Yoga for Grief Artwork
Season 1 - Episode 5

Tool: Make a Resource List

15 min - Talk
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Michelle shares a tool that was helpful for her in moving through loss and grief. She talks about how to distinguish pain from suffering, watching and tracking, and identifying things that bring more calm and spaciousness into your grieving process.

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

What You'll Need: No props needed

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Nov 04, 2019
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Chapter 1

Tracking and Patterns

So, the first tool we're going to cover is based around resources and finding things that feel supportive to you instead of making your pain in your emotional state worse, making it harder to live your day. And we'll start by making the distinction between pain and suffering. So pain is a completely normal, healthy, and appropriate response to loss. It's an indication of your caring and connection. And we're not in any way trying to get rid of your pain or make it go away or sweep it under a rug.

Suffering, on the other hand, in the way that we're thinking about it for this tool is feeling like or being made to feel like what you're experiencing in your grief is wrong. It's feeling isolated. It's feeling judged. It's basically being made to feel like you're not doing it right. So when we separate those two things, we want to decrease things that make us suffer and make the pain that is totally normal worse than it needs to be.

The invitation to start your exploration around pain and suffering is to begin tracking maybe for a week or so. Seeing the things that you do, the people you see, the places you go, and the responding emotional experience from those things. So we're looking for if you went to the store, how did that feel? How did that go? What happened?

If you talked to a certain person on the phone, how did you feel afterwards? And we're looking, again, for things that even in the smallest amount make you feel slightly calmer, slightly more grounded, more stable. And then conversely, things that make you feel overwhelmed. Things that make you feel judged or exposed or that you're spiraling and you start to ruminate into the abyss. So it's important to say that nothing is going to feel great.

Nothing's really going to make you feel good. We're looking for the smallest amount of space. So let me give you an example. Maybe as you track your day, you might write, I spent two hours lying in bed looking out the window and I felt sad and kind of numb. And then the next thing might be I went for a short walk around the block and I felt a little lighter.

And the next thing might be I talked to a friend on the phone, my friend Sally, and I felt really judged for still being sad. So I wrote in my journal for a while and that made me feel more calm. Megan Devine is the author of the book, It's Okay That You're Not Okay, and she uses the language of wellness versus worstness. So we're not looking to feel super happy, we're looking just not to feel worse. Again, as we live with the pain that is totally normal and appropriate in loss and grief.

So once you have about a week's worth of tracking, and it doesn't have to be super official, you might not have a lot of energy. So just little notes when you think about it, I felt worse, I didn't feel worse. After about a week of having some notes like that, then you'll look for patterns. What did consistently make me feel worse? What consistently provided a little bit of relief, just a little bit of space around my pain?

So the next step might be to get a piece of paper and make a line down the middle. And on one side, you'll write out as evidenced from your prior week, the things that brought relative calm, the things that felt supportive, that didn't make things worse. And then on the other side of the page, you'll write things that proved to cause suffering, that proved to make it harder to go through your day, that made it worse. So once you have that, then we'll funnel this into a bigger idea of a resource list. And it will include some of the things from your list that you knew to invoke relative calm, and it might also include some other things that you just know feel good for you.

Now, again, we are not trying to put a rainbow band-aid on anything. We are not trying to ignore or discredit any of your feelings. We're trying to not feel worse than necessary, so that we really have our full energetic resources to be with the pain that is here, to do the things that need to be done. So to get you started on an idea of what might be resourceful, I'm going to bring out a few of the things that were helpful for me. So I'm going to share a few things in the hopes of widening, maybe widening your definition

Chapter 2

"What Worked for Me"

of what might be resourceful or what might be a support beyond what someone tells you should make it better or what you've heard makes it better.

Let's make this really personal. So honestly, a lot of the things that I found really helpful and supportive were things that were given to me. So these stones are stones that were given to me. And at the time, I didn't know what they symbolized or what they meant. Nothing really has inherent meaning beyond what I give it, what it means to me.

So I actually had a whole tray, a whole little bowl of rocks, and just their presence felt really helpful. I didn't have to know what they meant or what they symbolized. I also am a big jewelry person. So I found certain jewelry. This is a necklace that I would wear when I needed to go out in public or go to an event where other people, where I'd have to be interacting with other people.

