Death Moves – Podcast Episode #104

Katy Bowman and guests talk about the ways in which movement can be an intrinsic part of grieving, and how we could look at our experience of grief as grief in a sedentary culture. Don Morris talks about the movements involved in deathcare, body preparation, home funerals and burial, and Breanna Trygg of Wild Grief talks about how natural movement, and especially moving in nature, helps teens process bereavement.

Plus, Katy answers listener questions on walking well after a shattered patella, and alignment during pregnancy.

Podcast Sponsors

OVERVIEW

00:06:03 –  Mailbag Question #1 – Walking well after a shattered patella – Jump to section

00:13:50 –  Meet Don Morris – Jump to section

00:23:54 –  Why “Green Death” – Jump to section

00:32:20 – How to find out more about home funerals and green death work. – Jump to section

00:41:12 –  Meet Breanna Trygg – Jump to section

00:44:51 –  Teens and talking – Jump to section

00:58:30 –  Grieving, moving, and self-care – Jump to section

01:02:42 –  A quick summary of today’s podcast – Jump to section

01:03:36 –  Reader Question #2 – Pregnancy and alignment? – Jump to section

01:08:17 – Change is afoot for Move Your DNA – Jump to section

 

LINKS AND RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THE SHOW:

Find more Katy Bowman

Don Morris and Home Funeral Practicum

Breanna Trygg and Wild Grief

Wild Grief on Instagram

Wild Grief on Facebook

Applications for the Wild Grief teen summer program (until July 1st on a rolling basis)

Hike Habit for all ages – 2nd Sunday of every month in Thurston County, Washington State

Community Day Hike (September 22, Mount Rainier)

 

The Dynamic Collective

Venn Design

EarthRunners

My Mayu

Soft Star Shoes

Unshoes

 

Sign up for Katy’s newsletter at NutritiousMovement.com

Access all previous Move Your DNA podcasts via your podcast provider of choice (Stitcher, iTunes, Libsyn, or Soundcloud).

PODCAST TRANSCRIPT

It’s the Move Your DNA podcast with Katy Bowman. I’m Katy Bowman, biomechanist and author of Move Your DNA and a bunch of other books about movement.  This show is about how movement works on the cellular level, how to change your position as you move and why you might want to, and how movement works in the world; also known as Movement Ecology. All bodies are welcome.  Are you ready to get moving?

 

Music

 

KATY:  Hey friends. This is the final installment in this series on Move Your DNA. Over the last six months I’ve talked with a variety of experts on movement in the world: how it shapes our bodies, our life, our communities. I talked to Jason Lewis about his self propelled exploration of this planet, and Doniga Markegard about how and why she learn to move like a wild animal in nature. Sam Thayer told me everything he knows about moving for wild foraged food, Gail Tully about how babies move before they’re born and how their momma’s pelvi do too. About how birth is not the static experience some of us have thought it was. We had conversations about a nature-based education and I talked with Ben Pobjoy about walking the walk. And Ihi Heke and I had a conversation that blew my mind about how our environment shapes us.  You and I took a long walk together and contemplated how we’re moving and our own expertise about our own bodies. Philip Brass talked with me about being on the land and how moving for food shapes us, and we talked walkability and urban planning and mobility justice with Maria Sipin. And here we are at the end of the line, for now at least.  And what more fitting topic to end this series with than death and the movements that surround it.  If you are a regular listener to Move Your DNA, you probably know that last year moved and shaped me in a way that I’ve never been moved or shaped before.  In the space of a few weeks I lost three important people in my life. A few months ago I was interviewed on the Mythic Medicine podcast (I’ll link to that in the show notes) about how my movement rich life influenced that period of time. And as I talked through it I understood. If you’ve been listening to this podcast for any length of time you know that I tend to verbally process everything. I understood more fully that what we perceive as grief, the experience of grief, could actually just be what grief looks and feels like in a sedentary culture. The culture has a spine, Philip Brass would say it’s food and I would say it’s also quite possibly movement – those being two inseparable phenomena really. So if you think of movement as a spine of culture and apply that lens to how we grieve, it could be that the way grief feels to us is, in part, because of the sedentary way in which we do it. It’s quite possible we’ve eliminated all of the emotions that have forever been packaged along with physiological processes of grief and so our experiences of it is very specific to our habits and culture. I just got back from a few days in a bird language class with Wilderness Awareness School. And birds and likely other animals do something cool.  After a stressful event of being chased or fighting – in one case there was a family of Jays that all had their freshly hatched babies mauled by a crow. They tremble and they shake to, I image, metabolize what’s been released to help them through the event. The movement here is what I’m talking about and I realize that there are a ton of somatic and allopathic therapists out there who already recognize it: movement is part of moving through stressful events. But instead of movement being thought of as just this effective therapy, I pose the idea that every day non-therapeutic movements that are movements found in life is part of the environment grief could be occurring in. Also that there might even be natural movements associated with death we’ve eliminated, just like many other natural movements. Or said another way, as we shaped our culture in a way that reduced movement for us personally we also got rid of mechanisms that might help us in other ways that are currently off of our radar. I’ve talked about this before. But, this is very specific. In my Mythic Medicine interview I brought up ceremonial movements like wailing or other vocalizations and also the necessary movements that go into preparing a body for burial or cremation. Even pallbearers, carrying a body after death. Perhaps all of these movements, as well as the movements that used to part of what was necessary to survive is an anatomy, of sorts, in a grieving process.  For those interested in ancestral health, or an evolutionary perspective, this could be another mismatch. In that interview with Mythic Medicine, I also proposed walking grief groups. We talk about walking book clubs and walking dinner parties so why not grief? When I started to look around I found people are already pairing grief and movement in various ways and so today on Move Your DNA we will talk with a couple of people who are making this necessary connection and helping others make it to.  So get ready for that.

