2020 has hands down been the hardest year for so many people–myself included. For a lot of people, it was a year of major transitions, transformation, challenges, obstacles, loss, and letting go. For some, it was the year of many blessings, of finding or confirming love, and a year of new beginnings.
I’m writing this for the ones who faced hardship; for the ones who felt like their entire world came crumbling down, for the ones who faced grief head on and have nothing to do but let go. I hope that in some way, my words, journey, or wisdom I share will help impart a sense of deeper connection, insight or healing for your journey.
Navigating my way through grief has taught me so much and I want to share that with you in hopes it can help you find your way too. I’ve learned a lot about grief over my lifetime but nothing has taught me more about grief than this past year. I don’t pretend to know everything or be an expert on the topic pf grief and letting go but I do know that grief is extremely challenging, multi-layered, confusing, dense, and certainly not linear.
If you are new to my space then you may not know that my entire world came crumbling down. Rather, I tore down my entire world this year. I’m not here to share the sad details about my story but more so, I want to impart the lessons in going through grief, letting go, and finding my way back to myself. I want to share how I got through it and how I continue to support myself through this journey. I want to share this in case you’re going through something similar, or you feel similarly to how I have felt, you remember that you aren’t alone.
One thing I know to be true about grief: it makes you feel like you are all alone, and one thing I know to be true about life: you are never all alone.
The Wild Ride Begins…
The ride for me started before January 1st even hit — I know, yiiiiikessss. I don’t think I will ever forget the feeling I had when I woke up that one morning in December and KNEW that nothing in my life would ever be the same again. I had a gut-wrenching feeling that was screaming for attention; I had a feeling so deep in my being that screamed, “Not this.”
Alright, let me back up… At the time, I was nine years into a committed relationship and six months of marriage with my best friend. For at least one year prior to that morning, I experienced different feelings here and there that made me question my relationship and future with my partner. These feelings came up so infrequently and were so subtle that I ignored them, making a mental note somewhere in my mind, and continuing forward. I passed them off as quickly as they came because I always thought to myself, “You love him and this is what you have always wanted. It will get better when….”
The reason I knew deep down that they were something I should listen to was that they came up at the most pivotal times with a distinct clarity and voice that was both loving and stern. A voice I had heard before but rarely paid attention to. Now I describe that voice as my intuition… My higher self… God.
Our Body Knows The Way
The first real experience of connecting to my intuition was during an extremely intimate and transformational women’s empowerment retreat I went on in October of 2018. It was an intense weekend of looking very closely at my purpose, my work, and essentially my entire life.
After a back and forth with one of my coaches getting clear on what I want, I finally spoke the words I never knew I needed to say, “FREEDOM.” “I just want to free free.” My mind quickly diverted to: how can I create freedom in my business and work? Immediately after, I felt a gut-wrenching feeling in my stomach and vividly heard, “Your relationship isn’t going to provide the freedom you desire.” Shocked and confused, I completely ignored it and kept working on my business plan.
That can’t be right, I thought….
The other life-changing experience of connecting with my intuition was when I was at Arches National Park in Utah with my partner. We had been together for eight year at the time and I sensed that the proposal was coming. It was during our annual camping trip for Thanksgiving and during the most beautiful sunset overlooking the most amazing view of the park, it happened.
Honestly, I felt weird all day leading up to this moment but I will still never forget the feeling when he dropped down to one knee. My dream for so long was now my reality and yet… it didn’t feel at all like I thought it would. Instead I had a pit in my stomach that said, “not this.” I stood there staring at him until I found the word “Yes” deep down.
Something felt off and I knew it. These are all feelings that I wished I had acknowledged in the moment — to myself and to my partner — but for reasons we don’t need to go into here, I didn’t. I let them fester. I pushed them down. I pretended they didn’t exist. I put on a happy face. Part of me did feel happy…. But so much of me also felt dis-ease.
On the outside though, we were the perfect couple. He was my best friend and my family. We loved each other greatly and supported each other through some of the most challenging times. We laughed and had fun together. We inspired and cheered each other on. On the outside, we looked perfect.
I share these experiences to:
- Remind you that sometimes the signs we get from our body aren’t always loud and obnoxious. Sometimes they are quiet and subtle, so clear yet so minuet we question their existence and meaning.
- Remind you that the answers we are seeking are always inside of us. The questions that feel the most challenging to find the answers to aren’t found by polling your friends and family. They aren’t found in books or on podcasts. And they certainly aren’t found by ignoring signs and hoping they go away.
- Remind you that the signs given from your bodies innate wisdom, also known as your intuition, won’t just go away. They get louder and they get more obvious if we don’t listen.
