The Space of Grief

"I'll rise up, in spite of the ache. I'll rise up, and I'll do it a thousand times again." -- Rise Up, Andra Day

My daughter had a tragic loss that's left a gaping space. And so I'm spending time beside her, as she struggles to find her place.

In yoga, I hear so much about space. We're supposed to make space, clear space and even hold space. When I first started practicing, I didn't understand. But soon the practice grabbed me, and, like a key, opened up a space inside. And it's in this inside space where all my incremental shifts take place.

My daughter's world has shifted. She's lost her love. Without warning, the man who was always there was suddenly nowhere. And even though she knows he's gone, she can't help but try to find him. She searches for him and yearns for him and wants to talk to him.

"He's at my fingertips!" she cries, incredulously. "He's at the tip of my tongue!"

In her grief she looks around and shows me all their special spots in town. She points out a restaurant, a park, a store, and she tells me what they ate and said and more. We walk and talk and laugh and cry, and she begs to understand the reasons.

She has big questions. She asks if they were right to share a sacred space, or whether that had tempted fate. She didn't know a storm was rolling in and asks me why she couldn't save him.

Her questions, I tell her, are too big for answers. They are of matters Divine, and so we don't get to know why in this lifetime. Our task now, I say, is to believe in the Light, even if we are in the dark. And I tell her that they did everything right, and that it's important to have faith and know that she's safe, and to be patient as she waits for her incremental shifts to take place.

We've been told that grief is like a river. Water finds its way, no matter what's in the way. That's why there is a lot of work ahead; the tears that flow have to find a place to go. And so I practice for both of us, to fortify my faith and to hold my daughter's space.

And at night I ask the Light to help her on the way.

There's really no instruction on how best to hold another person's space. It's something that takes practice, and it's likely easier to do if it's been done for you. And so I considered myself lucky one day after class, when there was a chance to let someone hold mine. And, since it's not something I normally do, I guess it shouldn't surprise me that I didn't get it right the first time.

I met a man who could actually hold people up in the air. And even though we'd never met, I let him lift me up on his feet. But right away I braced myself instead of leaning in, and that's why he stopped and offered me some lifelong instruction.

"Relax," he said, as I dangled above, and he wiggled my arms to loosen me up.

"It's time to let someone help you. You've done too much on your own."

His words skipped along the surface of the river, and, just like that, I let go and let him guide me upside down and all around.

From high up in the air, I listened as he told me what to do and pulled me this way and that. I even closed my eyes. With just his hands and feet, he held my inside space and made room for yet another shift to take place.

"Thanks for jumping on my feet and trusting," he later said to me.

Trust is also a practice that acts like a key. It opens our space and makes us accessible. I saw this happen with my daughter. She had chosen a man who had chosen her, too, and this had made her heart expand. And then I watched as she carefully placed it in his hands. Slowly, she let surrender become part of her plan, and I saw her contentment grow. To me, it was as if she had flown on his feet in the air, and then closed her eyes and found her balance.

And now she's grieving deeply and has a lot of healing to do. Her space is empty without him. It's hard for her to feel safe and have faith and wait for her incremental shifts to take place. She frets that he's not coming back, and she longs to know exactly where he is.

The days move on, and we continue to talk of all things Divine, and I listen as she speaks. And I remind her that she's been left intact, that inside she still has her Light. In fact, I tell her that because of him she's even more of herself than before. And then, one day, as if to prove my point, her Light inside was recognized.

We were at a practice filled with dozens of yogis in a bright and beautiful space. The instructor led a vigorous flow, while circling around the room. She gave instructions through a microphone and asked a lot of questions. But they weren't the kind to be answered. They were only the kind to be asked.

"Why do some people get to live to the age of 96, and others move on too soon?

We stared at one another. The question seemed to have come out of nowhere, and then the instructor seemed to come out of nowhere, too. She popped up in front of my daughter and faced her, nose-to-nose, in Mountain pose. And then she looked her in the eye.

"You think I can't see the Divine in you?" she demanded into her microphone. "I see the Divine in you!"

For us it was a profound moment. And yet her words, like mine, fell short of comfort.

Still, I watch each day as my daughter rises up and moves through her grief in the same graceful way she moved through her flow. Somehow she manages to bring us all together, in spite of feeling alone. She rides the river with her head above water, every day doing what's next, while every minute missing him.

Soon it will be time for me to go home. It's going to be very hard to leave. For I think that then I'll have time to take it all in, and that's when the big questions will resurface. And then I'll be the one who will have to have faith and know that I'm safe and wait for my incremental shifts to take place.

But in the end I think that's okay. There's healing to do, and asking is how we begin.

Anne is the author of Unfold Your Mat, Unfold Yourself. Connect with her on her blog, Facebook, and Twitter.