First though, I’m going to do something completely different. The series on Move Your DNA has been supported and sponsored by a Dynamic Collective of companies and I am so grateful for their support these last 6 months. This collective is made up of UnShoes, Venn Design, Earthrunner, SoftStar, and MyMayu and each episode they sponsor questions from our listener mailbag. This is a doozie from Marlis in Germany who writes:

“In February I broke my left patella in 5 parts and my left radius when I fell down some frozen rocks into a little rivulet and smashed into the frozen rocks on the other side during a downhill winter hike. Three months later I’m back on my feet but not my knees and found that while my left knee is still hurting if I overuse or over bend, my right kneecap has started making clicking noises and feels funny when I bend it. I am barefoot indoors at home for five years now and started barefoot outdoor part-time two years ago. I changed my and my children’s footwear to include minimal shoes then. I use information on the internet including your blog but I don’t own Whole Body Barefoot yet but I have Move Your DNA, DIastasis Recti (another one of my health problems) and have given Dynamic Aging to the goldeners in my family and of course I read it.” Thank you for sharing all those books. “So here’s my question: I’m obviously not walking or moving, for that matter, symmetrically for these last months. I can feel it in my walking and it now shows by wearing down my healthy knee. I guess that my transfer to minimal shoes wasn’t optimal. I also have a standing desk at work where I try to implement your rules. But obviously I’m doing something wrong or better said, I have to relearn walking. I pay a lot of attention to how I walk and I feel like I can’t get it right. And I’m not a duck. My feet are straight but my knees go inward as my physiotherapist pointed out to me. So which books or alignment snacks can you recommend to help me learn a proper walk?” And she goes on a little bit more. I’m just gonna go ahead and start answering it. So sorry!  Ouch! The first thing that pops out at me is it hasn’t been very long, meaning you had a pretty big tumble and it’s only been a few months. And so I wouldn’t want for you to confuse acute issues with kind of chronic or systemic issues. At the same time, I do hear that you’re noticing the way that you have, in order to keep moving forward, the way that you have to move seems that you have to shift your weight off of the leg that’s still in a state of repair. And what you’re noticing is that the leg is needing to do more work now while the other one heals is starting to feel worse for the wear. And I just get that cliche right now. That’s the first time I’ve ever actually thought of what those words mean. So you have Move Your DNA. So I guess if you were me, what I would do right now would be; scale back what I would call non-therapeutic movement and ramp up therapeutic movement. So I see that … I read or hear that you’re standing at a workstation. I’m not sure how much walking you are doing, but this would be the time where I personally, I can still do the same total of movement, but I would scale it so that the therapeutic movements or the correctives, ones that are meant to support healing and I guess, try to bring that healing leg up to be able to carry the same weight as it did before. I would make that a larger amount of my movement and then reduce some of the larger movements that are in the end really just training that one leg that’s having to carry the weight to then become stronger at carrying that weight.  So I’m going to throw out some correctives in the books that you already have: Patella centering, shank rotation, the rectus femoris stretch, and the knee pit alignment. Those four are all in Move Your DNA which you have. So we’ll just kind of make those the motions. So if your feet goes straight but your knees go in, that still means that the lower leg, you can think about it in a couple ways, that your knee is not hinging on the same angle as your ankle. So we want those two to match. So that’s where that external rotation of the femur comes in, which again, you can find in Move Your DNA. So you’re gonna really, if you’ve been doing those 10 or 15 minutes a day, maybe you’re going to be bringing them up to where you’re doing them 7 or 8 times a day. Doesn’t have to be all at once. But you’re just adding them in all of the time. See if you can get 60 to 90 minutes of those smaller movements (again, not in one bout necessarily) but that you are doing lots of mindful restrengthening of that leg. And you can still do both legs. You don’t only have to do the leg that’s healing. But that you are really mindfully placing conscious loads onto certain tissues and that also maybe you scale back, you know if you’re busting out 3 to 5 miles, those could be 3 to 5 miles practicing your old loads. So bring that back a little bit. Or maybe if you’re thinking about form while you’re walking there is an alignment snack called Walk This Way which might help you. You might want to scale back on those longer distance loads because maybe if you’re minding your form, but that leg that’s healing that’s tired and for mile 2 through 5 or 3 through 5 you just go back to using that one leg more then that might not be taking you toward the shape that you ultimately want. So maybe instead of standing you sit down more. And your standing workstation, because it is while you can mind your form, sometimes when you’re standing if you’re engrossed in work sometimes you stop thinking about it. So that would be my overall recommendation. And then also just give yourself some time. Again, it’s been a few months and I know, I’ve been in acute injury and it’s like, “Oh my gosh.” because you can’t see, you don’t know how long it’s going to be and there tends to be lots of worry and concern. And you can certainly be proactive. So I just want to make sure that your worry and concern is translating to behaviors that put you where you want to be versus just behaviors within themselves. All right. So that was brought to you by the Collective.

