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“It’s not happiness that makes us grateful but gratefulness that makes us happy.” – Br. David Steindl Rast

A Funeral, A Miscarriage, and Gratitude Abounds

A note from Erin:

Here’s what’s in my heart today.
I believe it’s imperative that we learn to care for our own suffering.
It seems to me that when we don’t care for our own suffering, inevitably we cause suffering for others.

I’ve been contemplating something like this for a long time. It’s been highlighted for me again recently. I was particularly touched when I read Parker Palmer recently say succinctly that “violence is what happens when we don’t know what to do with our suffering.

That violence might take the form of lashing out with guns or bombs, starting a riot, treating an animal harshly, saying something nasty to someone else, driving like a maniac and cursing anyone who gets in our way, treating our body like a workhorse and stomping or slamming around with aggression, or simply the violence of “should-ing” all over others, ourselves, the world. Personally, I find “should” to be a violent word.

A Funeral, A Miscarriage, and Gratitude Abounds

(I made this little digital postcard for myself 2 weeks ago. Amazing how it’s still so applicable today. I surrender. Again.)

I am so grateful for so many things in my life.

I’m grateful I got to attend my beloved Papa’s funeral service in Elizabethtown, Kentucky last weekend, and then gather with dear family members in the house we’d all spent so much time in making memories over the years to laugh and cry and share about how much this amazing man has touched our lives.

I’m grateful for my practice of contemplating impermanence and death on a daily basis, and grateful to know in my bones how precious each day, each breath is.

I’m grateful that at meals at my own home, we have a ritual of holding hands, sharing something we’re grateful for (mine is often simply that we’re each still alive and healthy and together, a blessing I know won’t last forever and so never take for granted) and squeezing each other’s hands before we eat.

I’m grateful to know that for me, the most important thing in life is love. Loving each other, loving what is, and being loving toward our own struggles and suffering. My teacher Tsoknyi Rinpoche recently wrote a moving piece on Experiencing Love While Your Heart is Breaking.

I am overwhelmingly grateful for my good fortune to have learned from profound wisdom traditions from a young age. Of the many things I’ve learned, I am deeply grateful to have learned that I can care for my own suffering.

I’m even grateful for the two little kids (Mesa and his friend) who are crawling around under my feet as I write, tearing up papers, singing made-up songs and piling coins under my desk.

Two weeks ago I shared the news of my pregnancy.

So many sweet congratulations have been rolling in with more generosity and kindness than I could ever have imagined. Several friends shared that they thought I was wildly brave to share my process with such transparency. Is it brave?

Truthfully, I’m amazed to be so blessed with so many kind people who care for me, and it seems the more bravely I share the truth of my life, the more life supports me in return. I’m grateful I don’t live in tight, self-conscious hiding anymore.

Even this week we’ve been blessed with a celebratory bottle of tequila, a giant orchid, several kind-hearted hand-written cards, sweet emails, congratulatory texts, and even an African Dance publicly dedicated to the well-being of me and this little babe. This little babe that was growing in my womb up until a few days ago.
How fortunate am I to be surrounded by so much kindness and care?

My fourth miscarriage began the day I returned from my Papa’s funeral.
10 weeks this time.
Doesn’t it sound awful? I know.

Amazingly, my overarching experience is gratitude.

Gratitude to be so surrounded by love.
Gratitude to still be alive, to have such a loving community and family.
And deep gratitude to be able to send love to my own suffering.
Which means I’m not lost in my suffering. Instead, I’m keenly aware of being surrounded by love.

Grateful beyond words for the practice of bowing to what is.

Grateful to be humbled by life, yet again. Another reminder that I’m not in control. Death happens. Shit happens. And yet…… I can meet it with kindness and care.

I’m grateful beyond words for my beloved husband. He’s the best. (With my blessing and strong nudge, he’s off on an amazing retreat with kindred spirit Will Johnson in Boulder, Colorado right now.)

Grateful for our miraculous son, for the rare but wonderful use of Advil, for my hot water bottle, and for a full day off to let my body do its thing while I watched movies, played Go Fish with Mesa and Carl and rested on a comfy couch.

