Bereavement Yoga

“You should really consider coming to Bereavement Yoga,” My grief counselor suggested. She hung on the word ‘really’ for an uncomfortable amount of time while grinning.

I finished explaining to her my mixed emotions about my upcoming move. My husband passed away ten weeks prior, and I was in the process of moving into a new apartment. A place where the memories didn’t haunt me, but more importantly it was as far away from the place he died.

I sniffled and nodded. I’ll be there for yoga class.

Bereavement Yoga Class

I showed up on Monday evening for my first bereavement yoga. When I approached the security guard to ask where the yoga room was, he stared at me like I had a booger hanging from my nose. As if I was back in high school, talking to a boy who was too socially stifled to answer. So I asked again. He shook his head and pointed up the escalator.

He glared at me as I ascended. I pursed my lips, and I waved at him. He glanced away. For some reason, being widowed made me feel like the letters w-i-d-o-w were written across my forehead for everyone to know. Realistically, that’s an absurdity to believe, but everywhere I went, I felt like my tragedies were tattooed to my body for everyone to see and judge.

The class didn’t start on time, which was okay because I was running minutes late. Trailing close behind me was my grief counselor who was heavy stepping and breathing deeply

“I’m so glad you came!” She brushed her hand across my shoulders like I was a kitten she adopted.

Bereavement yoga derailed my grief journey and led me to the life I am currently living today.

I had been visiting my grief counselor once every couple weeks, just like the widow communities encouraged. I wrote in my grief journal when full and agonizing memories ricochet through my skull. And before bed, I murmured my three gratitudes of the day: I’m grateful for my bed, I’m grateful for my family who still loves me, and I’m grateful for Bruno Mars.

I followed the suggestions, the books, the online resources, hell I even read a memoir written by a widow wearing stilettos, or something like that.

But when I stepped foot into that dark, musky room for 45 minutes of yoga, all sorts of bullshit started flying.

I followed a step behind my counselor. “Yeah, well…” my words drifted off when I locked eyes with a woman with coarse white hair, and cavernous crooked wrinkles around her eyes and streamed all the way down her face. I broke eye contact and stared at the floor, and then raised my eyes to see everyone was wide eyed and gazing at me.

I was the youngest by 50 years.

“I’m sorry for running late, everyone, grab a chair for breathing exercises,” the counselor said.

I walked over to grab my chair, and a cold, bony hand rests on top of mine. I saw a man who had a cataract in one eye which gave it a milky appearance. “The chairs are for those who can’t lay down on the ground,” he told me.

I was the only person laying on the floor for the next 45 minutes. But at least I had a blanket covering me. And a woman was kind enough to give me her extra bottle of water. It was relaxing.

But, I stopped going to grief counseling after that. And I didn’t return to bereavement yoga, although I considered one more time.

And I no longer paid attention to the grief rule book and suggestions.

My husband used to tell me all the time I was different. And I became different after he died, and I hated it. I struggled with wanting to be normal. To go back to a time where I felt like I belonged.

But everything has changed. And I needed to change too and accept there was no going back in time. There wasn’t anything I could do to rewind. All I had left of him was the lessons, love, and memories of a shattered life. But I wanted to make him proud of me, damnit. And if he could see me, I wanted him to think “yep, that’s my wife.” So, that’s what I did.

The love I shared with him gives me the strength to heal and the courage to chase a better life. His love, and his fight for his last breath, it humbles me because life cannot get any worse than watching my best friend, and true love consumed by something I can’t see. Those weeks watching him deteriorate, I felt weak, and I didn’t understand death was waiting for him. And I’m angry at myself for it, and I feel like a failure because of it.

But to become stronger, I needed to fail.

Because once we fail and accept those failures, that’s when we get stronger. That’s when new fibers form through the repetitions of life experiences.

Grief was changing me. And as it changed me, I felt it less. But it doesn’t minimize the love I have for him and what we had.

As others believe grief is like an ocean, I do not see the same thing. I won’t stand on a beach waiting for a wave to come or a storm to roll over me. Because why would I wait for a wave or storm to come? Wouldn’t it be in my best interest to do something so when the catastrophe arrives, I’m not standing on the beach unprotected?

I walked out of the yoga room realizing grief wasn’t the storm. I am the storm and see what I can do.


Julia lost her husband in 2013 to a rare liver cancer when she was 28 years old. In the months and years afterwards, Julia continues to use her grief into a positive lifestyle change. She has been involved in NCAA Athletics for 14 years, and has continued to document her fitness, athletic and grief journey in her heartbreaking and honest blog The Unwanted W. Julia's journey has been featured in US Lacrosse Magazine, SoulCycle, and The Guardian. She currently writes for an online fitness and nutrition journal and works as a professional fitness instructor in Navarre, FL.

To contact Julia, please visit her website or visit her Instagram for health tips at @juliasteiercoaching