 

Today I am highlighting Venn Design, maker of beautiful dynamic living space decor. For those of you that saw the 24 life video piece that they filmed at my house (and I will link it in the show notes if you didn’t), you will see my Venn design office furniture and my breakdown of my dynamic living space. And I think someone asked, I think on Instagram, “Is that just a gorgeous cover on an exercise ball?” And the answer is “Yes it is.”  Just take the tool that already works mechanically but not really aesthetically and fix it up so all of a sudden it’s in the furniture category so everyone’s mind can relax a bit. So thank you Venn design for having your vision. And thanks to everyone else in the Collective:  Earthrunner, UnShoes, MyMayu Outdoor boots for kids, and SoftStar Shoes. For more information on these companies go to the show notes, click listen, click podcast transcripts. They’re linked on the top of the notes.

 

KATY: So, let’s talk about death and movement. Today I am speaking with Don Morris, a pioneer within the grassroots death positive movement. He brought the green burial council to Canada. Opened its first death cafe. And on Mother’s Day three years ago launched the successful Home Funeral Practicum weekend training.  Don Morris, thank you for being on Move Your DNA.

 

DON: Well it’s a pleasure to be here with you, Katy.

 

KATY: I, as many of my listeners and you probably know now too, I speak about movement and all the ways movement fits in the world. And a lot of times my perspective is kind of ancestral health practices and even though we are all living, one of the situations of living is that we are often involved in the deaths of others. And so I look at things like what are the sedentary influences on various things. After losing 3 people last year within a few weeks of each other, it really kind of moved death to the forefront of my thoughts about movement and thus this show. And so I found some of your work online. So I wanted to talk to you about what you do. So you lead workshops that teach people how to care for and prepare bodies for funerals and I want to talk a little bit about that as well as what kinds of movement are included or involved in that type of work.

 

DON: Sure. Well, let me give you a little background about myself. I’m 67 years old and I was a funeral director in Los Angeles between the tender ages of 24 to 38. And I gained a lot of experience and insights in doing that work. I left it after 14 years and then returned in a different way to the topic as a home funeral educator.

 

KATY: Ok, so my first question for you is, what is a green burial council?

 

DON: The green burial council is a not for profit group. I believe it’s located nowadays in Ojai, California. The Green Burial Council has set down international standards for green burial in private cemeteries, municipal cemeteries so that the public is assured that they are receiving a green burial where the remains go back to the earth in as pure a way and uninterrupted way as possible. So it basically has set up guidelines for the cemetery industry to follow if they’re going to tell the public that they provide green burial.  It’s a certification council. Their certification has also extended to funeral homes. So if a funeral home wants to attract an eco-conscious consumer they will go through the application process and will be providing eco-friendly products and services.

 

KATY: Ok, so you teach workshops that teach people how to care for and prepare bodies for funerals and that’s all done within their home?

 

DON: Yes.  I teach workshops to empower people to reclaim family and community run home funeral vigils. I’m trying to get away from the word funeral.  Because what we’re really referring to is keeping a deceased at home under the guidance and care of a family with a funeral director either completely 100% out of the equation or in the equation. When the funeral director is in the equation, I refer to it as a hybrid funeral. But again, the purpose of my teaching is to empower people with the legalities of doing this work, the logistics of doing this work, and the practical dimensions. So the practical dimensions have to do with handling and safely handling a deceased, transporting a deceased in a vehicle, carrying a deceased, say unwrapping a deceased that comes from a hospital in plastic, the washing or cleansing of a deceased in the most highly, respectable, dignified way possible And there’s so many nuances to this work. There’s so many challenges. And I’d say the biggest challenge is just being present. And so in my training, it has evolved to the point where I say one of the most important dimensions of doing this, either by yourself or having a funeral director do the things you don’t want to do, is self-care. And what I’m referring to is when you get anxious and other’s you’re working with, we do get anxious, we center ourselves through our breath and calm ourselves, relax the mind, open the heart, and go forward from there. And return to centering whenever it’s necessary because it is a very sacred, even beautiful experience being present and lovingly tenderly caring for someone after death.

 

KATY: In your experience, do you find that there is a link between I guess assuming the responsibility and the movement of caring, of processing, of holding this vigil and processing grief?

 

DON: You know, I want to make something clear. I have great experience as a funeral director over a period close to 15 years, meeting with tens of hundreds of grieving families, caring for tens of hundreds of deceased people/bodies.  As far as having a thriving practice of being a home funeral guide or being a death doula, it’s been limited because the demand is not really strong and I don’t have strong entrepreneurial skills in going out doing this doing that. My focus has been on taking my experience and training people to assume responsibilities of their own loved ones. But to answer your question about a link between this movement work, this activity of tenderly – tenderly assuming these responsibilities and tenderly caring for a loved one – and that effect upon one’s grief. I don’t think you have to have a lot of experience at all to understand that in moving and in caring and in being present to caring for a deceased, that the activity will start to dissolve your difficult emotions and so yes, there is a link. And I think it’s very logical that when we do get involved in the way that I teach and what we’re referring to here, yes, there will be healing.

 

KATY: You had mentioned that you had spent quite a bit of time as a funeral director in your 20s and 30s. What made you come back to, I guess, death work and why did you choose this green path instead. This idea of empowering people to do some of this work themselves?

