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Studio in Fort Myers Offers Yoga Workshop for Grieving Parents

Lyn Tally
Flickr / Creative Commons


Ruby and Pearl’s, a Fort Myers yoga studio, has begun a yoga workshop specifically tailored to parents or grandparents who have lost a child.

The workshop was created by Heather Holland from Fort Myers. Holland lost her three year old daughter Piper almost four years ago on Christmas Day.

“She took a nap shortly after opening presents with her cousins and my family and died in her sleep around 3 o’clock,” she said. “She had an enlarged heart that was undiagnosed.”

Holland said the grieving process has been unrelenting.

Since Piper’s death, Holland said she has sought out support groups in the hope she would find some comfort or at least some relief. However, she said, it wasn’t until she attended a yoga class that she actually felt a little better.

“Once I took the yoga class I didn’t feel the need to go back to those groups,” Holland explained.

Holland said the way she was holding her body through those grueling months had done some real damage. The prolonged grieving had even moved her jaw out of place, but she said yoga is actually healing the physical effects of her grief.

“With yoga it’s given me that fighting chance to fight off the physical elements that grief brings on,” Holland said. “With my body, I have been able to reconnect with it and internally, what it has done for me has been amazing. It doesn’t take the pain away. It doesn’t take the sadness away. But when I wake up in the morning I feel like I have a chance to get through the day.”

Heather Payne, a mental health counselor who works at the Golisano Children’s Hospital as a bereavement counselor for people who have lost a child, said taking a holistic approach to healing trauma is particularly helpful with grieving parents.

“You know, your body is in protect-you mode,” Payne explained. “Everything can tense up. People have developed migraines, neck problems, things like that.”

Payne said that’s why yoga provides a great opportunity to heal grief.

Once Holland had found some solace in yoga herself, she opened a studio in Fort Myers, so that other people in the area could experience the benefits yoga brought to her life.

The studio held its first bereavement yoga workshop with grieving parents last weekend.

The workshop included a series of relaxing yoga poses, which Holland said was aimed at opening up the “heart and throat chakras.”

“Obviously our heart is closed because our heart is broken and we are unwilling to let anything go into the heart in fear it will be broken again,” she said. “So, naturally, your shoulders do round guarding that heart.”

Payne said yoga can also provide some really crucial alone time for a grieving parent.

“That is where yoga can be really helpful because when you are doing yoga you really have to focus on your own body and what your body is doing,” Payne explained. “It takes you away from everything else and just lets you be in the moment and with yourself. And sometimes people need that so that they can actually open themselves up to grieving the way they need to.”

One of the first clients to attend the bereavement yoga workshop was Carrie Perk from Cape Coral.  Her family dog fatally bit her two-year old son, Liam, just three days before Holland lost her daughter.

Perk said the workshop reminded her that through this process taking care of her own physical and mental well-being was really important.

“You know it’s the biggest thing to be able to relax your mind,” Perk said. “And when you are a parent that has lost a child and going through the circumstances that we went through its really hard to ease your mind. Your mind is constantly racing about images you’ve seen and that you’ve gone through and it could be really hard to displace those.”

Gail Doxie from Fort Myers was also at the workshop. She lost her only son in an accident in 2006. Doxie said being in the studio surrounded by people who had also lost children was particularly therapeutic.

“I think any time that you don’t feel alone in something that has happened, you know, it’s helpful that there’s a commonality, that there is other people there that know, not exactly how you feel because everyone is grieving as an individual, but they know the trauma and they know the suffering of going through grief,” she said.

Holland says offering this workshop and other yoga classes has been the best therapy for her because, she said, she gets to help people. And in that way her daughter Piper’s memory lives on.

Ashley Lopez is a reporter forWGCUNews. A native of Miami, she graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a journalism degree.