It's been a bit of a rough week for me personally.
A good friend from my Acadia University days, who we lovingly called Dicky, someone who always made everyone happy, passed away.
Losing a friend, someone my age, way too soon, and with very little notice all build new dimensions and layers into the grieving process; layers that I never really experienced when my grandparents passed away.
So it’s been uncomfortable to say the least.
Grief is uncomfortable. I want out, but there’s no way out, so what do I do?
Because birth is my work and labour is my love, I'm surprised to find that I am consistently noting the similarities between my experiences in grief to my experiences in labour.
Obviously the physical sensations of grief are significantly less intense than those of labour, although my heart does ache from time to time.
But the mental processes of being in this unfamiliar, unenjoyable place are the same.
I find I am using the same mental training techniques that I used to cope with my labour to cope with my grief.
A deep cleansing breath is ALWAYS healing, refreshing, and balancing.
2. Let it be.
It hurts, but I cannot change it so I try (and try) not to fight it. As soon as you resist it, it hurts much more.
3. Sit with it.
Although they're uncomfortable, these processes are important and intense enough to demand your respect and honour - be present to them.
4. Observe it.
Remove the ego mind, don't judge it. Step back from it, don’t be a victim, just observe.
5. Focus on this moment.
This is what life is all about, be fully alive in the here + now. As much as possible, focus on this. exact. moment. This is where the magic happens. This is where happiness, peace and comfort can be found.
6. Be grateful.
Dicky was such a fun-loving guy, and he would never want any of us to be sad. So every time it hurts I try to flip the script and fill my heart to the brim with the joy + gratitude for our friendship + great memories in the first place.
In labour, fill your heart with joy + gratitude for the honour of birthing a baby and becoming a mother. Not every woman gets this amazing, life-changing opportunity, so be grateful for getting your shot at a natural birth.
7. Know it will get easier.
Grief and contractions both seem to come in waves. You're doing ok and then it hits you like a bag of bricks. When you’re in the thick of it, trust + have faith that it WILL get easier, and then cycle back up to #1.
8. Know you're not alone.
Everyone who ever knew Dicky LOVED him. Anyone who ever even briefly crossed his path knew he was a solid guy. I am by no means alone in this grief, and I gain strength + wisdom from others’ strength + wisdom. I feel better when I tap into that strength.
In labour you’re also not alone - you have your partner, your baby doctor (OB or midwife), family + friends cheering you on, and every single woman who has E-V-E-R given birth before you to draw strength from. (Including me, the biggest cheerleader of all!) Tap into that strength.
9. Send love + light to the painful places.
It makes me feel better to send up a mega dose of love + light (some call it a prayer) to Dicky's family and friends, to help in whatever way it can, to be a soothing balm on this deep ache.
In labour, you want to send that same love + light - all your focus + attention - to the places that hurt most. Don't focus on them to constrict and tighten; focus on them to lean into that pain, relaxing the area in direct proportion to the amount of discomfort you feel. Sound tough? It is, (that's why it's labour!) BUT you can do it.
10. Trust that the pain has a purpose.
Ignoring, suppressing or discounting the painful emotions that come up in times of grief does not help you process them. If you deny those feelings, they'll just stick around waiting to be dealt with. Sometimes for years. Some people never process their grief because they're afraid to look it in the eye. Those painful emotions aren't fun, but they play a role in getting you to the other side of grief stronger, wiser, better.
In labour, the pain also has a purpose, but this time the purpose is to dilate your cervix, bring your baby down and out into this world to meet you. It's important that this pain has the opportunity to do its job if you want to give birth naturally. Get out of its way and cycle back up to #1.
Whether you're giving birth or grieving a loved one, you need to walk through that fire. Face your fears, dig deep, grab it by the horns, be brave, get gritty and COPE the shit out of it. Weather the storm. The worst of it will be over soon enough. But bearing that discomfort is what produces the transformation on the other side.
I hope this information served you whether you're a pregnant mama or one of my fellow Axemen. In labour and in life, many of the coping mechanisms are the same, so best to get them under our belts and become really stealthily skilled at them.
If you're a pregnant mama and you want to get more information on labour preparation, click here to sign up for my upcoming webinar.