Yoga for Grief Artwork
Season 1 - Episode 3

Michelle's Story

15 min - Talk


Michelle shares her intimate and personal story of loss and grief and how she found her way back to her practice.
What You'll Need: No props needed

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Nov 04, 2019
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So, at 42 years old, I found out that I was pregnant. I was three months into a new relationship. And what made this even more shocking was that when I was married in my 30s, we had tried to conceive and couldn't get pregnant for a couple of years. And I was actually told that I wouldn't be able to get pregnant naturally. So when I got pregnant, it was shocking, is an understatement.

It really just threw my whole world into a little bit of a tailspin. And at the same time, I was really excited because I had wanted to be a mom. And even though I had grieved and grieved and grieved that I wouldn't be, this opportunity felt like it was an absolute miracle. That's how it felt to me. So we go on this journey together, this new guy and I, and he comes to all the appointments with me.

And I'm afraid at every appointment that something's going to go wrong. And my doctors, every appointment giving me the miscarriage statistics for my age at that week and somehow I make it to the three month mark, which is supposedly this magical mark. If you make it through the first trimester, you're kind of golden, right? And she, when we were leaving said, Michelle, you can relax. Like this is going to happen.

This is really, this is it. And I let myself think that. I really let myself soften into the fact that I was going to be a mom and I was going to have a baby. I at the time was 10 years into owning a yoga studio and big, strong, loving community. And because I'd been really sick with the pregnancy, I hadn't been there and they were worried about me wondering if everything was okay, but I hadn't wanted to tell anyone because I thought something was going to go wrong.

So after this magical three month appointment, I taught my first class in months and announced that I was pregnant and there were people in there who had been coming to the studio since the beginning and it just, it was, it was like confetti in the room. It was such a celebration and they were so happy. I remember one woman saying she was going to go home and start knitting a blanket. Other women wanted to throw, to start to plan the shower. Like they were, they were really in it, really excited for me.

And a few weeks after that, so now I'm in my second trimester, a few weeks later I got a call from our genetic counselor. So when you're old and you get pregnant, you're assigned a genetic counselor and we had done some genetic testing. She called to tell me that one of the results from one of the genetic tests came back and it came back abnormal. And I remember that moment, I was getting ready for a studio photo shoot. I had on full makeup, my hair done, outfits laid all over the bed and it was like my whole world just exploded.

So we come with two chromosomes of everything and the baby had something called Trisomy 18, where it had three chromosomes of the 18th chromosome. This was terminal. This wasn't something that, you know, was wrong but the baby would live and have a disability. This was a terminal thing. So I actually don't even remember much past that moment of just finding out and completely melting into a puddle.

I know that in the next couple of days we had an appointment with a specialist and she did an ultrasound and told us a story about a couple like us who'd had that diagnosis from this initial genetic test and the test was wrong and they ended the pregnancy and then found out that the baby didn't have this genetic issue. So she begged us to wait three more weeks, four more weeks until I could have an amnio and that would be definitive. And it was such a pull and such a terrible time of roller coaster confusion. The test that I had was over 99% accurate and yet still there's this room for error so I waited. And that meant because of the time of the year that meant waiting through the entire Christmas season through New Year's and the first week of January I had the amnio and these are the dates that just get ingrained because so then everyone who knew it was like January 6th, January 6th is the amnio, January 6th they get to find out.

So this is how, you know, you get these anchors of like they're just burned into my memory. So January 6th I have the amnio and the doctor was actually really hopeful because the baby had grown, there were no physical abnormalities like there can be with this condition. So we left hopeful. She actually said, I might see you, you know, again in another month. Roller coaster, such a roller coaster.

And maybe like five days later I got the call and this is a moment I remember I was actually in my yoga room in a restorative pose, I had on some music, had the candles, I was really, I was really doing the best that I could to take care of myself even though everything was chaos. It was just the craziest time that I could imagine but I was trying so that was a moment of caring for myself and I had my phone with me at all times and it rang. And it was the genetic counselor again and she was telling me that the results from the amnio came back and it confirmed trisomy 18. So at that point I was given options. I could wait it out and let the baby die naturally because one in 6,000 babies actually make it to term and then they only live a few days.

So I could wait it out which I couldn't imagine doing myself with where I was at that moment. I could have a few different medical things done, I could induce a miscarriage or I could have a D and E which is a dilation and evacuation which is basically an abortion and that's what I decided to do for really mostly for my mental health, my emotional health. I felt like if the physical part was over, it would be over. I kept feeling like I just wanted to be over. I had this misconception that if I could just kind of get rid of everything that reminded me, everything around the pregnancy, that then it would be over and I would be okay or I would be okay pretty quickly and that could not have been farther from the truth.

