For the first time in the more than 3 decades since my firstborn’s arrival, I began a Mothers Day in tears.

I was making coffee when Carole King’s Child of Mine came over the radio. The tender ache in her voice caused the tears to flow. The ache I heard  echoed the one in my heart. My darker emotions are turbulent and so close to the surface these days. I sobbed as the song released an upwelling of grief for losses current and past.

 Yet, Something Wonderful Happened

As has so often been the case since the pandemic overtook our lives, on Mother’s Day I found myself holding two deep, very different emotions at once — grief and joy. Though it felt strange, having two strong opposing emotions is something I’ve started getting used to. 

Later that morning, I opened my front door to find not only my oldest son, who I’d expected, but also his wife and toddler daughter! Overwhelmed by the surprise and the sudden injection of joy into a difficult day, for a moment I could hardly react.

This was our first time to see each other in the two months since Maryland instituted stay-at-home orders.

Those two months brought an abrupt change from the routine he, his wife, and I established a year and a half ago, after their daughter’s birth.

Most weeks, I’ve been in their home for two days, happily serving as part of their child care team. I’ve been privileged with the opportunity to watch the unfolding of a new human and to witness her parents’ growth into their new roles. It’s been an extraordinary gift.

The lockdown left her parents unemployed for now, and so not in need of child care, and it shifted what we do when we love each other. We stay away. We agreed it was for the best to protect one another by keeping our distance. It was the right decision, but it’s been painful.

Balm for An Aching Heart

To celebrate this Mothers Day we wore masks, even outside. We didn’t hug. We didn’t share a meal. But my granddaughter romped through our backyard, her first chance to do that as a now sturdy and well coordinated toddler. I reveled in this longed-for visit, while feeling the strangeness of our physically distant conduct.

Sophia smelled fresh mint from my garden, held the wildflowers we picked for her, checked out every corner of the yard, and laughed when our dog licked her hand. She moved so fast that we got very few photos, and I was so in the moment that it didn’t occur to me to make a video!

We walked around the block, and came back to play for a little while longer, this time giving Sophia a chance to explore the house and exercise her climbing muscles on the couch, the dining room chairs, and a flight of stairs, always with one of us hovering nearby to keep her safe.

It was a beautiful Mothers Day. It was a sorrowful Mothers Day. It was balm for an aching heart, and it was another chance to practice something I’m getting much better at.

That’s shifting my focus from dark emotion, not by denying it, but by accepting and soothing it, and then turning toward the light, where there is reason for joy, love, and hope. 

Five of My Go-To Strategies for Shifting Focus Away from Dark Emotions

  1. Accepting and soothing difficult emotions.
  2. Focusing on compassion for self and others using the metta meditation I’ve shared previously. 
  3. Using one or more of the six forms of expressive writing. My choice is often the Six A’s of Mindful Writing. 
  4. Taking good care of myself in various ways including not trying to plough through my work when I’m exhausted, distracted or otherwise unable to focus.
  5. Repeating  an affirmation that feels honest and relevant.

One More Strategy: Doing Something With People Whose Company You Enjoy

Humans are wired so that when we feel loved and connected, we also feel safe and secure.

Alice Boyes

Think of all the times in your life when you’ve lived this truth – what it’s like how it feels when we can gather with others we love and value to play, celebrate, learn, create, to grieve or mourn. To just be together. 

We need this kind of connection now more than ever. It’s how we take care of ourselves and one another, supporting strength, well-being and resilience. 

This is why I offered an online mini-retreat last month – so we could find ways to center, center, calm and heal by writing, connecting, supporting and learning together.

A Healing Experience

We engaged in expressive writing, privately exploring our truest, deepest thoughts and feelings about the disruptive times we’re  living through.The healing found through expressive writing was deepened by the opportunity to share, if desired, what we discovered as we wrote.

Everything offered during the mini-retreat — meditation, expressive writing, time for reflection, optional discussion, and distant Reiki are approaches that I know help us to calm, center and heal ourselves, even in turbulent times. I know this through personal experience, clients’ feedback and research evidence. It’s my honor to share these effective and powerful approaches. 

An Invitation – Join the June Mini-Retreat!

Everyone thought we should continue, and so we are! The next mini-retreat is on Saturday, June 6th, and you’re invited!

Learn more about the June 6th online mini-retreat, Courage and Fear: Holding Both in Turbulent Times. We’ll explore an experience that still feels strange, though so many of us are having now, that of holding two or more very mixed feelings, all at the same time. 

To make the mini-retreat as accessible as possible, I’m offering a pay-what-you-wish option. You’re welcome to use it if the full fee is not within your means. I hope you’ll join us!

You can contact me with any questions.


Photo by Karolina Bobek ✌ on Unsplash

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