11 Sep Just Breathe: The Unexpected Lesson I Learned on Loss and Grief from My Own Nutritionist
“Some people arrive and make such a beautiful impact on our life that you can barely remember what life was like without them.” – Anna Taylor
If you think about it we all probably could name at least one person in our life who has impacted us in such a way that they’ve actually changed our course of direction.
Some people will say it’s their spouse or maybe even their children, and while there is no doubt these people have the power to change our lives, I want to talk today about the people outside of our close circle of family and friends: the people who you may least expect, or who you certainly weren’t planning on.
My “person” who became “my game changer” and who I want to introduce you to today is, Emily Potter.
Emily was my first nutritionist years ago (yes, even I have my own nutritionist) and while Emily helped me to completely change my health by showing me a totally new and mindful way of living, what I really ended up getting from Emily stretched so much further beyond the food.
Emily taught me a very valuable lesson that no matter how difficult, challenging, or painful our past is – we all have the power to use our stories as a source of strength and guidance.
Emily taught me this, by showing me this.
You see in the summer of 2005, Emily had just graduated from the University of Idaho and had decided to chase her dreams of becoming a professional dancer and so she packed up her point shoes and moved to New York City. Emily had been in NYC for only two months when the unimaginable happened: the same day as her first professional audition, she received a tragic phone call from her mom. Emily’s father and two brothers were flying a private airplane to a family reunion in Idaho when their plane crashed. There were no survivors.
When I first heard Emily’s story I almost couldn’t believe it. Up until that point I knew people in my life, including myself, who had experienced tragedy, pain, loss and suffering but Emily’s story was on such a different level than I had ever experienced in my own life.
What was perhaps even more shocking to me was meeting Emily only five years after the accident and seeing the level of strength compassion and clarity she was living her life at. She wasn’t broken, sad or depressed. She was thriving and I wanted to know how.
As we gr3ew closer and got to know her better, I also began to understand the how and it is, I believe, greatest lesson and it is a lesson that has inspired me to this day.
I reached out to Emily recently and asked her if she would be willing to share her story with you all in the hope that you may be as impacted and inspired by her journey as I was. I am beyond thrilled that she said – yes.
Here is my conversation with Emily,
What got you through those first few moments/days/weeks after learning the news about your dad and brothers?
“One of the harder parts of my story is the day that I got the news. I had just finished my first audition when I got the phone call and so I immediately went to the airport to fly home. I was terrified to get on a plane but I had no other choice. I had nothing with me but a Discman with one single CD. On this CD was the song ‘Just Breathe’ by Anna Nalick. The whole flight, which was 6 hours from JFK to Boise, I played that song on repeat. It’s a very therapeutic song for me because she keeps saying ‘just breathe’ and that was the only thing I could do in that moment. I couldn’t control anything, you feel like your world is literally crashing down and the pieces are strewn about and so that was quite a mantra for me during those next few days and weeks – and really the rest of my life.”
What was your “first” turning point?
“For me it was my first yoga class ever. It was probably about 6 weeks after the plane crash and I went into this yoga room – I had no idea what yoga even was. This was in 2005; I was 22, so it wasn’t really on my radar yet. I went into the class, laid out my mat and approached it like I would a dance class. I was really concerned with how I looked and how my form was. It was when the instructor told the class to ‘”Just breathe. Take a deep breath in and a deep exhalation out.’” And it was in that exact moment when it was almost, like, this wake up call. I had been saying this mantra in my head for weeks and then to have my instructor repeat it, it gave me permission to slow down and be present. It was just like, ‘”Oh my God, I can feel my body again for the first time.’”
For weeks since the accident I had been walking through life with this numbness where the world was spinning around me in total chaos. To sit there and breathe I felt like – I do have a heartbeat, I am still a breathing, functioning human being who still has a life on this earth and therefore I still have a purpose. It was this epiphany for me!”
What did you do with that epiphany?
“After the class was done I went to the teacher and said, ‘I want to be a yoga teacher, how do I do it?’ She told me there was a yoga training that weekend and I could go and take my first level and learn. So, I went to this training where everyone knows yoga, everyone does yoga and here I was. I didn’t know what warrior was, I didn’t know what down dog was, I didn’t know any of these things.
But it was during this training that I experienced my next shift.
While I was immersed in these classes, I was meeting peers and students that were much more of the wellness realm. They were mindful not only about moving their bodies, but also about eating well and being well and I found it to be just an amazing way to live your life.