 

DON: I came back to this funeral, this death work because after turning 50, I just had a strong realization that my time is running out and I want to engage myself in the most rewarding work and service work and my experience in my 20s and 30s was very rewarding. And so I was drawn back. And I decided that if I’m going to go back to death-related work because it is challenging, I was going to go back on my own terms.  And my own terms, they centered about health and well being.

And as we know, the conventional funeral has a lot of elements that need to be ameliorated. And that’s kind of a strange little word. But what I’m trying to say is that in a conventional funeral there is embalming and it’s toxic and in most instances it’s unnecessary. It’s unnatural. There’s the use of endangered resources be it mahogany caskets, be it cherry wood caskets, beautiful hardwood caskets. The funeral industry sells more metal caskets, just kind of pay attention when you’re watching tv and you see these funerals, you see these metal caskets.  And in order to produce a metal casket you have to create metal so there’s mining and the purification of iron ore, and all of the environmental stresses and pollution that’s involved in making these metal caskets. So I decided that considering those elements plus the personal elements. And the personal elements in a conventional funeral are rather sedentary. In other words, we’ve developed a dependency upon professional funeral directors to support us with caring for a deceased. And that’s ok, but we’ve become so dependent that we don’t do much. And therefore, we don’t work our grief through. We lose out on a very human task of continuing to care for someone we care for after death and reap all the benefits that come from doing that. And so I kind of put two and two together for myself and I realized that I was in a very good position with my background to train the public to assume these very human responsibilities. And so my work now is creating and leading the Home Funeral Practicum in Canada where students come to learn the legalities and the logistics and get practical experience in caring for a mock deceased. Because we can talk about legalities and logistics and how good this is and so on and so forth but it’s in the doing that we really get the hands-on experience. And so my workshops are specifically task oriented. In other words, you either die at home and are cared for there or you die outside the home. And if you want to have a deceased brought back into the home, well certainly you can contract a funeral director to do it and there’s nothing wrong with that. Or if you want to go off the grid, so to speak, you can actually, where it’s legal in what province and what states it’s legal you can actually do it yourself and gain the sense of sovereignty- this freedom to assume this very human responsibility. And then, either with a funeral director or yourself, bring a deceased into the home and doing cleansing and shrouding or dressing and laying out, whether in the bed for a couple of days or three days or maybe a day or in a casket or some other appropriate spot that really works, you have time to accept the death. You have time to grieve. You have this 24/7 opportunity to go into the bedroom where the person is laying in honor, or whenever in the house or in the casket or what have you, to do the work to say the things you want to say or to simply sit in their presence to absorb what has happened. So this whole thing about the home funeral vigil, home funeral movement, home funeral vigil experience is all about time to be present with the deceased in order to accept the finality and do so  in such a way that you move through a lot of grief.

 

KATY: I have to apologize because I’m weeping as you’re talking.  And I was fortunate enough to have that with my dad. And only going through one parent’s death, I don’t have anything to compare it to. But I did appreciate having a day to crawl in bed with him even after he had passed away to talk to him and hold his hands and to go back and brush his hair and rub oil on his body. And I believe that was very integral to how I perceived the event. So anyway I just wanted to say thank you for the work that you do because I don’t… you don’t hear people at least in this culture, talking about death and the role of death as a human activity. It seems to always be a scary – uh – it just has such a negative connotation. And given that it’s something that we will all experience ourselves, both while we are living and then something that’s inevitable, I just appreciate that you are speaking about it and also the way that you are speaking about it.  So about your workshops, logistically are they one day? Or is it a weekend or a week long? What’s the logistics behind how someone, if they’re interested, could come to you and what you teach?

 

DON: First of all, my heart goes out to you for what you’ve been through with your dad and the strength you have in sharing this on this interview. I’m honored by you in this way. As far as my workshops go, the logistics, we meet Friday night for a movie and discussion and get to meet the other participants. And then we do all day Saturday and Sunday from 9 to 5. And we really need another day or at least another half day but I am doing my best to refine my offering so it’s efficient. I don’t offer multiple levels. I don’t offer certifications. I provide a very valuable manual so that when people leave there is all the information they need in there. And I want people to know that this work is very simple.

 

KATY: Right.

 

DON: And you can do it.  And you can’t do it alone. And you shouldn’t do it alone. So now that opens up a whole other discussion. If this work is too much to do alone then obviously we have to do it in relationship and we have to do it in community. And we don’t have these structures in our culture because we’re no longer tribal. We’re no longer communal. However, there are communities, intentional communities, spiritual communities, religious communities that do care for their own in death. But for the rest of us it’s really difficult.  And so for myself, I’ll give you an example somewhat of a solution for myself. I have been participating in a men’s circle for almost 6 years and we meet every other Thursday and we have between 8 and 12 of us. So I’m well bonded. We’re all well bonded. And we’ve reached a point maybe a year ago where I said, and others said, you know we’re capable of caring for each other as we die and after death. And lets just commit to that. So there’s a circle I’ve educated. I’ve put on a weekend training for these brothers of mine.  And I’m going to be doing it for a particular church community in Victoria. And so this is kind of the direction this needs to go in because we can’t do it alone and, I mean if you’re grieving the loss of someone you shouldn’t really be in there. It energetically, emotionally, psychologically, be in there do all of this work because it could be too much and generally for most all of us, it is too much. And so it’s important to be part of a community that has training.

