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Navigating the Depths of Grief: A Personal Journey of Healing


This blog post has lingered as a draft on my website for quite some time, my hesitation rooted in a belief that it was meant solely for my personal journey and not for sharing.

I am also not one to share my personal struggles in my blog posts, but I think I must with this topic, as a reminder to myself of the essence of my work—seeking connection, avoiding a sense of superiority, and acknowledging that I don't possess all the answers. My goal as a Yoga Teacher and Integrative Nurse Coach, is to foster a safe space for clients and students to share their stories, connect mind-body-spirit, and heal. Grief, as I well know, is not an emotion navigated with ease by any of us, yet it's a universal experience—we've all experienced it in various ways—whether through the loss of a loved one, a job, a breakup, a health diagnosis, the loss of youth, or other life-changing events.

Here we go...


Grief, a powerful and complex emotion, has a unique way of settling into the depths of our being, affecting each person differently. As a Registered Nurse, Yoga Teacher, Integrative Nurse Coach, and lifelong student, I thought I was well-equipped to handle life's challenges. Little did I know that grief would usher me onto an unfamiliar path, forcing me to confront emotions I had never felt before.

My Unexpected Encounter with Grief:

It all began with an unexpected loss, shaking the foundation of my world. As someone accustomed to helping others navigate through their struggles, I found myself grappling with the uncharted territory of my own grief. I started to share my story with some, but I held onto much of it, unsure of how to unravel the tangle of emotions within me. As a Registered Nurse, I possess a profound familiarity with the art of emotional detachment. I have assisted individuals on the worst day of their lives, extending a hand to hold for some as they breathed their final breath. In my role as a Reserve Deputy Coroner, I have been tasked with delivering the heart-wrenching news of a loved one's death, often in a distressingly violent and invariably tragic manner. In my role as the County Coordinator of the Child Fatality Review Board, I lead meetings and oversee reviews concerning the deaths of youth in my community. I am familiar with and well-versed in the grief, sadness, and pain experienced by others; I am not one to shy away from the uncomfortable. Navigating through the grief of others has become second nature, and necessitating the creation of a protective barrier between their emotions and my own--a barrier crafted not only for my safeguarding but also as a shield.


The Unpredictability of Grief:

Grief has a way of rearing its head in unexpected situations, catching us off guard and unprepared. As a practitioner of various healing modalities, I was surprised by my lack of awareness regarding the intricate ways in which grief manifested in my life, affecting not just my emotions but also my body and how I interact with the world around me. The realization that this experience would forever change me loomed large, though the extent of that change remains uncertain.

After months of navigating through this murky terrain, I decided to seek the guidance of a therapist to help me delve deeper. In my first therapy session, I discovered the physical manifestation of grief when my therapist asked, "Where are you feeling your emotions?" The emotion was in my chest, the placement was not what surprised me, it was the fact that I was attempting to talk over it. I was attempting to bypass my emotions, even though it was difficult to take a deep breath, to fully expand my chest, this was a huge revelation for me. I had not been fully aware of how grief had settled into my body, how it was impacting me, and how hard I was trying to suppress it.

I continue to seek more profound healing methods looking for a unique perspective that will foster my learning, growth, and overall healing. My hope is to enhance my awareness of how I navigate the world, the way I converse with myself, and even how I perceive myself. A couple of weeks ago, I confided in my partner, stating, "I am at a place in my life where I have everything that I have dreamed of having, yet I am unhappy and spend more time crying than laughing." In that moment, I recognized the need for change; saying those words out loud reverberated into my soul, they were hard to say, hard to admit, but even more challenging to hear.

My Struggle with Vulnerability:

As a "fixer" accustomed to holding space for others, admitting vulnerability is a daunting task. I grappled with the difficulty of telling people that I wasn't at my best or couldn't hold space for others at certain moments. Occasionally, I faced criticism because I wasn't proficient in expressing these emotions, establishing boundaries, or refraining from providing support when needed.

The need for vulnerability clashed with my instinct to push down emotions, a pattern learned in a home where masking feelings was the norm. Opening up about grief proved challenging. I feared burdening others with my pain or being perceived as using grief as an excuse, never truly being sure when the right time is to bring it up, or if there is truly the right time. I also had to remind myself, that this is my story and if I don't share with others, they will not know, a dichotomy that in turn would create more stress, necessitate more vulnerability, and a fear that I would be admitting weakness. The struggle against feelings of inadequacy, fears of being deemed unnecessary, and the persistent concern of burdening others became constant worries. So of course, I continued to push my emotions deeper, satisfying societal expectations and fulfilling my commitments, all while knowing deep inside that I was no longer the same person and that I was bursting at the seams.