So I had certain jewelry. I even had certain fragrances or scents that just felt symbolic, like they gave me a little bit of a barrier. Along with scent, I like sprays. Smell is such a powerful scent. So I had different sprays that I would use maybe on my pillow before going to bed or in a room when I came home just to clear the space.

This is called a jizzo, and he was a gift from someone who read an article about jizzos as the protectors of children, including unborn children. And he was of great comfort to me. He actually still sits on my nightstand. And every night before I go to bed, I rub his little nose. So this was a great resource.

And lastly, another really personal one. This is the Sleepy Sheep, that's what I call it. And it was a present from someone who found out that I was pregnant. And this was sort of the start of the nursery. So I was really excited.

I really loved my little Sleepy Sheep. And after the baby died, there was actually a moment where in my anger, I thought I might throw it away or give it away. And ultimately, this sheep ended up becoming a resource for me. And I would sleep with it at night. And as heartbreaking as that sounds to me right now, at the time, it was a great comfort.

So whatever you find comforting only needs to be comforting to you. It doesn't need to make sense to anybody else. So to share a little bit more about my lying down the middle list, you've just seen some of the things that I found that created some space and some comfort for me. A few other things, my therapist, weekly having someone to listen to me was an incredible resource. There were some friends I could talk to that I knew from experience this person would be able to be with me without trying to fix me, without my feeling judged.

Being outside, even if it was just sitting on my patio, didn't make me feel worse. So that was a great resource. Things on the increases suffering list. Spending too much time alone was actually a way for me to increase my suffering. And that's a real balance because I like to be alone and sometimes grief can make us want to isolate and sort of cocoon.

But I would go into this incredibly painful rumination and spirals about the question why, or I would go into what ifs. And that was really unhelpful. So it was important for me to identify that. Like as much as I want to be alone, that's actually not helpful for me. Talking to certain people was good, talking to other people not so good.

So I started a list of people that I needed to minimize contact with. Going shopping was really triggering in a lot of ways. The grocery store can be really problematic just after loss or for people who are in deep grief. There are a lot of triggers there. For me it was the chance that I might see a pregnant woman or a baby and have a huge emotional response there in the grocery store.

So instead I might call on one of my friends who keeps offering to run errands for me or I might do some online delivery service for groceries. Going out to eat was another one. Just in general being in public was really hard. I might run into someone that I know or again I might see a family and that might increase my suffering. So I ordered in a lot or friends brought food or I did some very simple cooking.

So again just examples for you to hopefully widen the possibilities of what might be resourceful and to remind you that you don't need to justify anything that increases your suffering. If it makes you feel worse it makes you feel worse and that is yours. So once you have this resource list of things known to evoke relative calm that don't make you feel worse just having the list itself can be supportive. Just knowing that we have resources can help regulate the nervous system. It's pretty amazing.

So here's another personal story about the resource list. I recently had a surgery earlier this year and the doctors had told me that the week post surgery of recovery was really going to be awful. So I was starting to spiral about this a little bit. So I decided to make myself a resource list just to help calm and know that I had things that I could do that would feel supportive. So I had a really good time with it.

I made a great list of some of these things, other things like watching a rom-com or listening to a book on tape and then I had the surgery and I came home. And that week was hard, it was bad and I didn't do anything on my resource list. I begged the whole thing and I would even think about I know I have this resource list I'm not using it but instead of feeling bad about not using the list I actually again felt really soothed knowing I had it. Sometimes we just want to feel bad and in grief it's totally normal sometimes to want to feel bad. You don't have to do the best thing all the time.

Give yourself lots of permission. I hope this entire tool of distinguishing pain from suffering and starting to watch and track the people and activities of your day and identifying things that make it worse and things that make it just even the slightest bit more spacious. My hope is that this tool gives you a little bit of a map for the waves of grief which will come as they come so that you can ride those waves with a little more skill, with a little more resourcefulness and a little more ease. Thank you so much for listening and I look forward to hearing how this goes.


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