 

KATY: I was just thinking in my mind, we live in a small town and we definitely have a community – not an intentional community. We’re not really bonded in any particular paradigm as much as we just see each other so regularly and share so many of life things: meals, parenting strategies, fiscal responsibility, car lending, all these things… and it just occurred to me. One of us could go take this training and one of us could at least, for the other 50 or 60 people in this group, kind of at least facilitate. To almost be … it wouldn’t be the same as actually training with you directly or receiving the training but it would definitely help, you know, in have at least taking a glimpse at all of the options. So I like the idea that it can be done in a community in whatever way you personally define community.

 

DON: Yes. And you know, when I started doing this work 3 years ago, I didn’t want to do it alone as a teacher and so I began with a colleague of mine. And she prefers to remain anonymous because she’s changed her line of work. Back then people were very concerned, is it legal?  That’s pressing. So what I do is I just make copies of public documents and laws and regulations that govern care of the dead and filing documents and transporting documents and I show it. That was the major concern. Is it legal? And if we’re to do it ourself then tell us where do we go to file the paperwork? How do we – what kind of request do we make to get hold of the death certificate and the permit for burial and cremation and the transport. That was big and it still is a core part of my work. However, a lot of people who focus in on this work or this responsibility have gotten beyond the legality of it.  And what they really want from my training is they want the hands-on experience of being present to a mock model. And I’ll tell you these mock models they play dead very well. And the handling. The turning. And being present and centering oneself. And the dressing. And the vigiling. And I have to share, even though we do these mock exercises, when everybody is so focused and so loving and so caring and keeps on returning to center, when we just stand before this mock deceased, the silence that comes over, the energy that comes over is precious. Is from a spiritual point of view, divine. It’s almost as if the portal between this world, the physical world, and the spiritual world opens. And isn’t that the truth about the great transition into this world; birth. Doesn’t the portal open? And then the great transition to the spiritual world; death. The portal opens.  So I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the work that we’re all doing reclaiming family and community death care is in alignment with our deepest self. With the ground of our being. With the creative force of life that existed before creation even happened. It’s very real, healing work. And I’m so thrilled that our, here in North America, we are getting into this because we’re going to influence our children and generations to come in a positive way so they live less death neurotic lives and more life positive lives with death in its proper place and their relationship to death in a healthy place.

 

KATY: Don, I want to thank you so much for being my guest on Move Your DNA, but also just for being a great human doing necessary work ultimately that serves many beyond you.  You can find more about Don Morris and his work with Home Funeral training at HomeFuneralPracticum.com.  Thanks so much, Don.

 

DON: Thank you, Katy.

 

KATY: We got an email a few weeks ago from a group called Wild Grief who wrote to us about stacking movement, grief, and nature and we were intrigued. I’m so glad to have a chance to talk today with Breanna Trygg who is a collaborative consultant and had been volunteering with grieving children for over 15 years and considers grief support her heart work. Breanna is a founding board member of Wild Grief and the current board president where she can combine her passion of supporting grieving kids and connecting with nature. Breanna, welcome to Move Your DNA.

 

BRIANNA:  Hi Katy! Thanks for having me on.

 

KATY: So I am just ecstatic to hear about what you offer and checked out what you offer and your Instagram right away because I felt like I had stumbled upon this idea of grief being a natural movement so I’m always relieved when other people have been thinking about things long before I have. So I want to talk with you today about Wild Grief. And let’s start with what helped you make the connection between grief and movement and why did you start offering Wild Grief camps?

 

BRIANNA:  That’s kind of an interesting and long story. I’ll tell you the short version. Basically, the founders of Wild Grief had a few things in common. We’d all experienced the death of an important person in our lives either in our childhood or in adulthood or as parents and we’d all been volunteering to support kids and families who were grieving which is where we met. And then we all kind of independently had a deep connection to nature. That was a really important part of our life. And in that volunteer work that we do with the support groups and the camps for grieving kids, we notice that the times where those kids were outdoors, their grief work really took on a new dimension. And there was something about it that just seemed kind of more transformational. And we had, also, our personal experiences of being outdoors, having that kind of hike, physical, exertion be a kind of deeper kind of connection to our inner selves and our inner grief. So we really wanted to spend more time and put more attention on that aspect of being outdoors and depending on your body to move you place to place and take care of yourself. And then one other piece, because we’ve been working in particular with teens over time, it can be very challenging to convince a group of teens to come sit into a room and talk with strangers about grief and hard stuff but having something where they’re going backpacking, they’re learning a skill, they’re being outdoors, takes a little of that pressure off and gives them a lot more space to be able to share what they want and what they need to when they’re ready.

 

KATY: It’s so interesting because I’ve always thought of grief support as talking as being the essential part of the process. So do you think that there’s also something intrinsic in this movement of walking, and I’m not sure – we can talk a little bit more if you’re backpacking or is this day hikes. Is it the group dynamic that’s helping these grievers, maybe specific these teens move through this experience? Is talking necessary? Or is it all of it combined?

 

BRIANNA:  Yeah, those are really great questions. So basically talking is a piece of the process but it’s not the only thing. And I would say it has some limits. And one of the ways we think about it to really to learn and to make meaning you really need to have some physical, kind of multisensory experience to be able to do that work. You really need sensory input, a personal emotional connection, and movement to really learn and remember something.

