Have you ever tried standing up in a canoe? It’s tippy and hard to balance. Grieving is like balancing on a boat. You need to find your balance and carefully stand back up. You may need to hold onto the sides of the boat for support.

A year ago, my boat was rocking, and I had a hard time finding my balance. My father had Alzheimer’s disease, and my mom’s health was failing. As the only daughter in the family, I was there for both of my parents. I thought I could do it all. In my mind, I figured I was strong and diligent. I thought I was immune to craziness!

Now that I look back, I can see my world was rocking, and I was ready to fall into the lake. I was off balance; even my cells were off balance. I remember the anxiety of getting another emergency call for my dad. Or seeing my mom’s physical and mental health deteriorate day by day. As a spiritual person, I tried to find perspective, but the unrelenting incidents took their toll on me.

I was in a grieving fog. I was grieving the loss of my father. He could not remember me. He went from an active, fishing, loving, handy man to a child-like man. He had his cute moments during his illness, but he wasn’t the same robust man that I grew up to know.

In the photo that accompanies this article, my mom is holding a picture of my dad when he was in his early twenties. I love this picture of my dad balancing on his boat! He was a daredevil who loved adventure, and he had a great sense of humor.

During the craziness of my life, I went on a four-day silent meditation retreat. I realized during the retreat the saying, “Wherever you go, there you are.” I could not be comfortable at the retreat. My parents were taken care of during my absence, but I feared I’d get an emergency phone call or something would happen. Fog followed me everywhere I went. I remember lying in bed trying to remember names of people and places. Stress gave me temporary memory loss, which scared me and increased my anxiety.

My dad died one year ago, after an eight-year struggle with Alzheimer’s. After my dad died, I cried a lot. I loved him so much! After going through this experience, I know that crying is very healing. My tears are droplets of pure love.

So how did I return to my center? Now that a year has passed, I finally feel balanced. For me to stay centered, I do yoga and meditation every day, exercise several times a week, receive massage therapy a few times a month, and I talk to my best friends.

Life is about change. I will experience illness and death again. I hope that next time, I will ask for more help. The most important lesson I learned is to get other people involved, especially family members. Also, a professional counselor can help with sorting out emotions.

The grieving process can feel lonely. It can be helpful to join a grieving support group or a faith-based community. Also, make time for yourself. Make space in your daily life to contemplate or meditate. When we create space, we allow healing to take place.

Grieving is like balancing on a boat. It can be scary because you feel out of control, and this can surprise you. However, you can find support to help you on your grieving journey. Also, remember the saying, “This too shall pass.” Return to your center to become healed, balanced and resilient.

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Gina M. Gafford

Gina M. Gafford is a Certified Massage Therapist (specializing in Hospice Massage), Registered Yoga Teacher, and amateur photographer. She is a student at St. Catherine University working on her Master’s degree in Holistic Health Studies. She lives in Waconia, Minnesota. Contact her at gafford@embarqmail.com. Please visit her blog at www.tunnelvision8.com.

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