Yoga, Grief and Poetry

aerial yoga grief life Feb 07, 2024
Loss of a Loved One

With the loss of our beautiful friend (John Rennie) this week I thought it fitting to pay tribute to a man who has contributed not only with his skilled handiwork in our two studios but also the energy he brought to both classes and our R1SE community. Like many of you, who have lost someone you love, the reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not 'get over' the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but you will never be the same. If John has taught me anything it's to embrace adventure and always look on the bright side of life!

As one who knows only too clearly, our very own R1SE instructor Sarah Cumberlidge has bravely put together her account of how's she is dealing with the loss of her big bro!

"Grief is an inevitable part of life. I thought I understood this but it still took me by surprise when it happened.

Last year my brother Phil died suddenly and unexpectedly at the age of 45 from a brain tumour. He thought the headaches and changes in mood he’d been experiencing were just a symptom of the stress and pressure of his job as a GP. He was admitted to hospital on Saturday and died on Tuesday. For once my catastrophising brain was right and the worst case scenario came to pass. As the youngest of 4 siblings I’d never experienced life without the protection of my older brothers. I’d taken for granted that they would always be there guiding me. Now I was facing the future without my closest ally.

In those empty days that followed before the funeral I found myself at yoga class. As I concentrated on breathing and moving my body I found I couldn’t focus so much on the pain in my heart. I was still breathing, still moving. That felt like a privilege. At the end of class as the teacher gently roused us from savasanah the grief and pain returned and tears pricked my eyes. It felt like that moment when you wake from sleep and realise all over again the truth, that the worst really did happen. But those moments of peace had been worth it.

In my real life I’m an English teacher and words became a comfort in those dark days too. My sister in law asked if I would like to read something at the funeral so I chose 'When Great Trees Fall' by my favourite writer Maya Angelou. I’m used to reading poetry aloud to a class of 30 teenagers but it took all my courage to share those words that day. The funeral parlour was packed, with people standing when seats couldn’t be found. I realised then the impact Phil had on the world in his 45 years on this earth. My final tribute to him was sharing Angelou’s words as well as I could. The final line of the poem stuck with me as I moved through my grief: “Be and be better. For they existed”.

Moving forward I resolved to live my best life for Phil, making the most of every moment as he no longer could. People often say that “life is short” but when someone you love has died you feel the strength of that more than ever before. For the first time in my life I really got it. As I approached 40 I became viscerally aware of my own mortality. I decided if this was to be my last 5 years on earth they needed to count.

Listening to a podcast about grief, I was struck by the words of Mo Gawdat as he described dealing with the profound loss of his son Ali. He recounts how he changed the narrative from “Ali died” to “Ali lived”. Although they were taken too soon our loved ones existed and it’s helpful to try and be grateful for that. My incredible sister in law described how lucky she was to marry her soulmate so young and have three beautiful children together. 20 years of a happy marriage was a blessing.

Not long after the funeral I received a text from Rosie asking me if I’d like to be put on the cover list for R1SE. I’d completed my yoga teacher training at R1SE a few months before and dreamed of being a yoga teacher. Fear gripped me. Was I ready? Could I really do this? Then I remembered “Be and be better” and said yes. Not long after I had the line tattooed on my ribs to always remember.

It’s almost a year now since Phil died. I have a regular teaching slot at R1SE and contentment has mostly returned to my life. Teaching yoga is the highlight of my week and I feel blessed to share my passion with so many beautiful people. There are still moments when the grief floors me but I try to breathe and remember those words: “Be and be better. For they existed”.

I like to close my yoga classes with a poem. I choose words that uplift or move or comfort me in some way. I hope that maybe they can do the same for you too."

I think you'll all agree that Sarah's motto 'Be and be better' are words to live by, and although sad let's take comfort in the notion that those we’ve lost continue to live on through our memories and the love we shared ❤️

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