Coming Home to Myself
When I woke up that morning mid December 2019, just a year after we got engaged and six months after we said our vows in front of a small group of family, the voice was so loud I couldn’t push it down anymore. I sat up in bed and forced a swallow down my throat. “This can’t be real,” I thought. I didn’t know what to do — it was clear that what I HAD been doing was not working.
I felt the weight of knowing in that moment that my life was never going to be the same and it would look much different than I planned, although it would take me six months to solidify those feelings and make the hardest decision of my life to leave my best friend and someone I loved so deeply, and get a divorce.
The Beginning of the End
For the first month after that dreadful morning, I tried to figure everything out on my own. I kept it from my partner, my family and friends because I felt so badly and I was so scared to face it head on. For a while, I tried to do it all on my own and kept it all inside until one day it all came bubbling to the surface like a volcano ready to erupt….
It took me a month to finally start to share A GLIMPSE of how I felt—at first with my partner and a couple of my longest and closest friends. We started to work on things from the top down. What needed to change? Where were we not happy? What was beneath the layers? What kind of support do we need? We got closer through this work and we started to create more of a grounded foundation together. We took time away from family and friends and started to do the deep inner work — together and separately.
….then the Pandemic hit.
I had so much shame and guilt around how everything that took a while to clear away. It didn’t help that for the first two months (at least), I spent most of my time worrying about everyone else and how they will be effected by my decision RATHER THAN than connecting to my truth and what I needed and desired.
Lessons on Learning to Let Go
Now that you have a baseline of what I’ve been moving through, now you understand the complexity I was faced with while finding a way to let go—of my relationship, my marriage, my best friend, my family. With all of that, I had to let go of the guilt, shame and judgement from myself, others and society. I had to let go of being a people pleaser and come home to myself.
Lesson #1 on Letting Go: listen to your bodies innate wisdom.
Our bodies know what we need better than anyone else does. When it comes to making decisions about your life, I highly encourage you to find a way to connect to the wisdom inside of you. I truly believe that learning how to listen to your body and the subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, signs it sends you is vital for this work. When it comes to making hard decisions or knowing what we need in each moment to truly take care of ourselves is, and always will be, an inside job.
BELIEVE ME… it took me a while to figure this one out. I tried to ask other people for their insights and advice on everything—from friends, family, coaches, healers, books, podcasts, Google—you name it, I tried it. What I realized rather quickly was that by soliciting all the advise from others left me feeling so much more overwhelmed and confused. I finally realized that it was my decision and therefore I had to figure it out on my own.
We all have the capacity to connect to our bodies’ innate wisdom, we just need to find a way to access it. Connecting to and listening to your intuition is like flexing a muscle—the more that you do it, the easier it becomes. For me, I found that it happened when I slowed down—A LOT— and spent more time alone and in nature than with other people.
My #1 suggestion is to find people or practices that help you connect to your intuition. Meditation, stillness, asking questions, being in nature are a few ideas.
I have a meditation on connecting to your intuition inside of my monthly membership, Aligned if you want to check it out.
Lesson #2 on Letting Go: trust yourself first.
Now that you have the foundation, here’s the next layer. It’s simple. Trust yourself. It’s as simple as that.
No one knows your life and how you feel like you do—trust that. And believe me, this wasn’t easy for me to accept OR embody. As someone who spent most of her life trying to make others happy and listening to other people over myself, this was a challenge. Whether we are talking about what decision to make, job to take, what to say in a hard conversation, what our body needs, or something else… we can count on ourselves.
We NEED to count on ourselves.
New to the trusting yourself game? Start with small things to build trust in yourself, like making decisions on what food to drink or beverage to consume that would feel good for your body, or what exercise you are craving that day.
Trust is built in your body through practice, dedication and repetition. Remember, you’re flexing a new muscle, just like listening to your intuition.
Lesson #3 on Letting Go: creating space for clarity
Honestly, as we’re going through the letting go process, whatever that looks like for us, it can be quite overwhelming. A lot of feelings, emotions, thoughts, beliefs, etc. come bubbling up to the surface and it can be so damn hard to figure out what they mean or what to do with them. Ya know??
For this, I recommend finding clarity.
I’ve learned that true clarity does not come when you are busy, distracted or inundated with thoughts, beliefs, feelings and emotions from others. True clarity comes from going within. It comes from stillness. And you’re right— sitting in the quiet can be SUPER uncomfortable.. but the more you do it, the easier it becomes.
Creating space mentally can be taking time every day for meditation, breathing practices, prayer, being in nature, exercising, writing or all of the above. There’s no hard and fast rules here so find what works for you and stick with it. Dive in and explore!
Lesson # 4 on Letting Go: surrender, surrender, and surrender some more.