For me, I was fresh out of college and eating healthy or mindfully was the last thing on my mind. I really got into the wellness stuff and it became my peace and my prayer. Just like running can be someone’s peace and prayer. This was mine. I also found that I really got into the meditation component of the yoga practice too.”
How did meditation help you through this time in your life?
“I ended up taking a two-year course in meditation from the Berkeley Psychic Institute which was rooted in clairvoyant training. I was on this mission where I really needed to connect with my dad and brothers and I didn’t know what that meant. I didn’t know if it was even possible but I needed to know that they were still somewhere.
When you lose people you love it really bumps up against your belief systems and makes you question ‘What really does happen? Is there a heaven? Is there a God?’
The meditation for me was really a healing, grounding tool to use that allowed me to get clear enough so I could connect. I remember very, very specifically doing a couple readings during these trainings where I could feel my dad and my brother’s presence and I just knew they were there. The veil was thin and I could feel them, I could sense them and I knew they were still there impacting and influencing my life greatly, it was just in a different way.
When I got to that point – and that was about two years after the crash – that was when my breakthrough happened.
It was painful and there are many, many triggers for me that still come up multiple times a day, but I realize now it’s ok. They are where they are supposed to be and I’m where I’m supposed to be. I have a really powerful army of angels and I feel like the blessings in my life certainly show them off because they’ve been pretty prominent in my life.”
Do you think people can experience and create radicle shifts in their own lives without having to experience a “rock-bottom?”
“People can absolutely experience profound shifts without having to go through that kind of profound loss. That is one thing I have learned in grieving and unfortunately in being an expert in loss and grieving, it’s that there is this spectrum of pain.
No matter what your loss is, pain is pain. It’s the same emotion. We feel hurt, we feel heartbreak, we feel like our earth is shattering and I felt like in the first few years after losing my guys, nothing could compare to it. It wasn’t until a yoga class where a friend helped me realize it was ok that it was big. It’s ok that it’s that enormous because that gives me kind of this cool superpower to relate to the whole spectrum of pain. I hope that in my silver lining it gives me this kind of ultra-super compassion and understanding of loss and grief and sadness and sorrow.
Like I said though, whether it’s a nephew, a dog, a grandmother, a cat, or three members of your immediate family, it’s all the same and yet it’s completely different.”
What was the secret for you in turning your story into your strength?
“For me it was getting quiet enough and still enough to listen to my intuition. It was slowing down the chaos in my mind and just listening. Throughout this journey, each time I’ve been able to make a shift, or make progress towards a new way of being, I was able to slow myself down enough to where I could really listen to my intuition and I could begin to ask myself, ‘What do I want? What do I really need?’
That day in my first yoga class, when I decided to go for my 200-hour yoga certification, I could have just as easily missed that signal or even talked myself out of it. I had only gone to one class, I didn’t’ know any of the poses, I didn’t know the language, this world was so foreign to me and my world still felt like it was in pieces, but still through that experience of slowing down and ‘just breathing’- like my teacher had guided me to do – I could feel my intuition speaking to me and I just knew this was my purpose.”
How do you get your clients to that level of stillness where they can tap into their own intuition?
“Just like shifting someone’s diet, the way I do it is I give gentle ‘“upgrades”’ – instead of this, have that – this way they don’t feel deprived. I believe the number one thing I support people with is I give them permission to slow their life down enough to take care of themselves again. We really do live in this rat race world. We feel this constant pressure to go-go-go and if you’re not doing that, then you’re doing something wrong. And so just like upgrading, I’ll have my clients start with the first ten seconds of their morning, right when they open their eyes, I’ll ask them to do one of the following,
- Say something nice to yourself
- Think about and say something you are grateful for
- Speak an affirmation or set an intention
- Simply say a word that brings you peace and positivity
The goal is to do whatever it takes to be grateful. Gratitude is the highest energetic vibration a human being can attain so if you can get there within the first ten seconds of your day, it’s gotta be a pretty good day.
From twn seconds, if they are still present, I’ll have them upgrade to 20 seconds.
Then I might ask them for the first two minutes of their morning – Put your feet on the ground, close your eyes and connect with yourself. Maybe take a few deep breaths.
Turn that into five minutes. – Do a meditation or a five-minute yoga practice.
The goal would be to build up to ten minutes within one month.
These tiny little pockets of time and space will continue to build, if it resonates with the person, and in that space, clarity and answers will start to come up for them.”
What is the ultimate goal?
