The Art of Living

Grief, Forgiveness + Self Worth

Yeah so.

This “Year to Live” business and soft belly practice is turning my world upside down + inside out.

Have you ever read something and thought, “Ohthankgod I don’t need THAT”, or felt a moment of disconnect or detachment when the author of a blog post got a little too descriptive or “deep”?

I felt that way for a long time.  I would read books or blogs that talked about soul work and going deep and diving into emotions, and I thought, “Whew!  I sure am glad I don’t need all that.  I’m just FINE.”

And then I read A Year to Live by Stephen Levine… and I found myself really wanting to experience what was in that book.

I did a little work on myself.  Sure.  But it was superficial… enough to make me cry and get a little uncomfortable… then I wanted to walk boldly away from that stupid shit and go my merry way.

And I knew that this feeling of wanting to turn and walk away was a very significant moment.  It meant that I was standing on the precipice of something amazing.  And if I would just take that next step, my awareness and my beliefs about myself would change.  Beautifully.  Permanently.  But I had a deep suspicion that I would at some point have to experience grief.  And, while I hate that crap, I knew that this entire process was all about “trust”.

Now having had plenty of experience with grief, I knew 2 things about myself before I even stepped into that floral mess.

1.  Grief settles in my lungs, *every dang time*, and I knew I needed some lung support.

2.  When I start working with grief, that old friend named “My-dad-was-killed-when-I-was-7-and-I’m-still-hurting” pops right back up and wants some Dana time.


Am I getting too deep for you yet?

You know, I inherited a lot of my dad’s personality. One of the most significant things I learned from him was that being emotionally tough was the only appropriate way to handle pain and disappointment. I know that, if he were alive today, he might have a different perspective, but from the time I was little, I was not allowed to cry over “nothing”,  and he got to decide what was important and what was nothing.  To this day, if I have to listen to what I think is whining and belly aching, I tend to morph into my dad.

So when it’s time for this girl to experience some gut wrenching, mud rolling, ass kicking, bawling, fit throwing grief… well… all I hear is “You better dry it up or I’llgiveyousumthintocryabout!”

*le sigh*

Just typing this makes me want a cigarette.


I read and practiced the book, A Year to Live, and I have been doing the Soft Belly practice as well as a forgiveness practice when old memories would come up.  The purpose of this practice is to learn to live fully… to be completely present and content with no regrets or old anger / grudges.  It sounds really good on paper, but you know what?  This crap ain’t easy.

Two major things came up for me that I really had to work through:

1.  I had some things happen to me that sucked badly. And I wasn’t so sure I wanted to let go of all of that.

2.  I have done things and said things to people that have hurt them. And I wasn’t so sure I deserve to be forgiven for that.

Then I realized something H.U.G.E.

The only way I can forgive other people for what they did to me is to believe in my own self worth. I have to believe that I can be forgiven. I have to believe that I am worthy of love and compassion and forgiveness.  I need to work on my self worth.

Lots of people say that it’s so much easier to love others than it is to love themselves, but I don’t think that’s true.  I think it is easier to ‘show’ love for others… it’s easier to do for others… it’s easier to say we love others more.  But I have to admit that I am only capable of loving others as much as I am capable of loving myself.   <–Yeah, I’m gonna get some crap over that statement, but I have to own it.

So, I needed to do some really big work around that if I was going to finish this Year to Live business.

This realization led me to Brene´ Brown and her fabulous research on shame, guilt, worthiness and shame resilience.  She writes about learning to become “wholehearted”.  She encourages talking about the hard stuff (to people who have earned the right to hear it) and learning to develop self worth; she talks about connection and living fully and all of that wonderful stuff that everyone wants.

So, what happened to Dana when she merged Stephen Levine with Brene´ Brown?  She jumped right into grief.


Well if you know me, you know that if I’m gonna do time in emo-hell, I’m gonna be comfy. So I got all prepared.  Here’s what I did:

1.  I gathered herbal preparations that support the heart + lungs.

2.  I made a *solitude nest* in the great room.  It’s where I go when I need a space to work through my chit.

3.  I scheduled time for myself that didn’t include playing online. Time to read the books I had picked out, time to journal and express myself and time to talk about my feelings of shame and sadness to close friends who have earned the right to hear it.

4.  I fully embraced the following as part of my self-care routine:  massages, hypnotherapy, aromatherapy, journeying, meditation and foot rubs.

5.  Each time I had a breakthrough, I took time to acknowledge it, I let it integrate and settle before plowing on to the next issue, and I did some ceremony to honor it.

I have become a big believer in recovery time.  I am in that space of recovery right now… that place where I am resting and nourishing myself and loving all of the big, amazing work I have done.  It’s a very vulnerable time right now… where the specifics of what I experienced are tender and so am I.  I am enjoying quiet time and hot teas and lots of sleep and my solitude nest.

I am so very grateful.

Letting the magic in,