If you’re here, you likely already know that letting go is not easy. It requires us to let go of A HECK OF A LOT more than we actually realize. In addition to the actual thing/person/event that you are letting go of, you are also faced with letting go of the beliefs and values we thought were ours. Our perceptions of life, others, ourselves and current reality. The way we view the world or envision our lives in the future. Our identity. (More on this one in another blog…)
In order to fully let go, true surrender must happen. This is a hard one for me to describe, and if I’m being fully transparent, it’s something I’m still learning how to do.
Surrendering means allowing everything to be present at once: guilt, shame, sadness, grief, anger, beliefs, thoughts, identities, fears, doubts, worries…
Allowing ALL OF IT to exist without attaching to any of it. It means determining what you’re willing to keep and what you’re willing to let go of.
Finding Freedom By Letting Go
As I reflect on this past year and everything I’ve written here, I want to make sure you know that NONE of this was easy. And if you’re here, you have also likely not had an easy journey–no matter where you’re at on the path. Some days, doing the work feels so hard. Like it’s not even worth it. It can feel like too much. It can make you want to give up.
If you’re called to do this work, I call you forward… because here’s what I do know from this wild ride: it is absolutely worth it. It’s worth it to dig deep. It’s worth it to do this inner work. It’s worth it to feel the pain so you can come to the other side.
By choosing to develop our intuition, trust ourselves and let go of everything that is no longer in service of who you are and where you’re going, you connect to your truth and with this, you connect to your own power. You become your own hero, your own foundation.
You create a sense of freedom for yourself that cannot be gifted by anyone else in this world and that my friend, is the most beautiful thing you can ever receive.
If you find yourself somewhere on this path and you feel alone, please don’t hesitate to reach out. Whether you are looking for support, tools and practices, or simply someone to talk to who might get what you’re going through, even just a little, I’m here. Between my monthly yoga therapy membership program and my private practice, I have a many different options.
Go ahead and fill out the form below if you want to connect further. Otherwise, feel free to leave a comment below and let me know if this post resonated with you.
I’m sending you lots of love + healing on your journey,
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About the Author
My name is Caitlin, I’m a chronic pain survivor, Certified Yoga Therapist, Registered Dental Hygienist, and founder and CEO of Caitlin Parsons Yoga Therapy, a yoga therapy and wellness company. I recently made my dreams a reality by quitting my full-time job as a dental hygienist to pursue my passion and purpose helping others get back into alignment.
Now I use my personal and professional experiences with chronic pain, stress and anxiety, and injury recovery to help women step back into their own alignment – in their bodies, minds and throughout their lives. I help empower women to create balance in their bodies and minds so they can access greater levels of freedom in their lives inside my monthly membership program (Aligned), group coaching program for hygienists (The Aligned Hygienist), a Yoga + Coaching Program for Dental Teams, and private yoga therapy coaching.
I love to share my knowledge and expertise on mindfulness and therapeutic yoga for back pain through my blog and social media platforms as well as guest appearances on other inspiring and like-minded podcasts.
Client Success Stories
“I started working with Caitlin because I had recently gotten surgery from a brain tumor. I had very little mobility in my shoulder and arm. I was concerned that the lack of mobility, discomfort and reduced strength would increase chances for more pain and injury. Working with Caitlin was amazing, I would recommend her personal approach to anyone. She is dedicated to her work, has great knowledge and communication. Caitlin does a wonderful job guiding you back to your body and yourself.” – Ania
“I started working with Caitlin because I had chronic low back pain and regular flare-ups. I was told by multiple doctors that I would always be in pain and my posture would never improve unless I had surgery. The pain got so bad that I couldn’t play volleyball anymore, which created a negative spiral in my mood, energy and throughout my life. The results I got with Caitlin was amazing. I no longer have chronic pain or chronic acid reflux which I was on medication for. I’m much healthier and happier now than I ever have been!” – Russ M.
“I started working with Caitlin because I had neck pain, shoulder pain, neck congestion and ringing in my ears. I was working a lot, taking care of my family, and I was beginning to spiral downwards in a state of stress and pain. With all of that, life became a chore. I wanted to learn how to take care of myself so I could live a happy life and take care of my responsibilities from a place of joy, not dread. I wanted to get my neck to a place where it wasn’t painful and tightening every time I was stressed.
Now I no longer have neck pain or tightness, I’m stressed and ear ringing has greatly reduced. My body feels so much better as a whole. Caitlin helped me find peace. Caitlin has an innate sense of knowing how to tailor each session to fit how I’m feeling in my body and what I need. Caitlin helped me change the way I react to stress; now I’m more mindful of my reactions and the way I take care of my body. I’m stronger in my body and mind now which has positively affected my entire life.” – Donna M.
“I started working with Caitlin because I was completely disconnected from my body because of a genetic disease, having constant, chronic pain, extreme trouble sleeping and anxiety living in my own skin. I wanted to feel better- I wanted to have less pain and have a better quality of life–building strength and reconnecting with my body were a bonus. Working with Caitlin exceeded my expectations- I sleep so much better now and my pain has improved significantly. I’m less anxious and have practices to help when my symptoms flare. I’m more grounded and embodied, I have a daily yoga practice that continues to build on the foundation Caitlin helped me create.
Caitlin is incredible, she validated me and helped me work on my whole self. She customized everything to work specifically for me. I 100% recommend working with Caitlin. She believed that healing was possible and she held that vision for me and brought it to each session, and eventually I believed and embodied it too. She helped me find the power in every single baby step towards a more whole and healthy life, and I am completely transformed by it. This work isn’t the quick fix, it’s deep, holistic, soul-led healing.” – Hayley
“Working with Caitlin was the best thing I ever did for myself. I thought that I would always have pain because I’ve done so many things to try and help but they haven’t worked, until yoga therapy with Caitlin. Now I am living with less pain, my posture has improved, I am getting stronger, and my clothes are getting looser.” – Joan
“Before I came to Caitlin, I was taking Motrin and Tylenol on a daily basis like clockwork. I would skip going to the pool or out with my family after work due to the pain in my body. I was very depressed and isolating myself from activities that I really enjoy doing with my family and friends. I had pain on a daily basis in my lower back, shoulder blades, hips and left knee. Some days I had so much pain and inflammation in my body I felt like I couldn’t make it through the day.
Since starting FTF I am slowly starting to get control of my pain and inflammation through the online program one-on-one sessions with Caitlin. Inflammation is decreasing, I’m sitting up taller and I’m more aware of my posture both at work and in my daily routines outside of work. I am no longer having to take Motrin and Tylenol on a daily basis and I am able to walk longe distances without pain in my knees. “
“I never thought I would get out of back, knee, and postural pain. I also have a curvature in my back that I have been told most of my life cannot be changed. When I came to Caitlin, I wasn’t playing my favorite sport and I was miserable at work. Even doing simple things was really painful. Caitlin completely personalizes her services based on your needs. She takes considerable time to answer all of my questions and targets my sessions for exactly what I need that day and what my goals are. Caitlin always asks me what is going on and listens really well. She is a wealth of knowledge about yoga, human anatomy, and how humans should move. No two sessions are the same. We changed the way I move while doing simple things like sitting in a car or at my desk, putting dishes away and bending over to clean dog poop so that my back is protected from re-injury. I am healing my back partly to return to playing volleyball. I now understand how to be in my volleyball stances and movements so that I can avoid injury when I get back to playing. I am already standing up much straighter and feel more confident. I never thought I would feel this good in my body and I am so wow-ed by Caitlins mastery of her craft.” – Russel
“Caitlin really knows how to curate yoga program for sustainable strengthening. My shoulders and core used to be weaknesses but after a few sessions I see my posture has improved and the range of motion in my shoulders. She’s caring, fun, and a pleasure to work with. I’d recommend her to anyone interested in trying yoga therapy.”
“Caitlin is fantastic. I’ve gone to many of her classes, specifically those with a focus on healthy backs. I’ve worked with her as a therapist on issues I have with my neck and shoulders from work. She’s patient, attentive and offers focused one-on-one sessions. The exercises I’ve done really help me combat the negative effects of sitting at a desk all day, highly recommend working with this lovely and professional woman!!”
“Caitlin has helped me grow and learn a lot about myself. She helped me realize the strong power of breath when I was over stressed and unaware of my mental needs. Caitlin helped me focus my energy, both good and bad, on my breath. With every deep inhale and cleansing exhale, I felt my stress and anxiety lessen and lessen. Eight years later, my main mantra is to ‘just breathe.’ It has literally changed my life. Along with the power of breath, Caitlin has helped me keep a constant awareness of how I physically hold myself. Not only has my posture changed, but I have also become stronger and my confidence has increased. I recently began running and was having pain in my hip and side leg. Through working with Caitlin, my pain subsided. She put together an easy to follow yoga sequence that helped my muscles and ligaments heal. I fully trust in Caitlin as a yoga professional, and recommend her gentle way of teaching to anyone.”
“This program has been so amazing for my pain. In just one class, my neck and shoulder tension released more than it has in years. This program has been so instrumental in managing and controlling my stress. It’s so easy to be “on the hamster wheel”. I look forward to my yoga time and meditation and have noticed a huge difference in my pain level. My family has even noticed my calmer demeanor. I couldn’t believe how much my pain was linked to my stress.”