Mother of girl killed by drunk driver uses yoga to help others struggling with loss – Bend Bulletin

Posted: February 25, 2020 at 1:43 am


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Its nearly as dark outside the yoga classroom overlooking the Deschutes River as it is inside, where Sarah Peterson takes a deep breath, holds it and exhales.

Reach up like youre reaching out to the heavens, the instructor tells Peterson and the yoga class. Like youre bringing in the love and the energy from the person you lost, and bring it into your heart.

Its been three years and five months since Peterson watched her 2-year-old daughter, Marley, die in a horrific wreck outside Sisters, and three years since Petersons father, Jim, died unexpectedly.

No, she hasnt healed. No, she isnt doing OK. Grief is a part of her life that wont go away.

But Peterson has found ways to cope.

Heals not a word in my vocabulary anymore, Peterson said. I dont think Ill ever heal from Marleys death, but I will integrate my grief. Its learning to live with it and enjoy the things that I still have, which are many, but also theres room for my deep and everlasting sadness.

Peterson formed Clear Mourning, a nonprofit with a yoga-focused outreach so others struggling with loss can benefit from what shes learned. Its a small, but sincere effort: the twice-a-month yoga class and a fundraising effort to provide massages to those suffering from grief.

Grief is the human condition, so really, were all dealing with grieving people, she said.

Two years ago in Deschutes County Circuit Court, Peterson screamed in the face of her daughters killer, David Fincher, at his sentencing, her words echoing off the walls of a packed courtroom.

Fincher was found guilty of first-degree manslaughter for the death of Marley, whom he killed in a drunken driving collision on the morning of Sept. 11, 2016.

You killed my baby! Peterson shouted at Fincher, serving a 23-year prison sentence.

These days, Peterson seems calm, and focused.

This is me, the true being, she said last week at a space at the Oregon State University Co-lab in Bend. My grief looked a lot different back in 2016. What you saw those days was a mother facing her daughters killer.

For a long time after her daughters death, Peterson didnt do anything, she said. Some days she would cry so hard, she threw up. One day, though, Peterson decided she wanted everyone to know how she felt, prompted by a feeling that there just wasnt enough black in my closet, she said.

She asked an artist friend to draw her a black, dead heart she could put on a shirt and wear all the time. A longtime hospice nurse, shed seen many families express a similar desire to wear something, like an armband or a veil, that let others know theyre in grief.

The artist created an image of a broken heart, which has since become the logo of Clear Mourning.

In the Clear Mourning yoga class, participants are encouraged to be fully present. In the process, theyll get more in tune with their bodies and, eventually, their emotions, according to instructor Nancy Lumpkin.

As a member of the OSU Co-lab, Clear Mourning has access to the OSU classrooms in the shared workspace, with impressive views of the lush Deschutes below.

Its a free class. The idea is to reach people who wouldnt usually do yoga, like another effort by Namaspa yoga teachers who work with senior citizens and with inmates at the Deschutes County jail.

Getting people into their bodies can also help get them in touch with their emotions, Lumpkin said.

Everyones got trauma and grief in their life. Its about allowing people to feel what they feel and let it all out, Lumpkin said. Its really focusing on creating a relationship with your grief.

Peterson started attending classes at the Namaspa yoga studio in Bend, which she first began going to in 2007. After losing her daughter and her father, she reflexively hid out at the studio, feeling a need to be around something familiar, around people who wouldnt stifle her grief.

Peterson wants to recreate for others that comforting feeling she got in the months after Marleys death, when Namaspa owner Suzie Newcome would let her in the back door.

Being with her friends at Namaspa, whom she called her tribe, was huge for Peterson.

I was really surrounded by a group of people whom I trusted and felt safe with, she said. I knew in those days, I could curl up in the corner and sob, and the teacher would wait for me at the end and walk me out.

Yoga isnt intended as a distraction for people in grief.

Yoga also let me be in the present moment, which also allowed me to feel closer to Marley, she said. I wasnt scared about the future and I didnt have anxiety about the past.

Its not easy to know what to say to someone in Petersons position.

One time, Peterson was in class with an instructor who told his class to breathe deep and reflect on how lucky they are to live in Bend.

Peterson wasnt having it. The comment ruined the class for her. She told the instructor afterward, Im the unluckiest person you know.

Another time, Lumpkin saw Peterson in the studio and asked an innocent-seeming question, just checking in: How ya doing?

Peterson was not well. Her spirit was broken and that day had been particularly hard. She told Lumpkin, Give me some space.

To Peterson, questions like How are you? put grieving people in the position of being brutally honest, or lying about how they really feel.

A much better question is, How is your spirit? she said. That way I dont have to say Im good or Im bad. I can speak to the true nature of my spirit.

Hearing Im sorry for your loss is fine, but what Jason Peterson, Sarahs husband, enjoys more is when someone shares a memory of Marley. Or how something happened the other day, and that person thought of her.

Just hearing her name is nice.

Dont be afraid to approach and talk about the loss its huge, he said. I find that so few people are willing to talk to me and engage about the loss. Even my closest family and friends dont do it as much as Id like. Thats the biggest thing dont let those memories go untold.

Often, the most helpful thing a supporter can say to someone in grief is nothing.

To listen another soul into a state of disclosure is quite possibly the greatest gift, Sarah Peterson said, quoting author Douglas Steele. Its not about having a response or an answer, or about fixing anything, its about listening and saying, Im here with you and Im not going away. Do what you need to do. Youre not by yourself.

Through all her loss , Sarah Peterson has learned it doesnt get easier. There are ups and downs, and an understanding there will more be dark days ahead. But how is her spirit?

My spirit these days is growing and strong, Peterson said. My spirit is being pieced back together into a brand-new shape.

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Mother of girl killed by drunk driver uses yoga to help others struggling with loss - Bend Bulletin

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February 25th, 2020 at 1:43 am

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