And we talked a lot about grief is the ultimate learning experience of learning who you are, what your mortality is, learning what it means to have someone close to you die, there’s so much learning and integrating you need to do. So just trying to do that in our brains doesn’t really work. So what we do with Wild Grief, we have a couple different programs. Every month we do a hike habit. And that is the second Sunday of every month we have a two-hour walk in rain or shine in parts local to us in the south Puget Sound region.  And that experience we begin – we bring people together. We begin with an opening circle and people get a chance to share why they’re there that day.  Who they’re remembering or what part of the grief journey that they’re on. And then the first 10 minutes of the hike are really walking in silence together as a group. And we ask everyone to kind of honor that silence as a group. Which is a different experience than silence walking by yourself. And then after that 10 minutes, it’s very interesting. Some people stay in silence, some people move into small group conversations and they talk about everywhere from their really intense grief experience to what else they’re doing that weekend. Right?  There’s no real prescriptive piece about it but it’s a chance to acknowledge we’re here together, talk about our grief, walking through our grief. And then we come back and we have a closing circle and we leave. It’s just really – it’s amazing to see the transformation even with just a two-hour experience has for the people because there’s something about acknowledging that we’re carrying this big heavy thing and we’re going on this grief journey together. And then actually physically take a journey together – even if it’s a short one – you can really see it in people’s faces and in their affects over the courses of those two hours. So that’s kind of our regular program and then we do a day hike, usually one in the spring and one in the fall which is just more the extended version of that. So we go somewhere like Mount St. Helens or Mount Rainier and we take a whole day to spend together, have lunch together, really make it kind of a longer, bigger experience with a few more activities.  And those too are for all community members so all ages. And then we also do youth programs which is for ages 13-19 which is a backpacking trip where we do teach the skills of really learning to be backpackers to move your bodies to take care of yourself in the wilderness in addition to addressing your grief. And that one, again, talking is a piece of that process  but there are a lot of other things that we do and activities that we do that help people move through that. And I think the richness in an experience like that is the metaphor that you can draw from the actual experience of doing that work. We’re not asking for experienced backpackers to come on those trips for those teens and we supply all the gear and material. So they don’t have to worry about coming up with all that stuff. So for example, the first day our theme is grief is hard and it can hurt and it can be discouraging. And that first day on the trails as they’re heading uphill, probably for someone on their very first backpacking experience, carrying this heavy pack and trying to figure out what it means to sleep outside … so we are really trying to make those links between the physical experience and what can feel like to be in grief. It really opens up a lot more avenues to explore what grief is and how to normalize it for those kids.

 

KATY: I’ve been nodding so much my neck is sore. I can hear my brain is synthesizing things that I’ve learned at nature awareness school and things that I’ve learned working with various occupational therapists about sensory integration and medium of nature. And then this – it’s not a metaphor – it’s that we’re often not used to doing things that are hard and moving through those processes in the modern life context – to kind of live out the physical not related to your grief experience and you’re like, “oh, I’ve gone from unsuspecting to hard to surviving” and you just keep doing that over and over again until you get skilled at it. So thank you for tying all those pieces together for me.

 

BRIANNA:  Mm-hmm.

 

KATY: My next question was, I think something that you already answered but maybe there’s some other elements to tease out here: What have you observed from the teens and adults who are participating in the group hikes. And I’m not sure if it’s like what are the changes for them?  Maybe clinical measures perhaps, but is there anything self-reported or observations that you’ve made about people who have attended these Wild Grief gatherings?

 

BRIANNA:  Yeah, so we’ve had so far, because we’re a pretty new organization, we’ve only had the day hikes and the hike habit. And this summer’s our first time with teens. But I can tell you a little bit about what I’ve seen on our hike habits and our day hikes. And I did mention it a little bit but it’s really interesting to me, and one of our, kind of our vision with Wild Grief, is to create a vital, resilient, and connected community with a healthy response to death. And one of the ways we do that is that kind of normalization of death is a part of our life even though in our western culture we try not to admit that.

 

KATY: Right.

 

BRIANNA:  We put it in a box.  And it’s something that happens to someone else. Until you’re really in it and then you can feel really lost and lack of support. So I think for that one of the things we’ve really noticed is people arrive at the trailhead for a hike habit or a day hike and you can feel that nervous energy where a group of people who don’t know each other, they’re coming together, and they’re gonna be talking about this big personal thing of they’re in pain. Which is not something we share with anyone most of the time, much less a group of strangers.  And so that sense, watching that as the arrival and the kind of nervous funny giggles, right? And just in that opening circle moment when they share that piece and you see the almost physically like a thread of connection between all these people. Where they all have a story. And they don’t necessarily tell the story but it’s just an acknowledgment that they’re holding that story. And then just that kind of movement, it just opens up that space for people to dive into those deep conversations. So you can be walking along someone on the trail talking about what you had for breakfast and then all of a sudden you can be like “And then my dad died and it changed my whole relationship with food because he was a chef.”  So you can just dive into this crazy thing.

 

KATY: Yeah.

 

BRIANNA:  And it’s fine because you’re together and acknowledging it. And there’s something about walking next to someone versus this sitting down with them an looking them in the eye. That makes it a little more comfortable to be able to talk about that.

 

KATY: Yeah.

