• Lilly Wang

Using dance to move through grief

#MorningWiggles is a movement to use music and wiggling (dancing with no rules, no moves and no expectations) to get through the shitty times we all face. Lilly Wang started #MorningWiggles after she lost her father unexpectedly while she was abroad.

She had a really hard time coping with the grief, especially in the morning. To help herself get out of bed, she started playing her favourite music and filming herself dancing on Instagram using the hashtag #MorningWiggles. It's her way of using music and creativity to move through grief.

Here's the Spotify playlist if you'd like to join in too.

Now, let's hear from Lilly.

Grief is one hell of a teacher. My Dad passed away unexpectedly on Feb. 1, 2018, four months after I left home for Australia.

That morning, I was on my way into work when I received the call from Mom.

I’ve come to realise how universal grief is. When you lose a parent, you join a club you never even knew existed.

You, and everyone you know, will die. Yet, we rarely talk about death or understand how to grieve.

Working at a psychology practice in Sydney, I’m lucky to have professional grief counsellors as coworkers. Unlike for many, work was the best possible place for me to be right after I received the news. Without the loving arms and guidance of my team, I wouldn’t be nearly as functional as I am now.

Since I lost my dad, a few friends have reached out about their own grief and loss. Going through this process, I think there’s a lot more we can do to spread awareness and literacy around grief.

To do my part, here’s some wisdom I’ve learned from friends and coworkers. If you find it helpful, please share with someone you love.

*NOTE: I’m going through this with a lot of care from therapists and mental health professionals. If you’re struggling, contact a therapist, call NSPL if you’re in the US, Lifeline in Australia or use this list of worldwide crisis text lines. (I’ve called in the past and they’re great.)*

  • Grief forces us to look at what people, situations and ways of thinking no longer serve us.

In the words of my friend and The Indigo Project Founder, Mary Hoang: “Imagine you and your life are standing in a room. When grief arrives, it takes up so much space in that room that there’s only a tiny bit left for you and your life. You end up in a corner, face to face with your entire life. You must then decide what you do and don’t have room for."

  • When we’re grieving, our personalities become intensified.

Grief amplifies whatever traits and behaviours we express normally. For instance, I notice I’ve become more sensitive, spontaneous and drawn to risk. This helped me be a little more compassionate toward myself and also understand some tension with my family members. They’re not trying to aggravate me, they’re just grieving like I am.

  • Rituals allow us to express our grief in a healthy way.

What’s something you can do on a regular basis to stay connected to your loved one? I started writing letters to my Dad on every month anniversary to tell him how I’m feeling and what’s going on in my life. I also made a candle and placed it on a shelf in my room next to my favourite photo of the two of us. I like to think my dad’s laughing whenever it flickers.

  • Grief is not something to be afraid of. It’s a fact of life.

All things change. Grief and loss are inevitable, but forgiveness is a skill we can learn and practice. What would the world be like if we all learned to forgive ourselves and one another gracefully?

As one friend told me, losing a parent is like “losing a part of who we are.” Dad was the one person I trusted most in life. How could bedrock disappear?

In the acute grief after Dad’s death, I had to leave my restaurant job because I didn’t have the energy for it anymore. I kept working four days per week at the psychology practice, but I felt like a shell of myself everyday. My best friend gave me a copy of Sheryl Sandberg’s Option B and I clung onto the strategies of writing down daily moments of joy and contributions just to keep going.

“Grief and loss is one of the most human places we can go to. It is at the core of what makes us human; our capacity to love and form deep and wholehearted relationships with those around us.”

Months later, and I still feel like I’m free falling. Since February, six of the seven housemates I moved in with have left. I’ve said goodbye to close friends and went on very emotional trips to New Zealand, China and Japan. I’m also coming up on my 6-month work and holiday employment limit at the psychology practice.

It’s easy to get sucked into the negative void. But when I think of it in a positive light, Dad is teaching me the lesson of impermanence.

Truth is, grief is about more than death. It’s a big shedding of excess baggage, habits, and ways of being that aren’t you. In Julia Cameron’s words, it’s like, “wiping the mirror, swiping at the blur you have kept between you and your true self.”

Along with my dad, I’ve lost a lot these past few months… friends, lovers, jobs. But I can now say I’m gaining something too: a sense of who I truly am. I’m still in the process of deciphering what is essential and good. And every day is different.

As my friend and coworker, April, puts it:

“Grief and loss is one of the most human places we can go to. It is at the core of what makes us human; our capacity to love and form deep and wholehearted relationships with those around us.”

I left home to try to find myself. I never would have predicted that day at the airport to be the last time I’d see my dad. But in my grief, I’m learning to accept wisdom and hope in whatever form they come.

To grief, loss and cherishing every lesson,

— Lilly

Check out Lilly's 'Wiggle with me' video - it's bound to make you smile.

Lilly Wang is a writer, mental health advocate and creator of Frothy Living, a mental health platform supporting resilience and well-being through cheeky events, dance music and #KeepingSocialMediaReal. Originally from Boston, MA she froths over all things experience design and mental health. Her favourite things are big trees, aioli, funky fashion, wordplay and design.

Follow her journey @frothyliving_ or on Facebook.

This post was originally published at frothyliving.com

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