Being With Emotion: A Practice in Self-compassion & Love

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I started this blog in May 2016 as a way to process grief after my first daughter Poppy was stillborn. A little over a year ago, I shifted focus to include my experience of pregnancy after loss. Today, I’m blessed with a healthy baby girl and like all new moms, I’m adjusting to the emotional, physical, and spiritual ups and downs of motherhood.

My daughter Moxie was born last October and on numerous occasion since then I have felt conflicted by my emotions. It baffles me that I can simultaneously hold so much joy and gratitude for what I have now and still feel such deep grief and sadness for what I lost.

I was talking with my husband recently about my desire to share this on the blog and he wondered what was stopping me. I’m afraid of being judged and I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining, I told him.

Two years ago, I resigned from my job as a disability attorney. I didn’t know if I’d ever practice law again. At the time, I felt like a shell of my former self — I couldn’t focus or concentrate and my own trauma around Poppy’s death superseded my ability to support others through theirs.

Fast forward to the present. I am a coach — committed to my own transformation and supporting my clients’ with theirs. I’ve pivoted to a career that is heart centered, creative, and empowering.

Each week for the last 8 months I’ve had a hour-long coaching session with a leader from Accomplishment Coaching, the coaching school I’m training with. This week’s call blew me away. It’s amazing what two people in partnership can co-create in 60 minutes. Here’s what we distinguished on my call:

I have what we’re calling an “emotional overwhelm cycle.” When I give into this cycle, I shut down. It’s the junk thinking that stops me from trusting myself, from believing that I’m right where I need to be, and from experiencing the love and connection I desire.

The cycle starts with my experience of an emotion. Let’s say sadness. I feel the emotion and quickly I spin into judgment: “I shouldn’t be feeling this way”. Then I insert a timeline on the feeling: “When will this stop?” “I thought I was beyond this.” Now comes the absolute thinking: “I’m a wreck.” “I’m failing.” Confusion sets in: “Why do I feel this way?” “Why can’t I just be happy?” Finally, I start questioning my commitments: “Do I even want this [insert whatever here…motherhood, career, relationship]?” If I’m not careful, this is where the cycle repeats itself. The judgment is cemented, the story concrete.

Does this cycle look familiar to you? Do you have one of your own? What judgments, limitations, and time constraints do you put on your emotions?

With a touch of humor my coach pointed out that this cycle simply isn’t a good use of my time. What if, we pondered, I simply gave myself permission to feel the emotion? To be with what is. Would I offer myself the same compassion and space I’d offer a friend? Like clouds passing over a blue sky, the emotion will move on if I let it. Resistance only darkens the sky.

Having just distinguished this cycle, I’m compelled to offer it up in service of you. How can my breakthrough be in service of yours? You are not alone in your grief, your sadness, your upset, just as I am not alone in mine.

Leading up to my second daughter’s birth I’d convinced myself that all I needed was a living baby in my arms and then I’d be ‘okay’. I’d never complain or want time alone or need a break. The sadness would end.

As I gain insight into myself and my tendency to judge my emotions, I see that I’ve taken an inherently emotional experience (being a new mom) and I’ve decided I shouldn’t be feeling sad, overwhelmed, or lonely. I’ve decided it’s wrong for me to still be grieving Poppy’s death and that I should only be grateful for what I have.

With all due respect to my habitual way of being, I’m ready to cut it out! I am not this pattern, nor does it control me. I am not doomed to remain on this cycle. I have choice and it starts right now in this moment of new awareness.

I’ve written before about giving myself permission to feel my feelings, but like so many lessons in life, I forgot my own wisdom. I’m reclaiming my power right here. I am recommitting to myself — to be grounded and kind, to be creative and loving, to be a container for life’s deepest emotions, without judgment.

Would you give yourself the same permission? Let’s jump off the self-critical cycle. Let’s feel our feelings and then choose action from a place of compassion and love. It will open hearts. It will expand time. It will move us toward being the highest expression of ourselves.

As I reflect on my journey into motherhood and the gift of my daughter’s life, I am clear that my soul’s work is to remain present to my humanity and the power to transform. These feelings of sadness, loss, and isolation are part of a process. They are moments in time. They are balanced by the incredible capacity I have to love.

I choose to put my power, radiance, joy, and courage on loud speaker. I can already feel the sunshine from above.

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