 

BRIANNA:   And then you can really see by the closing circle just the tension in people’s bodies, partly from the walk and the actual movement but it just melts away and they experience some of that emotion but because there was that forward motion, you don’t have that feeling of getting stuck. So by the end of the hike when we have our closing circle, whatever piece of emotion that they touched and brought up, they’ve kind of had that chance to move through it and hold it in a different way. And then by the end, they’re just a little bit more relaxed. They’re still holding this heavy thing of grief, but there was a chance to speak to it and a chance to connect with other people and with nature. Our last hike that I was a part of, we talked about that concept of forest bathing and just what a feeling it was. It was pouring rain that day too so kind of multidimensional forest bathing, but they just really have a sense of relaxation and kind of relief after going through just that two-hour experience. So our first backpacking trip this summer, we’ve all worked with kids in a lot of ways, the people who formed this group. But we haven’t stacked those specific things of grief support and nature and movement and building their confidence in their bodies and what work they can do to take care of themselves and building that community. So I think that that … our hope is that it’s going to be one of the touchstone experiences for these kids for their life overall because I think it has the possibility to be transformational in a lot of ways. And transformational or even just a chance to spend four days with other people talking about this hard thing, it just gives you that space to explore it where we don’t have that space when we’re back in our day to day lives.

 

KATY: It’s so interesting that we use the term holding space. And it’s often such a sedentary concept because it can mean a time, a chair in a room, eye to eye contact. The idea that holding space can literally be wide open space, I think is a different way of thinking about this term. And certainly it applies in all the context but I’m just thinking now of therapeutic scenarios that I’ve been in and it’s so much eye to eye, direct, uncomfortable, sometimes.

 

BRIANNA:  Yes.

 

KATY: It can be intimidating to have to kind of deal with these very deep things. Someone is making eye contact with you and looking and waiting expectantly. And also with kids, my own kids, having lots of siblings, that face to face can sometimes be defense making – maybe just naturally – maybe direct eye contact can read that way for some animals in certain states…

 

BRIANNA:  Right.

 

KATY: If I walk alongside my kids and they’re just doing their own thing, they’re much more likely – or my partner – for that matter – much more likely to just allow things to come up because I don’t feel like I’m being confronted. It’s just more space to facilitate this babbling brook of whatever comes up.  So I like the idea of the bigger the therapy office, so to speak, the more it can fill because the more directions everything and everyone can go. You had also mentioned this notion of self-care. And this has come up for me a few times. Grief is, I think, such a sedentary experience. I mean if you think about it in movies it can be, you know, drawn curtains. Everyone in the house is sitting. Maybe not even getting out of bed when you’re really in the depths of grief. So self-care – even the most basic things like going outside and being in the sunshine or in a rain forest, perhaps, or simply moving your body, I think that, or I’m wondering are these being viewed as self-indulgent at a time when you are supposed to be grieving. Do you think that there’s this feeling that you’re not honoring others – in this case, your departed – in some way if you continue to attend to your own needs, to care for and about yourself?  

 

BRIANNA:  Right. I think there’s a lot to that idea. And of the having to just put all your attention on the person who died and closing up. And I think a part of that is in our western culture we’ve lost some of those, I think in America in particular, we’ve lost kind of that sense of ritual around specific things. Or what is the work that you do around grief? Because we’re very individualistic and so we’ve just kind of, you’ve got to be strong. You got to not show that you’re vulnerable. And you just don’t have a job to do.

So what are the tasks of grief? What is it that you need to do to honor that? And I think that’s part of what we’re pushing back on. That caring for yourself is a primary way of honoring the person who died. It’s allowing your feelings to move as you move and you’re furthering your relationship with them by creating that new way of relating to them. And I would say with the work that we’re doing, we’re not therapists. I mean we have some trained counselors and mental health professionals who work with us but our program isn’t a therapist sitting down with kids. It’s community member, peer support model.

So it’s about being together with others who are experiencing the same thing and being able to just discuss that – be in the moment. So we’re not trying to fix the grief so we don’t feel sad, or overwhelmed, or angry. But it’s this idea of giving the grief arms, and legs, and eyes, and ears to be able to express it in a way that develops some sort of ritual that you can go back to. Because grief in our experience is not like a one and done. “Oh I’ll just do this thing and I’ll be done and I can check that bar.” My dad died when I was 8 and I’m in my 30s now, and it’s still an experience that comes up for me. When my son was born, or when I got married, or when I had a success in my career that I don’t get to share that with my dad – so I’m still grieving. Even all these years later but it just changes over time. So what are those rituals and community connections that we can build so that we can honor that grief journey and be able to be vulnerable with each other and move into that self-care space and not kind of wall off or just try to be that strong stoic person.

 

KATY:  Yeah, I think that the work that you’re doing is fantastic.  I just feel like there’s minds exploding all over as people listen to the work that you’re doing. It really seems to be tying many threads together: vitamin nature, and grief work, and holistic approaches, and ancestral health, and all these community pieces that we’re re-integrating slowly over time. I definitely want to point listeners to your website, to your Instagram. Do you have any other resources that you feel are exceptional?

 

BRIANNA:  I think, there aren’t a ton of programs specifically like ours where that very driven nature and grief but there are other places where you can find grief support specifically for children and families that I think would be great for people to be able to look up all over the country. So for example, the National Alliance for Grieving Children has a list of programs that you can connect with all over the country. And there are places like the Moyer Foundation which funds Camp Aaron which is a camp for kids who are grieving and that happens in a lot of places across the country as well. And that gets … I think Camp Aaron is where we really got inspired because we saw those kids in an outdoor context and we just wanted more and more of that. So I think those places would be great resources. And of course I have a million so I can share a few of those for your show notes so people can look up and see what might be helpful for them.

