A RECENT INCIDENT refocused me to my grief. Traveling by myself for the first time since before the pandemic, I was not prepared for the energy surrounding me and permeating every pore of my senses. The buzzing of people’s energy, the consumption of consumerism, the lack of respect for personal space, and the entitlement of “mine” over-stimulated my whole being. My stomach was in knots, my hands were shaking, and my inner chiquitx (inner child) was full.
Boarding the airplane was intense, like a survival test of the fittest fighting for the best seats or cows in a cattle truck pushing towards the end of the line with wide-eyed, tormented faces. I sat at an open seat using my hands to brush off energy. A couple using their outside voices with entitlement felt it necessary to disrespect me about how, why, and where my backpack was located and about the empty seat between myself and them. I took a breath and calmly proceeded to explain that I had taken a seat to care for myself. I was not prepared for the animosity coming out of their mouths. The stewardess intervened. Everyone calmed down, and the flight was on its way.
I looked out of the window and found myself in tears. Tears of grief for the lack of humanity, for the shame I felt, for feeling vulnerable, for the souls lost to the pandemic, for the wandering souls trying to find their way back from isolation, for my body not being strong enough, for feeling pendeja for not defending myself…tears for feeling death close by, tears just because…
Centering into myself, I heard the ancestors whisper that I should shower using the Nine Shower ritual and let the water cleanse me.
I found comfort in the voice of a comadrita, a kind woman nearby, who was able to hear my pain and grief. Her words refocused me to feel what I was feeling. Centering into myself, I heard the ancestors whisper that I should shower using the Nine Shower ritual and let the water cleanse me. The Nine Shower ritual would connect me to the nine stages of grief, from shock to reintegration.
Nine Shower Ritual
Shock was my body’s first reaction as my skin felt the cold water down my back, mimicking the shock my spine felt from all the chaotic energy and frenzy. It was important to connect both types of shock to my skin’s sensory mechanism in order to center what I was feeling.
Disorganization followed shock as my mind could not think. Where was my mask, my phone, my wallet, my room key? The lukewarm water in my face felt like a soft caress from my abuelita, and the mind chatter—the mitote of What if? What could have?—slowly disappeared.
Denial came next, as the third shower trickled to my hands. I cupped the water and splashed it on my face as my mind tried to deny the reality of the situation, preferring instead to believe a mistake was made. With each splash, I stated, “I love myself, I accept myself, I embrace myself.”
Depression or low feelings came as my heart felt immense sadness for the world, for humanity, for Mother Earth, for me, for you, for us. I used the water to receive clarity and release the sadness as I turned my body towards each sacred direction.
Guilt and shame set in as I thought the incident would not have occurred if I had done, or had not done, something. I felt like I didn’t have control over anything and that I should have been more vocal. I stood over the shower drain and watched the shame and guilt go down with the water into the darkness of the drain pipes.
6. Anxiety or Panic Attacks
The stress of the incident was overwhelming, and by the sixth shower, my legs folded, and I sat on the floor with the water running down my head and back. I slowly performed some deep-breathing exercises in each direction as if I were conducting a chanupa ceremony. The deep breathing helped me manage and reduce feelings of anxiety.