So this is after, gosh, I'd been practicing yoga for probably 20 plus years at this point. I'd been teaching 17, 18 years, I'd had this studio, I had really, really strong life practice around yoga and that's, for me, that's one of the things that really blew up. I hated yoga, I was really pissed at this life practice that I had trusted. I trusted my body, I knew my body, I'm very in my body and suddenly all of that was gone. I had friends that came forward, as will happen, certain friends came forward.

They were able to be with me in this pain, they were able to not have to fix it and not have to make it better and then there were many, many relationships that went away. So I didn't feel, I had a lot of support but it wasn't especially the support that I had predicted. So that was very interesting to navigate how relationships changed. I got a therapist, I went outside a lot, I needed to be around water, I went outside, I tried to find water, I spent time with my dog and everything else took a really, really, really long time and this is obviously, so this, I'm 47 now, this is five years ago, almost five years ago, it's still really charged, you know, this is not something that will ever be done or go away and sometimes I can talk about it and just be really, just feel really like steady and okay and sometimes, I actually had a doctor's appointment last week and the person saw it in my chart and asked and I just started crying. You know, so, it's the ambushes, it's the things that you're not expecting, it's always in you, it's always in me.

And somehow, over the course of the past mostly few years, couple of years, I have come back to my practice, I have found my way back to yoga and it's different, it's not the same yoga that it was before. I would say it's a more full-bodied, even though I thought I had this really full idea of what yoga was, I think now, it's even more expansive, it's less attached, I'm not, I don't feel fixated on any certain part, I don't have many expectations, it's just sort of there but I also do all kinds of other things with my body now that I wouldn't probably have done before. I do Zumba, I went to the gym for a while, I did fitness classes, like, I had to get to know my body in a different way because it wasn't a happy place and yoga wasn't something that I could jump back into because it had way too many associations. So somehow, thank you, I have made my way back and I am grateful to be here in all of the ways that this experience has changed me, which is different than being grateful for the experience, which I don't know if I am, but I am grateful to be here.


Luna J
6 people like this.
Thank you for the courage to share your story, and offer this practice. I understand.
Michelle Marlahan
Thank you for watching and for the comment, Luna . I'm happy to connect with you. Feeling understood makes the pains that we go through more bearable. I'd love to hear if you explore any of the practices. ~Michelle
Debra D
7 people like this.
Dearest Michelle. I too appreciate your courage in telling your story. I very much appreciate your sharing a reaction that I too felt after a devastating loss five years ago, and which I felt ashamed and inadequate about: I deeply resented my longtime yoga and meditation practice because I thought it ‘should’ somehow have inoculated me against that depth of pain and grief. I joined this online group because I actually could not go into a real-life yoga studio without feeling sobbing rage at yoga’s ‘failure’ to ‘protect’ me. Crazy, I know. I have gradually found my way back to yoga through this site and now I am looking forward to practising with you here. Thank you from the whole of my heart. This means so much to me.
Michelle Marlahan
Thank you for your message. Oh, how I relate to what you describe. I couldn't do yoga either! It took a long time to become friends again. "Sobbing rage at yoga's failure to protect me".... yes.  I wonder if/how your practice is different than before. Stay in touch as you go through the series -- I'd love to hear how it's going for you.
With love and care,
Jason S
4 people like this.
Thank you for your courage and being so vulnerable with your experience. I remember your blog post about this at the time, this it seems to go deeper into it and shows tremendous strength to share. like you said, still something really charged. The hating yoga and how you resolved coming back to it is shocking to learn and an interesting perspective. 
Louise O
3 people like this.
Michelle - I am in awe.  Thank you for sharing this.  I've worked in the fitness field for almost 20 years and as part of my grief process I turned to what I'd always done and expected healing. Didn't happen. My body said no. And this fed my anger. I had to approach "fitness" with an entirely new perspective, which demanded patience and openness when I had little of that (or so I thought). This has helped shape my perspective that through grief we create new - there may not be a "going back" to many aspects of our pre-grieving life. And that's ok too. Like you said; perhaps not grateful for the experience, but grateful to be "here".  Thank you again for your generosity in sharing your story so that we too may understand ourselves more deeply. 
3 people like this.
We're so grateful you're here with us, Jason and Louise. Thank you for your thoughtful share.

Ashl ey from Yoga Anytime
Michelle Marlahan
It's funny to think of what I shared back then, mostly because I was still "in it" and could only know certain aspects. Every year reveals something different. Yes, I think many people would be surprised to hear about my relationship to yoga changing so much. It goes back to how loss can make us question everything -- is anything that I thought was true actually true? It takes time to know the answer. Thank you for being here and sharing your thoughts.
Michelle Marlahan
Oh my gosh, yes. And I think this just adds to the sense of loss -- now I've lost this way of being or a practice that has been a resource for so long. Thank you for sharing about your experience. It helps us all feel less weird and alone.
Bridgid M
3 people like this.
Thank You Michelle for being you!
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