Soften. Release. This, too, is grief.
This is the phrase I heard over and over throughout another sleepless night. And it wasn’t my sleepless night alone – more so, it was my daughter’s.
People who know my family well know that one of the positives of Covid-life this spring was the emergence of a new sleep pattern in my dear girl. Meaning – she actually started sleeping for long stretches of night. And this meant that I started getting accustomed to longer sleeps and enjoying feeling rested in my days. I know this isn’t a big deal for many families, but many families don’t have a seven year old with a nervous system that needs things ‘just so’ to completely relax. This girl started her life by waking and needing me in 90 minutes increments and still requires physical touch to soothe herself.
But, for whatever reason – the change in schedule, the breaking life down to its simplest denominator, the sudden focus inward, felt to me, as though she finally felt safe enough in her own body, in her own rhythms. The quiet container of her home made it safe enough to fully let go, every night. Her being felt more at ease, able to turn off her sensory alarms, to allow her nervous system to restore. And as a result, I wasn’t being woken up at all random hours with a small human asking for my attention.
Now, however, fresh into this new school year, whatever that means for us in this virtual, remote learning world, her insomnia has returned. She’s up nearly every night, sometimes for a couple hours with a restlessness she can’t shake. And so, again – I am too.
Insomnia caused by anxiety isn’t new to me. Over the years, I’ve learned different techniques to bring my body back into equilibrium, to notice where I’m holding tension, to restore my nervous system to a place of restoration. (Those of you who don’t experience anxious nights and sleep soundly as a normal thing can disregard this whole post.) Many nights find me meditating at 3 am, imagining a soft ball of warmth traveling down from the crown of my head to my feet until I feel grounded and held by something more than myself.
On this particular night as I dropped deeper into full body relaxation, willfully allowing my tension to release, and my fury to dissipate, my heart began to soften, and I could feel a deeper truth emerge. I was so angry with my girl – for waking me yet again, for opening the gates for my mind to start spinning, for not understanding the importance of sleep. But that’s not what it was about.
Like a gentle whisper to my soul came the phrase – soften. release. this, too, is grief. And I knew the message wasn’t about my anxiety, but my little girl’s.
This too is grief.
In an instant I remembered.
Seven year olds grieve too. They may not be able to explain why doing some of their normal activities hurts their heart. They might not say more than a quiet second grade isn’t supposed to be on a computer as you tuck them in at night. They may get weepy over challenges that wouldn’t have bothered them in the past, they may need to exert control over seemingly banal areas in their lives. They may want to be touching you all. the. time. They may regress and revert back into old sleep patterns that mean…they don’t sleep.
And you may be at your wits end. And you may be feeling like a bad mother for it. I just want you to know that I see you, momma. I feel you. I get it. We are holding so much right now. We are trying to nourish ourselves so we can stay in our own calm center. We are implementing a new school schedule and running technology interference. We are working our jobs. We are putting dinner on the table, along with a multitude of snack requests. We are attempting to have a piece of ourselves that is no one else’s. We are praying, we are hurting, we are hoping, we are exhausted. And we are holding our children’s hands and hearts through this journey into the unknown as we all transform into the next versions of ourselves.
It’s not an easy assignment we’ve all taken on. Not easy for us as parents, and not easy for our children either. I, for one, need to remember that on a daily basis. Seven year olds grieve too. And me getting triggered by her grief and spiraling into my own state of unconscious frustration doesn’t help anything at all. It only serves to increase my rage and to lash out at her, as though her deep-seeded feelings are somehow her fault and something she should control.
Because the truth is, what I want to teach her is the exact opposite – that our feelings are here for healing, that when we listen to our souls and nourish ourselves with kindness, with patience, with gentleness, with the deepest of care, we thrive. We learn, we grow, and we make it possible to evolve into the highest version of ourselves.
This week I’m going to double down on the self-love, both for myself and as an example to my beautiful girl. We can move through these constantly changing and often difficult times with softness, with ease, with a release of expectations. Our hearts can break as we feel this world. And we can let the cracks open us wider and wider to the expansive forces of beauty and softness and creation that can flow when we invite grace to lead us through the undeniable grief that surrounds us now.
These are the toughest of times. Let’s allow our daughters to see us moving through with compassion – both for them and for ourselves. Sending you so much love as we all ride these waves of collective grief. I see you, I feel you, I’m here with you.
Until next time…take good care of yourself. xo.