Any one of those things are truly extraordinary blessings in the big scheme of things, and somehow “tragedies” like those that have arisen for me in the past week can often highlight the extraordinary wonderfulness of the simple things. I’m grateful for that!

I can walk. I have healthy food to eat. I have a comfortable home. I am loved. I can sit here and type and connect with hundreds of kindred spirits like you. Wow. Simply wow!

So back to caring for suffering.
Caring for whatever is alive in us. Even the yucky stuff.
It is soooooo important.

Do you know how to do it?
I think it’s an imperative skill.
That’s what I think is brave.

I loved beginning to explore this in my Bravely Befriending Yourself 7-Day Challenge. (If you missed that, don’t sweat…. I’ll be offering it soon as something you can do anytime. I got so much great feedback and I believe it’s so necessary, I really want to share it. But I’ve been a little busy this week. :) I’ll let you know when I’ve got the tech details worked out.)
Soon I’ll also be offering a new online/phone course where we can dive a bit more into some of these skills. I thought I’d have details for you today, but as I said, life has been full of other things. :)

Acknowledging what is true is such a simple and powerful practice. It’s been helping me so much.

“There’s a lot of sadness here. There’s a part of me that feels that this shouldn’t be happening. There’s a deep longing for just one more hug with Papa. There’s a wondering why I have this karma to have so many miscarriages, just as my own mama did. There’s a deep wish that my own life may be of benefit. Even now. Especially now.”

And I don’t try to fix it.
Get rid of it. Make it prettier.
However ugly or irrational it is.
I just send it love, as best I can.
And when I can’t, I send that part love.

A Funeral, A Miscarriage, and Gratitude AboundsI say to those feelings, “I know you’re there. I’m with you. It’s ok for you to feel just that for as long as you need to, and I’ll stay with you.”

Most of us didn’t have this kind of care modeled for us by our caregivers. They didn’t have it modeled for them either. Most of us heard variations of, “Don’t cry. It’s ok. Everything is fine. Look on the bright side. Stop crying! You shouldn’t feel that way. Shall we get you some meds?”

Just to acknowledge what’s there is so powerful.
To be able to send love to it, even if I don’t like it?
One of the best things I’ve ever learned. It lands for me like a miracle.

A friend recently wrote something about discovering with surprise that she couldn’t get rid of her dark thoughts with positive thinking, but when she got brave and quit trying to be positive and simply told the truth about her experience, with care, everything shifted.
Acknowledging. It’s powerful medicine.

We can love it all, even the shitty stuff, the ugly stuff, the dark stuff, the weird stuff, the woe is me, the wishing it were different, the judging our experience.

Therein lies our strength. Mine and yours. And I think it’s a particular strength that can change the world.

Anyway…. Thanks for reading.
I’m grateful for you.

And just so you know, I’m really doing ok.
If you’re inspired to send something or give something, I think that’s such a lovely impulse.
Consider sending that kind note or those flowers or that card to someone who might really need it. Maybe even yourself. :)

Thanks for being a part of my amazing, loving community.
I’m so grateful we’re connected.
with a heartful bow,
Erin

A Funeral, A Miscarriage, and Gratitude Abounds

Here are photos sent to me by the amazing community of women of Women Embodied 2015 who gathered on Tuesday while I was in the throes of miscarriage. How could I not be grateful?

 

 A Funeral, A Miscarriage, and Gratitude Abounds

Here’s me and my Nana looking at old pictures on the back deck of her home of the past almost 40 years, which she moved out of today into a beautiful assisted living center nearby. I’m so proud of her! I’m wearing Papa’s cowboy hat which I got to bring home with me.

 A Funeral, A Miscarriage, and Gratitude Abounds


And a little collage: (Going counterclockwise) A snapshot of the program from Papa’s service, Nana holding the flag the naval officers presented to her along with a tearjerker rendition of “Taps,” Papa’s glasses, the “Papa” ribbon on a flower arrangement, a box holding his ashes, a box of their love letters from the 40s, the precious things on top of his dresser, me and Nana holding hands.

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