year older today.

I cannot run from what life has given me to carry.

But I can choose to find where you are now.

To find you within me.

I find you always in the surrender to what is.

The surrender to all I cannot change.

Happy Birthday, dear, sweet, wise, radiant Oisin.  On your 5th birthday, we find you in our hearts, whether in pain or in joy. You are there. A timeless butterfly boy, dancing all around us. Xxxx

P1010010
Oisin’s 1st Birthday

%d bloggers like this: