Breathwork as a Transmutative Practice for Grief & Ancestral Healing
by Em Mulholland, Energy Healer & Soulful Copywriter
“You’ll remember me when the west wind moves
Among the fields of barley…”
Even as I type these words, I can feel the swell of emotion rising to an aching crescendo in my throat as I cast my mind back to an extraordinarily powerful healing session I participated in a few short weeks ago. I was on retreat in Glastonbury, staying on the magical lands of Banbury Meadow, and I was fortunate enough to be sharing the trip with five special souls who I’ve cultivated beautiful personal and professional relationships with before and since our retreat.
It is always a sacred space when a group of people with a shared intention come together and as the six of us gathered in one of the yurts for our breathwork session, there was a sense of deep reverence for the space that Kathy (one of the group and a potent space holder and breathwork facilitator) had created for us. Stepping over the threshold into the yurt, I immediately detected the shift in the collective mood as I weaved my way to one of the beds and made myself comfortable; the soft music and incense drifting lazily through the air as the outside world slowly began to fade away. I’ve participated in breathwork sessions before and without fail, there is always a sense of trepidation as to what might arise: it’s pretty much impossible to predict, but a shift or transmutation of some magnitude always occurs without fail. I should have known with hindsight that it was going to be important, particularly after eighteen months of life being an emotional rollercoaster on multiple levels!
Kathy asked us to set an intention for the session and the words that immediately sprang into my head were these: “Empowerment. Rooted. Connected. Surrender”. I had no idea of their significance as I settled back on to the bed I had chosen and waited for Kathy’s soothing voice to start guiding us through the practice.
As soon as the playlist changed and Eva Cassidy began to sing ‘Fields of Gold’, I felt a tidal wave of raw grief rise up from my feet, cascade through my womb and crash through the rest of my body as my juddering breath turned into a sob. A choking wail of pain burst forth from my lips as my beloved Auntie Sandra (who was also my godmother and a key figure in my life until she passed with Parkinson’s Disease aged just 52) sprang into my mind. I realised in that moment that the sensations I had felt in my womb were telling of the fact that it was not only my grief that I needed to bear witness to today, but also the grief of my mother and my maternal grandmother. My grandparents on both sides are Irish, and traditionally it’s very much the Irish way that you keep going and carry on in the face of hardship and pain: two factors that, in my opinion, cause the hallowed waters of grief to become stuck and suppressed when they wish to rise. In the last year, I have become acutely aware of the ancestral grief that I carry in blood and bone and the responsibility I hold to acknowledge this and the tears of my ancestors — a responsibility which I do not take lightly.
As I felt the seemingly never-ending layers of grief transmute with each breath and felt the powerful shifts in the atmosphere in the yurt as each member of the group allowed and honoured what needed to flow from each of them, it occurred to me that I have permitted the feeling of guilt to cling to my grief around losing Sandra like a limpet stubbornly stuck to a rock. Guilt because I miscarried a child the month before she died and the fact that I was still mourning the loss of that pregnancy when she left this earthly plane, before becoming pregnant with our only child the month after she returned to Source and All That Is.
Given the emotions that are dancing within my psyche (in echo of the experience I had in the yurt) as I complete this article under the new moon in my sign of Cancer, I find a wry smile playing about my lips as I remember that I am participating in another group breathwork session with Kathy from the comfort of my home tomorrow: there is evidently another tidal wave waiting to be transmuted and I can feel it bubbling beneath the surface fiercely, like a volcano on the cusp of a cataclysmic eruption. Sandra came to me in my dreams last night; looking how I remember her before her illness ravaged her body and mind, and in the dream we were laughing playfully about how she’d forgotten to make me a cup of tea. This bittersweet snapshot of a soul I loved — and still love — unconditionally served as a simple reminder that our loved ones live on through us, and that breathwork for me is a sacred portal to allow grief to rise and be transmuted in a healthy and reverent way.
by Em Mulholland.
You can find out more about Em and her work by following her on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/one_spiritual_mother/