 

KATY: Thank you so much. Thank you for taking time away from your very important work to come speak with me on this podcast.

 

BRIANNA:  Thank you so much, Katy. It was fun to talk this through with you.

 

KATY: Thanks to Breanna Trygg of Wild Grief. You can find out more about that group’s work and get the details on some of their upcoming hikes and events at WildGrief.org. And we will link to them as well as additional resources in our show notes.

 

As a quick sum up for this episode, I’d just like to say as I did in Movement Matters that so many outsourced or eliminated movements are currently flying under our radar. And I don’t think that much of what I write or talk about is radical. But I do think it’s radical to point out that how we move during another’s death can actually be part of our personal well being.  I talk a lot about ancestral health, so to tie our health and personal well being to death, not of our own, but of another’s is, I’ll admit it, a huge hunk to chew on and I appreciate you hearing me out.
So it’s time once again to move into the Move Your DNA mailbag and here’s a question from Amy who writes:”I’ve just recently found out that I’m pregnant. I love your alignment snacks. I was wondering if there were any that are particularly helpful in pregnancy that I should do more frequently” Signed Amy.

Amy, congratulations!  You know, that’s a good question. It’s really hard because I don’t necessarily think that there are five or ten or even twenty moves that could be better than a different list of 5 or 10 or 20 because it really depends on the person coming and what they’re bringing with their own body and the intentions that they have for those moves. In general, I think what I would say – because I’m about to say it – is think now about carrying. So if I had to break it down into three categories that would be your personal comfort right now carrying your mass that’s going to be slowly increasing. So it’s a training program. Pregnancy is a training program and it’s beautiful in the fact that the mass acquisition is gradual which is how you design a training program, right? You don’t go to the gym and somebody gives you a 40-pound kettlebell. You’re going to start with something light and then you’re gonna practice your form with it and then you’re able to add more weight and less momentum if you do it gradually.  So, human physiology has been doing it since the beginning and there’s actually a couple blog posts about it. So if you can manage your standing and walking form so that the back side of your body is able to receive and adapt to this slowly accumulating weight that’s gonna help you feel comfortable. It also is going to set up the stage for being able to carry that maybe same mass, although redistributed, in your arms, no longer part of your personal frame any longer – it’s not only keeping you fit and healthy during pregnancy but for what comes afterwards. So mind your standing and walking form. So Walk This Way is a good alignment snack. And of course you’re working on hip and leg mobilization – the pieces that are in the pelvic region. Obviously they have jobs to perform and you want to make sure that mobility is there – and stability both. So if you listen to the Gail Tully podcast so that you have this ability to change the shape of your container. So there’s also this idea that the baby is supposed to be getting a certain amount of movement for its optimal development. So they’re just starting to recognize that if it doesn’t have that mobility that there’s going to be maybe effects that are happening to its tissues as they’re developing and thus setting a container of movement for their life. So moving a lot in general and I would just say vary your position a lot.  I know these aren’t the specific exercises but they’re more the large overall movements. Getting up and getting down. Getting on your hands and knees. Standing up and repeating that. All of that is movement and agitation of the container which then is perhaps part of the stimulation of the baby to be moving itself. So think of varying your position a lot, minding your form when you’re moving so that all of your body gets to carry your weight. And then if you have any areas that are kind of bothering you, niggling you, kind of figure out how to move those a little bit more or with a little bit more control. So again, this is a period of time where you can enjoy your physical prowess. Again to me I always felt that being pregnant was such an athletic time. It was like a personal training session that you couldn’t get out of. A really long personal training session. So again, congratulations and good luck.

 

I do love to answer your questions and I love our Dynamic Collective made up of Soft Star, MyMayu, UnShoes, Earthrunners, and Venn Design.  They sponsor the question and answer part of each episode of this Move Your DNA series. You can find more about them in our show notes. And if you have a question, send it to me via podcast@nutritiousmovement.com. I want to answer it  Thanks so much to all of the people who gave some of their time to this podcast series. It has been my privilege to get to talk to so many people I admire who are literally changing the world with their movement.

 

Meanwhile, here at Move Your DNA, change is afoot. Here we are on the threshold of summer in my part of the world and you know how much I love to read and I know how much you’ve been asking me to make an audiobook of Alignment Matters. Guess what?  I’m not gonna!

But what I am going to do is read you a few of the essays from it over the next four or five episodes of this podcast. I like to keep my body flexible, my mind flexible, and this podcast flexible. So that’s what is coming your way through July and August. In conjunction with my social media break in July and August, I am sending out new Vitamin Community monthlies. It’s an email offering practical suggestions for building a movement community. A live movement community where you are. Help you work through my content starting a new book club that we can get together on Instagram and share ideas. If you’re already getting my newsletter you’ll see it land in your inbox. If you’re not, go sign up for it right now at NutritiousMovement.com.  If you enjoy listening to Move Your DNA and you haven’t already, please subscribe and consider leaving us a review on iTunes or wherever you listen to podcasts. Your review helps other listeners decide whether they should take a chance on this podcast. On behalf of everyone at Move Your DNA and Nutritious Movement. Thank you for listening. We appreciate your support.                                                 

 

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VOICEOVER: This has been Move Your DNA with Katy Bowman, a podcast about movement. Hopefully, you find the general information in this podcast informative and helpful, but it is not intended to replace medical advice and should not be used as such.

 

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