Embracing my inherently emotional nature as a Pitta dosha mixed in with a Cancer Sun and Cancer Rising (blessings to those that willingly live within my inner circle 😘), I've always found myself deeply connected to a spectrum of feelings. However, despite this predisposition, I lacked a blueprint for navigating through these emotions. Growing up, I was never taught how to express emotions effectively. In my household, reactions took precedence over thoughtful responses, and feelings like sadness and tears were swiftly brushed aside without further discussion. In my family, grief is a topic that eludes discussion, even in the aftermath of its powerful presence—an intensity that many of us have never experienced before.

Now, at the age of 45, I find myself navigating through these murky waters—striving to learn, grow, and heal. Simultaneously, I am attempting to break down the walls and gradually chip away at the stone that has shielded my heart, a defense built over my 25 years in nursing and throughout my 45 years of life. Writing this serves as a way to express myself without exposing myself completely. It is my hope that, collectively, we learn to provide people with more space to talk, to share, to cry, to scream—because beyond what is openly shared, we never truly know what others are experiencing. The mask is slowly coming off, but vulnerability remains a work in progress. Grief has reshaped how I interact with others, altered the stories I tell myself, and transformed my view of myself. I continue to learn that healing is not a linear process, and it's okay not to have all the answers. To those who have provided support, I am immensely grateful. This journey is teaching me the profound art of self-compassion and the importance of embracing vulnerability in the healing process.

Where do WE go from Here?

How would our meetings unfold if we began each one with the inquiry, "What is weighing on your heart today?"

What if corporations allocated time for their staff's self-care, extending beyond the standard lunch break?


What if, genuinely, we started seeing people from their standpoint rather than focusing solely on what we need from them?

Community, a secure space to share thoughts and emotions, is more crucial now than ever before, which has me reaching out for assistance, directing this appeal specifically to my fellow Integrative Nurse Coaches. One noticeable gap I've observed is the scarcity of support that is both accessible and free. I encourage all Integrative Nurse Coaches to reach out to your fellow alumni,

  • Ask if there are graduates interested in hosting rotating Healing Circles.

  • Conduct monthly Zoom meetings where individuals can participate without financial worries, provide them with the option to contribute an amount they find comfortable or to forgo payment entirely.

Many hospitals offer education reimbursement, use this money for training on how to facilitate a support group; recently, I enrolled in a two-day certification course to become a Group Peer Support (GPS) facilitator. This endeavor not only assisted me personally and professionally, but also extends support to my community, particularly after discovering the absence of regular, in-person support for grieving parents in my city.


This year the Surgeon General released a report on the epidemic of loneliness in the United States and the profound impact that isolation has on our society. We as Nurses, Integrative Nurse Coaches, Yoga Teachers, and Healers alike need to answer this call, we need to rise up and support our community. Report: https://www.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/surgeon-general-social-connection-advisory.pdf

Acknowledging the busyness of life, one might question where the space or time for volunteering could be found. The significance lies in dedicating time, we all have 1-2 hours a month to offer, we don't need to think big, or reinvent the wheel. There is a concept expressed in Sanskrit "Seva," the selfless service that contributes to collective health, healing, and well-being. Engaging in Seva doesn't have to be a solitary endeavor, nor should it require a significant portion of your time.


Before, I close I would like to uplift a people/agencies that are offering FREE Healing Circles on Grief/Loss/Life Changes.


1. Holly Kapusinksi RN, MSN, NC-BC, CPNP-PC

Life Cycle Balance llc

Healing Circle for Prenatal/Infant Loss



2. Healing Circles Global

Grieving Together: Living with Loss



 


Group/Healing Circle Training:


1. Healing Circles Global


2. Group Peer Support (GPS)


3. The Integrative Nurse Coach Academy

Nurse Coach Certificate Program


4. End of Life Coaching: Re-Imagining the Nurse’s Role in Transforming End of Life Care



With Gratitude,


Lisa Ostler

RN, BSN, NC-BC, FMN, RYT


Holistic Healing 4 Nurses: A Free Weekly Zoom Yoga Class for Nurses and Healthcare workers

Registration Required:

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