Skillful Mourning – an Addition for Your 2020 Survival Self Care Toolkit

I’d planned to make this week’s post a highlight from the Trauma Skills Summit but, for the countless time, have been floored by the ever lowering bar with news from Kenosha and Portland.

Instead, I’ll share one idea from one of the speakers from the Summit, Lama Rod Owens, co-author of Radical Dharma.

I’ve deleted a lot of the detail around what feels so heartbreaking.

It’s not just the police and other white vigilante brutality and violence being excused over and over and over.

It’s that some white people persist in talking about other crimes (which consequences exist for) as if they’re somehow equal to the seemingly sanctioned state violence against Black people.

As if perpetrators of those crimes aren’t either actively being sought or already dealing with the consequences.

The US President compared the bad police people (who keep shooting Black people while showing they CAN de-escalate when it comes to arresting white people) to golfers who mess up their shot. As if the lives lost and ruined are a bad game.

I haven’t yet seen any kind of mass uprising of white people distancing ourselves from the hideous terrorism of white supremacists in the way so many seem to expect with other types of terrorism.

I can’t believe that saying that Black Lives Matter and being AGAINST fascism are seen by many as somehow controversial.

Remembering Lama Rod Owens’ mention of Skillful Mourning has helped me turn my day around.

What is Skillful Mourning?

We don’t KNOW what new horrors are going to come from the news next.

We don’t know how much lower the bar for basic decency and humanity towards our fellow humans can sink.

But we can be pretty sure that more news will, at some point, make us think, I just CAN’T…

By setting time aside to deliberately reflect and heal, we can at least do whatever will help us in those moments.

For me today, having raged at the idea of getting on my yoga mat, as soon as I remembered the phrase ‘skillful mourning’, I was able to breathe a little more easily.

I set my yoga mat up outside and was able channel the rage into my practice.

And yes, am aware of my white and other privilege

I cannot even begin to imagine how grieving communities are managing to keep on keeping on.

Even here, from inside my white skin on the west coast of Ireland, feeling the feelings felt too much and I actually got up and walked away from my mat mid practice.

I took clothes out of the washing machine and hung them out to dry.

Then I forced myself back onto the yoga mat and by the time I finished my practice, I felt a little better.

I was able to think about the little things I might be able to do (like joining the voices across my new home county saying Mayo says no to racism).

Supercharged Self Care

I ate a comfort food lunch of creamy (oat milk and Flora = vegan deliciousness) mashed potato with some nutmeg for wellbeing, baked beans and Denny’s vegan sausages. All mushed up as if a toddler were eating it.

Even then, chairs felt too high so I took some work out to the front lawn, along with a magazine, and allowed myself to hang out with the bugs on the grass. A butterfly crawled over the page, ants came and went.

All reminded me that we are part of something far far greater – looking up at the mountain also helped.

My FitBit gave up and while I’ve managed to reset it, this involved a stretch of time away from my phone and FitBit. Almost as if the Universe was amplifying my Be With the Bugs vibe.

Am now SMILING again.

Bhu Mudra helped as did literally hugging the earth allowing tears.

Reading the August issue of Stellar magazine helped. It’s unexpected but much needed inclusion of activism and support for Black Lives Matter as well as explorations of racism in Ireland helped me feel safer somehow. Like of COURSE most people believe in equality. The issue included first person accounts and information around Direct Provision (of COURSE a system set up for 6 months 20 years ago is unfit for purpose) and it is my new favourite Irish magazine.

I’d not heard of their cover star Terrie McEvoy before but apart from loving her rescue dog support message, her return to nursing during the pandemic reminded me that there are way more people on this planet we share who care about others as well as ourselves.

By the time I watch the news later, I’ll be my usual more resilient self but already, I’m grateful that I allowed myself a little time to cry and grieve and mourn.

2020 is bringing up a LOT for healing

How might you build some Skillful Mourning time into your schedule so when waves of grief hit, you’re better able to cling onto ways to help yourself?

I’m conscious that self care is the core of my work and I’ve set up my practice to be able to occasionally postpone things. I don’t have clients until this evening so had a stretch of a few hours in which to weep and wail (in my imagination but acknowledging the feelings and feeling them HELPED).

You might be struggling with the idea of sending kids back to school or going back to workplaces that don’t feel safe.

Maybe you’re struggling with something completely unrelated.

Whatever it is, give yourself a break.


If you can’t (as I was fortunate enough to be able to today) give yourself an actual long break, schedule in some grief time for as soon as it IS possible. Do some Skillful Mourning in a way that suits at a time that works for you.

If you have kids, include them. Let yourselves acknowledge the pain and fear so it can be properly processed and transformed.

We are birthing a new, fairer, more sustainable world for everyone

I’m not a mother but, by most accounts, labour HURTS.

I hope we’re hearing the dying gasps of white supremacy but whether, as some fear, democracy is dead in the US or whether things had to get this bad to improve, we can ALL do more to create a world with justice and peace for everyone.

And to do that, we need to take better care of ourselves so we don’t burn out or give up.

As Glennon Doyle says, ‘We can do hard things’.

With so much love,

Eve Menezes Cunningham self care coach therapist supervisor

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