“When I was a teenager both of my parent died in a plane crash.”
That was in Bombay (now Mumbai) in 1978; all of the 213 passengers and crew were killed. When this happened local meditation expert and teacher, Savitri was just a teenager and losing both of her parents came with a level of shock that no one is prepared to experience. (Editor’s note: Savitri is her full legal name and she does not go by a last name.)
Grief is usually associated with multifaceted physical and emotional responses in the body and mind, which are natural and necessary while healing. The problem comes when an individual is incapable of experiencing all of these elements and holds onto nostalgia and sadness for a long period of time. That can often lead to physical and emotional problems like depression.
After her parents’ deaths, Savitri didn’t have a choice but to stay strong and care for her older sister who had serious health issues at the time. She adopted an “activist” role, which is one out of the five identities of grievers, according to Dr. Susan Berger who is a licensed independent clinical social worker. In her book “The Five Ways We Grieve” Berger describes the ”activist” as someone who focuses on helping others while they are dealing with the same loss. Savitri focused on her sister, which left her feeling numb. Thinking of her own feelings and emotions was not a priority.
“When you have someone to take care of, you postpone” the grieving, she said, and often, no one recognizes your pain.
Within a few years, Savitri had to face another tragedy: her sister’s murder. In a short period of time, she had lost all of her closest family members. Not having anyone to take care of but herself, Savitri started experiencing the grief she had pushed away; she felt loneliness and anger. She also felt unprotected and confused in the absence of her family’s love.
After those unimaginable experiences, Savitri did not have anyone to take care of. It was then that she realized she had been living in denial, ignoring the pain of loss. This effected her physically; her body became weaker. This stage lasted for a while, until she recognized her emotions and physical pain. Savitri witnessed the truth within and started to become more aware of her thoughts, emotions and physical state.
“Not having a purpose” also postpones the healing process, she said.
Through her experiences, knowledge and work in the yoga and meditation world, Savitri today helps people heal, recharge and find a meaningful path without the feeling of guilt at the Alive and Shine Foundation in Bellevue, a non-profit organization designed to help people who are struggling emotionally.
“The anger is there no matter how you lose someone,” Savitri said.
People often think: “maybe there is something I could have done,” she said, which usually leads to guilt. She sees this guilt even with her students whose parents are 85-years-old and it’s their natural time to go.
“This emotion arrives from a place of helplessness,” she said.
To help others release their anger, Savitri uses meditation and self-awareness techniques to help people heal, which can dramatically decrease people’s pain, she added.
As a young girl, Savitri experienced mediation when she joined her father on his visits to gurus, yoga practitioners and spiritual leaders. She was guided through meditation and taught to sit still, control her mind and “mainly to focus on a beautiful feeling.” The feeling that she chose was her feeling of love for her mother. Even now, Savitri misses her mother’s touch, personality and love. Savitri doesn’t agree with one aspect of the meditation she observed at a young age in India, which was that meditators would become closed and any unwelcoming situation would often trigger agitation. From her observations, it was clear that she wanted to meditate but be able to bring her inner peace outward to whatever situation she encountered. It was her connection with “the teacher” within her that guided her to design her own meditations, called Heartfull Meditation. She learned how to work with the energy of her body and mind.
“Meditation is not just about relaxing and reflecting, it’s actually about moving energy,” she said. It’s the inner-asana. “Heartfull meditation is all about helping you reach that loving part that your loved ones brought out in you,” she added.
The meditations that Savitri teaches today were the ones she created during her healing journey. Through the power within she realized: “I am my own energy of love; I am my own storyteller; I can rewrite my story.” This acknowledgment was her self-empowerment.
Savitri’s advice to the people around the griever
“To be patient, to hold a space of safety and love.”
Creating a space of safety is important to help the griever feel safe “enough to cry, safe enough not to be perfect,” she said. For those around the person grieving, it’s important to respect the fact that this person is scattered and needs time to heal. Often people judge the person grieving, because they remember what they were like before the tragedy. Comparing someone to what he or she used to be is not healthy. Support that person, she said, and help them find themselves again.
“Love is the essence of our existence; love is the most important energy of life itself,” Savitri said.
When you are relying on loved ones to love you during the grieving process, it can be extremely difficult. That person who once supported and loved you may no longer be there. Yes, we can rely on our friends and family for support and comfort but the healing process will take time, so patience and caring for your health is necessary. Beginning anew can be hard, but everyone can find a way to heal, for Savitri it’s meditation.
Methods of healing
There are many helpful methods to start the healing process. For example, getting massages “because you are missing [her/his] touch.” When you are in a state of shock, the body tightens and you slowly lose connection with your own skin. Your nervous system and your skin become very tight. In a deep state of grief, the whole body gets sick. You get the sense that the world is not safe, so when someone touches you in a very safe way, it can be a very positive experience. Using water as a way of healing is also good. For example, being in a bathtub soothes the nerves. Exercises, and specifically yoga, that benefit your emotional, mental and physical state of body and mind can play a key role in your healing journey. Also, walks, bright colors, laughter and eating healthy are all good tools to help you get your life and energy back.
Sharing your grief with someone else is another healing tool. Talking about your feelings is important, especially with people who are looking out for your best interest. Talk about the changes happening within you. Being open and feeling heard can be very helpful.
For someone who saw death in a non-peaceful way, Savitri has had to look at life from a very different angle. Talking about it and sharing her story has helped her, and others. Now she understands death and doesn’t fear it, which has helped her cope. Her Heartfull Meditation sessions have been the key to helping her live in peace.
[Photo by Behzad No – CC BY]
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