Yoga for Grief Artwork
Season 1 - Episode 12

Tool: Ripples of Loss

10 min - Talk


Michelle shares a tool called Ripples of Loss as well as reflection questions to help assist us with grief and loss.

Please see attached PDF to assist you with this integration practice.

What You'll Need: No props needed

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Nov 25, 2019
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Chapter 1

Ripples of Loss

This tool is called the ripples of loss, and it's a representation of the way loss ripples out in your life, all of the different layers, the different ways that loss affects a life beyond just the singular loss itself. So to do this exercise, you can either download the PDF that has predrawn circles, or you could also just draw circles on your own, and they don't have to be perfect circles. They could have waves. This can really be as interpretive as you like. So here's how it goes.

There's a center small circle, and inside of that center circle, you write the name of the person or thing you lost. If you have multiple losses that you're working with or that are present in your life, just pick one, and it might not be the most intense loss. It might be wise to start with a loss that has a little more distance so that you aren't feeling maybe so triggered by it. You get something to practice with. So a story, when I first did this exercise and I saw that first prompt of write the name of the person you lost in the circle, I got really angry, and I couldn't do it.

I got mad. I pushed it away, and I didn't look at that exercise for about a month. I thought about it. It was very present in my mind, but I didn't want to write it down. I wasn't ready.

So if that feels true for you, again, you can use a different loss or just set it aside. You can come back to it any time. So center circle, name the person or thing that you lost. In the next circle, that next ripple or ring, you will write all of the things you lost because of that loss. What else did you lose?

So for me, the center circle, I wrote the name of my child, Oliver. And in the second circle, I wrote the things I lost because of that loss. I lost the opportunity of motherhood. I lost dreams and visions, fantasies about what that was going to be like. I lost certain relationships that didn't withstand that initial loss or changed because of it.

I also lost faith and trust in my body, in life. I lost care and love of my body. I lost newness in the relationship, in the partnership that I had with the father of the baby because the relationship was so new. We didn't get a chance to just be newly in love. It was right into a really serious thing.

So we lost that. So those are some examples for me in that second ring of what else I lost. Then you'll take that ripple out even further and the next circle or the next ring is what are you afraid of losing because of this initial loss? What do you fear you're going to lose? What else?

So back to my example, I was afraid that I was going to lose myself. Who was I? I had all this uncertainty, all these questions that were fear-based. They weren't real and they didn't actually happen. It was just I was afraid of losing who I was.

I was afraid of living a fully happy life when I really ever be happy again. I was afraid of losing certain relationships. My place in my biological family because so many things were affected and changed by this loss. Relationships are often strained in loss. So I was afraid I was uncertain what's going to happen with these other relationships that I've leaned on for a long time and now things are different.

I was afraid of being seen as weak. I was afraid of being defective. I was afraid of losing compassion because I had so many feelings that weren't compassionate. I had so much anger, had so much sorrow. I was afraid that I would never be compassionate again.

I was really afraid of losing my connection to the baby. If I moved on from the grieving place, maybe I wouldn't be connected to him anymore. And I was afraid of losing what had been really my life philosophy, my life practice, which was yoga. I was afraid of losing my place in my livelihood, in my work. So there was a lot tied up in my work life and what I was afraid of losing there as well.

So now we go from the actual loss to the additional things we've lost out into the things we're afraid of losing and lastly, beyond that outer circle. This is where we write about what remains. What's still here despite the loss? What maybe is growing in place of what's been lost? So this outer ring initially felt really triggering for me.

It felt like rose-colored glasses or the silver lining. So I want to be really clear that that's not what we're going for. We're just going for the loss has happened, what's left? For me, there really was, there was mercy. There were relationships that had been really sustaining and nurturing.

The love that I received in so many ways. That's one of the things I wrote in my outer circle. There were certain friendships and relationships that deepened. Even my partnership with my beloved deepened. We had profound conversations that we never would have had need to have, which allowed us to grow in ways that we wouldn't have grown if this loss hadn't happened.

I also learned to let myself be taken care of, which was a real new thing for me and a real gift. Vulnerability is something that went in that outer circle. New interests, strangely new discoveries that did bring a type of peace or even joy. There was also a redefining of relationships in my life and boundaries that had needed to happen, but now really needed to happen and that ended up being a gift as well. Ultimately, I had a deeper acceptance of who I was as a person because I was showing up wounded, hurting, and still loved, still cared for, still worthy.

As you explore each of these ripples, be as, again, free flowing as you like. This can be in colors, you can write using symbols, however it comes out of you is perfect. Once you have your ripples completed in a way that is something you want to work with, then go ahead and take a look at the reflection questions and use those to come into your experience and your understanding even deeper.

Chapter 2

Reflection Questions

Here are some questions and reflections for the ripple exercise. You can think about these, you can even write them down.

The first question is simply, how was it to unpack your experience in this way? How was it to think about the different layers or ripples of your grief? Next, were there losses that surprised you? Ones that you hadn't really identified as a loss, that feel like you were sort of seeing them for the first time? And what was that like?

Are there losses that feel invisible? Ripples losses are ones that you can't see, they're not tangible, so like relationships or a dream. And how does identifying those losses, writing them down in the ripples, how did that feel? Next question, is there a story you're telling yourself about the hierarchical level of your loss? And what impact does that story have on your process?

How does fear impact how you live after loss? And what was it like to explore that last part of the circle, the outside of the circle? What remains or what has been given in spite of the loss? What was it like to go out there? What came of that?

So again, these questions might be something that you think about, that you just invite into your experience as you go about your day, or they might be something that you actually sit down and journal with. However you use them, they're really meant to support you. And again, this broader understanding of how this loss has impacted your life. Thank you for being here. Thank you for investigating in this way.

I look forward to hearing how your explorations are going. Let me know if you have any questions.


Jenny S
1 person likes this.
This was such great tool for me. To actually sit down and chart the circles of grief and loss and the aftermath was quite revealing, especially when I was finished and had this whole sort of “map” in front of me that I could actually look at and make sense of in an almost objective way, if that makes sense...thank you for these teachings 🙏🏻♥️
Michelle Marlahan
It makes total sense. I had a similar experience of "seeing" the parts of my loss in a way that I couldn't quite explain. I'm so glad you did the exercise (I think it's easy to watch and not 'do') and that it was revealing for you! All these ways to interact with our grief help fill in the sketch of who we are "after."

Thanks so much for sharing your insights!
Louise O
1 person likes this.
Thank you for sharing this Michelle.  My experience with it was interesting. As I was thinking about this ripple effect, I remembered as a child how I enjoyed throwing a rock high in the air over some water, hearing it land with a plop and watching the ripples travel away from the center until I couldn't see them anymore.  Sometimes I'd do this with a handful of pebbles and the cascading sound was pretty cool. The ripples colliding created a little storm of chaotic water.  I made a connection to that chaotic water of my playful childhood, as I realized that the confused, buffeted, unpredictable sense that I carry with me so often these days reflects the nature of my grieving process now, as I dance with not only my most recent loss but a lifetime of losses which I am only now choosing to unpack and move through. What I also remember from my play; even those multiple ripples from multiple pebbles at once moved on, and smoother water returned. 
Michelle Marlahan
What a gorgeous supplement to the exercise. So simple, yet it brings a whole new depth to the exploration of ripples. I love the visual, as well as calling on nature as teacher, the ever Wise One. Thank you for sharing your story and gifting us all with this richness to take into our own inquiries.

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