“The ultimate goal is to walk through your entire day with mindfulness, ease, grace and space between all the different activities in your life. Of course, that doesn’t always happen and that certainly doesn’t happen in my world with a two-year-old and a four-year-old, but that is the goal.
I try to remind my clients, this is about the journey. Doing a practice like this can help someone learn over time how to stop and smell the roses a bit more and how to take a little bit more time and weed out those distractions in one’s life. From there you can get really conscious about the choices you’re making and how you’re spending your time. Ultimately the goal is to create enough space where you can get really clear and connect with that inner voice.”
Lindsay’s Food for Thought
I’ve known Emily now for more than six years and of the many lesson’s I’ve learned from her, probably the most impactful has been this; We will all experience loss in our life and because of that we will all experience a tremendous amount of pain and just like breathing, this experience is something we share in common and which unites us.
Sometimes loss is felt through losing a loved one, but other times, loss may come through losing a job, a relationship, or maybe even a dream. And because of that we’ll feel varying degrees and levels of hurt, heartbreak and we may even feel like our earth is shattering around us. But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing and it might not even be the purpose.
If you think about it, it’s through loss that new information can show up. Loss doesn’t have to be the end of your story, and as cliché as it sounds, it can be your beginning. By learning how to slow down and just breathe, the pain we experience through loss also has the potential to bring us a great deal of answers and purpose.
Years ago, when Emily was first telling me about her story she said something that really affected me. She said that in that moment when she was stripped of her dad and brothers, she was also stripped of much of her identity. Before then, she had always defined herself as a sister, as a “daddy’s girl,” and as someone who was a part of this family of five, but in losing these people in her life, she also lost that identity.
Anytime we lose something it’s natural to feel like we’re losing a piece of ourselves. We lose a job, we go through a divorce, we get sick – we lose these titles that we attach to ourselves, or titles we think we’re supposed to have like “lawyer,” “wife,” “healthy,” etc. – and therefore it’s easy to feel like our identity has changed or somehow we’re less than we’re supposed to be. But it’s not “titles” that define us. Being a husband, an accountant, a daughter or a daddy’s girl doesn’t make us who we are. Who we are at our core and who we really are as a person is what truly matters and although some of us will spend a lifetime trying to figure this out, it’s THAT core belief in ourselves that can never be taken from us.
I now believe that experiencing the pain of loss creates an opportunity for us to experience a space in our lives. Sometimes these spaces may feel enormous and sometimes they may feel like seconds, but no matter what, it’s space that forces us out of our daily routines and gives us a chance to surrender so that the what and the who we are truly meant to be can have a chance to show up even more in our lives. All we have to do to initiate it is to slow down and “just breathe.”
What Emily is up to now
Emily has her own practice, NourishMint Wellness where she see’s clients from all over the world. She is most excited about her brand-new program she just launched called “Your 40 Weeks of Your Healthy Pregnancy.” This is such an innovative program for anyone who’s pregnant or looking to become pregnant and wants to have a best friend and nutritionist in their back pocket for the journey.
During Emily’s second pregnancy with her daughter Scarlett, she filmed five-minute videos every week about what she was doing, what she was eating, what supplements she was taking, what she was reading, and anything else you can imagine wanting to know through the lens of a holistic mom and clinical nutritionist. She then put those videos together in a series along with a comprehensive e-book so that you can follow along with her experience and get really great encouragement and advice along the way. Because Emily tends to lean on the more holistic and natural side of things, she gives you all kinds of ideas and inspiration on how to have a natural pregnancy.
Emily has had two natural births with zero intervention and as an outsider I can tell you, I knew Emily through both of her pregnancies and it was amazing to watch her journey through each one with so much ease and grace.
Emily has been so kind to offer to the RHN community $20 off the cost of the program. All you have to do is enter the code “realhealing20off” during checkout.
Another ongoing project of Emily’s, is her DIYCleanse, which is a seven-day cleanse for people who hate cleansing. Anyone can do this cleanse successfully and most people can do this cleanse without getting too hungry or having to disrupt one’s entire world. It incorporates food, juice and smoothies as a wonderful way to detox the body and boost your energy. In fact, for the thousands of individuals who have participated in her program, most will say that they completed it feeling super charged and super energized!
Emily still teaches yoga on occasion, and takes advantage of her yoga practice when she gets a moment in her busy life. She hopes to continue to help and inspire those around her through her nutrition practice, yoga and with the gentle reminder and permission to “‘just breathe.”’
You can click here to read more from my conversation with Emily.