Conscious Conversations and Grief Support: Remembering Mom Once Again

Yesterday morning after I opened my eyes, I rested in bed for a few minutes thinking about what my intention for the day would be – would I set my intention for ease, thinking about having the patience to pause before reacting so that I might choose a more skillful response? Or maybe I would choose to set my intention to notice beauty so that I may take a few moments to let it fill me up so that I could rewire my brain for more happiness and resilience? How would I live this day?

I chose a mash-up of juicy goodness: try to pause and notice the good!

Then I rolled out of bed and began my morning ritual of closing my eyes and brushing my teeth, so that I could get 2 minutes of mindfulness in daily life under my belt to boost my day. I had a dentist appointment to get to by 9 a.m.

When I called to make the appointment the receptionist said, “We haven’t heard from you in a while.”

I said, “That’s why I’m calling to make an appointment!”

“Have you seen another dentist in the interim?” she inquired.

“No, I’m a loyal patient, why would I do that?” I laughed. I’m seriously not going to be ashamed that it’s been a few years.

Before getting in the car, I glanced at my phone and noticed an email from Conscious Conversations with Joan and Janet. These two groovy women have a podcast that talks about all things consciousness and they interviewed me a couple of weeks ago for an hour! I know that’s a long time to listen for people with limited attention spans, but it was so interesting talking with them that I couldn’t wait to hear the show (I also have a long attention span!). I learned that we approach some of this material with different vocabulary words but end up in the same place. I also learned that I want to stay open with playful curiosity and courage to things that I can’t prove. That’s a good practice for someone like me who is evidence-based in my teaching!

You can listen to the podcast and hear about Joan and Janet’s individual course and class offerings here:

Listening to the podcast made the drive to the dentist fly by. After the x-rays and once I settled into the dentist chair, I popped in my ear buds and got back to the show.

The entire time the hygienist was scrapping away at my tooth enamel, I was engrossed listening to Joan, Janet, and Julie. (That’s a lot of J’s!) So my mood after the appointment was buoyant and open. I made a follow up appointment for 6 months out and had an interesting encounter while chatting with the receptionist.

One of the receptionists, I’ll call her Rachel, teared up and shared with me that hearing my voice reminds her of my mom, Ruth, who passed away 2 years ago. She removed her glasses and wiped her eyes. She asked the other receptionist if she thought I sounded so much like Ruth. Debbie (the other woman behind the counter) said, “Not as much as her sister, Jody. Jody sounds exactly like Ruth.” While this little “convo” was occurring, I had my hand on my heart, giving myself soothing touch, noting what was coming up in my body, and taking in the love that they felt for my late mother.

An hour later, when I shared the conversation with my sisters and Dad at lunch, their reaction was unanimous and 100% negative. Jody said, “They always do that to me. I’m going to tell them to cut it out. Honestly, it makes me want to switch dental offices.” They decided it was not only stupid, but also mean. And my Dad and other sister, Jan, commented on how inappropriate it was for the staff to say that stuff to a patient.

I pointed out that it wasn’t her intent to be mean, and they said her intent was not relevant. That is so interesting! A completely different reaction to the same set of facts!

I shared with them an article, How not to say the wrong thing, that I re-read just the day before that was posted on Caring Bridge by the daughter of one of my beloved teachers who is losing her battle with cancer.

(Illustration by Wes Bausmith / Los Angeles Times)

The authors explain that you shouldn’t dump your thoughts, feelings, and emotions about how the death of this person is affecting you to someone in a closer relationship to the person who is dying or has died. You can dump out, into a further circle, but not in, into a closer circle.

It’s a brilliant set of rules.

I discussed it with my Dad and sisters and they agreed that it was a good set of rules to live by; but they are surprised people don’t already know by common sense or intuition what is appropriate or inappropriate to say in these situations. I think us humans need help in the common sense department when it comes to things like death and dying, and conversations around those two most natural yet uncomfortable topics.

That reminded me of how often people would approach us soon after my mom passed and how awful it made me feel because I was too raw and unsettled to take in their sadness. Jody and my Dad went to an event a few months after my mom’s passing which was kind of a disaster. My parents were high school sweethearts, together 67 years, married for 64 years. A woman came up to them at the event and asked where Ruth was, learning from my Dad that she had died. This woman fell apart. She was visibly distraught, and angry that her husband hadn’t told her of my mom’s passing. She was so beside herself that Jody had to walk up to her, put one hand on each of the woman’s shoulders, and get eye to eye while saying, “You better get your sh*t together right this minute. This is my father’s first time out in public. He is the bereaved.”

Now, when people tell me how fond they were of my mom, I take it in with a sweet melancholy. I miss her, but hearing about her doesn’t shock me and knock me over as it did in the early days of my grief. I used to just try to hang on, as the waves of grief grabbed me like a rip current in the ocean, with a powerful undertow.

Circling back to Joan and Janet, and Conscious Conversations, maybe the reason I can feel the sweet melancholy is that I’ve come to some sort of understanding about my mom’s place in the universe, and my place in relation to her.

If you listen to the interview, you’ll hear me sharing a story of feeling my mom’s spirit “whoosh” down my body, and you’ll hear Joan and Janet normalizing that experience. If I try to stay out of a place of fear, or cynicism, it’s pretty cool.

May you be safe, happy, healthy, and live with ease!

Please share your thoughts. . .
By |2018-10-15T13:54:39+00:00November 15th, 2018|Mindful Methods|

About the Author:

Julie Potiker
Author and mindfulness expert Julie Potiker is an attorney who began her serious study and investigation of mindfulness after graduating from the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction program at the University of California, San Diego. She was trained by Kristin Neff, Christopher Germer and UCSD as a Mindful Self-Compassion Teacher. She went on to study with Rick Hanson, becoming a graduate of his Positive Neuroplasticity Training Professional Course. Potiker also completed Brené Brown’s Living Brave Semester. Now, she shares these and other mindfulness techniques with the world through her Mindful Methods for Life trainings and her new book: “Life Falls Apart, but You Don’t Have To: Mindful Methods for Staying Calm In the Midst of Chaos.” She holds a B.G.S. from the University of Michigan and a J.D. from George Washington University.

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