How to Find Strength to Overcome Trauma and Family Tragedy.
Whilst definitely not of my choosing, my childhood and background has ended up being one of my greatest assets. It has equipped me with the ability to understand the different nuances of various cultures, and with my Hindi language skills, it opens doors in the most unexpected of places.
Being born in London, helped make me a British national, in a Parsi family. The Parsis are a community of Zoaratrians from Persia, who emigrated to India when Persia was invaded.
When I was aged 4, my mother sent me to India to visit my grandmother, and when she joined me a month later, she made the decision to stay on and I stayed in India for the next fourteen years. My mother enrolled me in her alma mater, which was a convent run by Scottish and Irish nuns. We were living in a Muslim city, which had been ruled by the nawabs and surrounded by Hindu mythology all around.
As a child, you absorb all your surroundings. There were plenty of days when I wished to be back in London, in the only home I had known as a child, but as an adult, I truly value my upbringing, which has given me a wide perspective, appreciation and understanding of different cultures.
I think every life is touched by some sort of challenge, the challenge may differ in form - health, finances, relationship, and many, many others, but I don't believe any of us are able to live untouched.
Whilst we may not be able to control the situation that we encounter, we can control our reactions and our mental outlook and state. Please don’t for a minute think I am saying it is easy, far from it, but what I am saying is that it is possible.
One of my life lessons that I have had to learn the hard way, is self-reliance. With my father and stepfather not supporting me financially, I had to learn to provide for myself very early on. On an emotional level, it took me a long while to learn to not have any expectations of either my father or step-father as it led to disappointment each time. Whilst I was not able to influence their behaviour, by changing my mindset, I was able to navigate and maintain my equanimity.
The lesson was reinforced when Mum passed away. She was the only parent I had growing up. For most of us, our parents are our foundations, and with my foundation destroyed, I had to learn to stand on my own, in my own skin and define my sense of belonging within me.
There is a saying that ‘Time Heals’, and there is much truth in it. Not so much it heals, as the passage of time takes the sting out of the memory of the loss. The loss never really heals… until today, when something great happens in my life, the first person I want to tell is my mother.
When my mother died, I was unable to comprehend or make any sense of what had happened. No amount of being told ‘things happen for a reason’ was going to help. So I started exploring other modalities…. I went for grief counselling, I tried holotropic breathwork to allow the grief to flow where words are not required to access the depths, hypnotherapy to help me let go of clinging to the memory of loss and sadness associated with my memory of Mum, tarot card readers and psychics were visited to just hear that Mum was ok and her soul was not suffering. Everything I read told me that the soul is free, it is us, mortals, who suffer and struggle to accept the passing of life, which is as natural as giving birth to life.
I heard Deepak Chopra speak about dying and the soul and he described it as ‘if we can imagine air is all around us…when we build walls and a room, we create a structure around the air which still flows within the room and outside. When the walls get taken down, the same air from the room mixes with the air all around and is free’. The same applies to the body, which is the structure within which the soul, the air, resides for a while.
In my own journey inward, while I was exploring ways to calm my mind, I was also developing a meaningful yoga practice, which for me is moving meditation. I find it difficult to sit and meditate to calm my mind. But the minute I get on the mat, I can centre myself and my mind, as I move through the asanas I am fully present and for that period, able to switch off any other thoughts or worries. Through the practice, as my mind was being strengthened, my body also got stronger which helped with my ability to cope with the stresses. I am a huge advocate of yoga and trained as a teacher to be able to spread my love of the practice. I also love walking and different forms of exercise, including weight training, which I practise regularly at a gym.
To overcome trauma and family tragedy, there are three areas that helped me and that you can work on to ease the pain:
Physical Activity: Find what suits you the most - be it exercise, swimming, walking, or dancing. The intention is to move the body and to allow it to become stronger.
Healthy Eating: Make healthy choices on the food you eat. Your body is your (soul’s) home. As I have grown older I am conscious of foods and lifestyle choices that suit and those that don't, which I avoid. It's a personal choice, as it allows me to stay healthy and happy. Find your balance with it too.
Spiritual Practice: A spiritual practice, allows us to develop faith in the ‘universe’ or whatever you would like to call it. There is a force greater than us, which will sometimes take our lives off our carefully plotted path, and because we don't know where we are headed, we worry, which is entirely natural. If you can still your mind to be able to look at whatever the situation is, and say if you can just get through today, tomorrow will take care of itself, you relinquish the desire to control the outcome and can ease into today / the present / the here and now.
There is great strength in that. Taking small steps and adding new habits to your life will strengthen your body, mind, and spirit day by day, which will help you cope with whatever life throws at you.