While it may have been my Grandad who came up with my nickname “The Blondera” (because I am blonde and I wander), it was Nanna Kath who made it her mission to ensure that I continued to live per the nickname while also feeling completely loved and supported throughout. I used to say that even if no-one else ever read my blog posts or watched my YT videos, it would still be worth spending the time creating them because they helped me stay close to my family in England. On the other side of the screen, Nanna Kath regularly used to express her amazement that she was able to “travel the world from her armchair” through her iPad. It is one of the main reasons we were able to stay so close to one another, despite living on different continents for the past 14 years.
When I received the news of her passing, I was in the middle of my morning meditation that was centered on “Generosity.” For this particular Headspace course, the purpose is to “cultivate an attitude of general openness by training your mind to be less judgmental and critical.” Within the meditation, one of the main exercises is to envision a warm ray of light inside of you that gives you everything you need, before expanding outwards to more and more people as far as the mind can go (that probably wasn’t the most precise explanation of it, but hopefully you get the drift). I was in the middle of imagining this sunbeam engulfing every far distant land I could conjure when my Mum walked into the room to tell me the news.
The following week I flew to England to attend Nanna’s funeral and be with the family. On the whole, we were doing okay. Comforted by the knowledge that it was a peaceful passing, we consoled one another, stayed strong together, and agreed that while it was very sad, it wasn’t tragic. In a lot of ways, my time in England felt more like a celebration of the time we did have with her rather than mourning for what could have been.
However, it took me about ten days before I was able to meditate again – avoiding the Headspace app like the plague because I couldn’t bear to revisit the “pause” button. Yet, I knew that meditation was one of the key things I needed to maintain my balance and stable my emotions. For Millennia, meditation has provided a place of refuge, solace, and peace for those who are dealing with the most difficult of circumstances and a tool for those who want to liberate themselves from suffering. I recognized that now, more than ever, I needed to carve out time to just sit with my emotions so that I could cultivate compassion for those around me, get better at controlling that which I can (like my attention), and ensure that I was taking care of myself while not avoiding the reality.
So, I resumed my cross-legged position, sat back down on the floor, closed my eyes, and started to count my breath. It felt uncomfortable at first (as it tends to do after a break) and I wondered whether I should give up on the “Generosity” course and switch to something else entirely. But then I figured that Nanna would want me to practice generosity more than anything, and so I once again found myself each weekday morning trying to invoke the widest-spanning-light-beam-of-infinite-goodness possible in my mind.
Since the reintroduction of my daily morning meditation, I have come to realize the immense power that meditation has in terms of grief. It has been the time spent sitting with my grief that has helped me get to intimately know my enormous sense of loss and sadness, while also giving me the tools to breathe through it. These aren’t sensations that I need to run away from nor do they have to consume me utterly; instead, I can opt to cultivate an internal environment where my thoughts can be heard, where my feelings can be felt, and where the healing begins. In her Ted talk, Nora McInerny states, “We don’t move on from grief. We move forward with it.” And, it is through my meditation, that I see (for me) how that is possible while still maintaining a sense of gratitude and calm.
Grief is challenging to navigate, and it is indeed different for everyone, but I hoped in sharing this that it may help you, or a friend, as much as it has me. And, remember, there is no right way to grieve. Some days will be strong and filled with laughter, while others will be sad and painful to exist in (find comfort in family and friends during these). All you can do is take it day-by-day while holding on to the memories and finding solace in the fact that they made a difference in yours and other people’s lives. Take this as an opportunity, to put your life in perspective and cherish those that you love even more.