Holding Space for Myself: While Navigating Grief, Ayurveda, and Self-Care

momma & us

Holding space for others is something that mothers, teachers, therapists, coaches, and women in general often overdo. We often put others before ourselves, even at the expense of our own well-being. Last year was the most challenging time of my life and for the first time I had to completely let go. I allowed myself to let go of control and trust that the universe would hold me up, even if I felt like I was falling endlessly.

I will share a deeply personal experience of how I had to learn to hold space for myself while navigating life's challenges through the unexpected loss of my beloved mother.

As a therapist, and if you've worked with me, you know... I'm a very solution-oriented person and my role is to create a safe space for people, shake things up a bit, and help them find solutions to their problems. Through the holistic view of Ayurveda, I use food, nutrition, and lifestyle choices to set goals and trigger emotional responses that lead to self-reflection and transformation. Holding space for others is what I do best, holding space for myself was quite a challenge...and not having a solution to a problem, was uncharted territory.

Last year, my mother, who lived on the other side of the world, in Chile, began to experience physical pain. Doctors chalked it up to post-Covid reactions, so she was misdiagnosed for months. It turned out that the aches and pains had nothing to do with the virus, but were instead caused by an aggressive tumor on her head.

When my mom got us four sisters to talk about her condition, my immediate reaction was to say, "Everything is going to be okay. You're going to get better and we're going to get you through this. It's all part of a big plan." I know how to hold space for others, so again, I assumed my role of reassuring her and everyone that everything would be okay.

Before that... I too was going through a roller coaster, balancing work, the separation from my son's father, the complications of my visa application in Australia, and now the weight of my mother's illness felt very heavy in the background.

Within two weeks, I had to make the difficult decision to leave Australia and fly to Chile. The doctors warned that my mother's condition was critical and that she could pass away at any moment. We're talking about my mom, the woman I FaceTimed every morning while making breakfast, who I consulted on everything from what kind of blender I should buy, to financial and emotional advice. All of this not out of dependency, but fueled by the joy of her good company, our great friendship and, of course, seeking her naturally gifted qualities as a therapist and her wise and loving advice for all things big and small... SHE was "dying"...it seemed impossible and unbelievable.

Leaving meant leaving my 8 year old son with his father in Australia. I didn't know when I would be able to return due to uncertain travel restrictions, being unvaccinated and without permanent residence, so I was hoping and praying that it would all work out somehow.

It was a heartbreaking decision, but my mother's life was on the line and I couldn't bear the thought of not being there for her. 

Stressful days making decisions, as I was trying to keep my spirit up, holding space for my son, for my patients, for the rest of my over-dramatic Italian family panicking in Chile...and all I could do was stay strong using the tools I knew to cope with it all. My Ayurvedic practise. Self-Abhyanga (self-massage) every morning when I had time, a balancing Vata diet, Pranayama... It was so hard.

I spent three months by my mom's side, taking care of her, changing her diet, cooking for her, and introducing special supplements. It seemed that her health was improving and I finally returned to my life in Australia, hoping that things would return to normal.

However, not everything was normal. Having the thought of losing my mother woke me up as a mother too.

After facing the fragility of life, I decided to take my son on an adventure. I sold my car, arranged for him to take a school break, and we flew to Europe. We had a three-month trip planned, with a rough itinerary to explore various historical and cultural sites that we had learned about during his years of homeschooling. Places like the Colosseum, Athens, Venice, Spain, Lisbon, and many more. It was an amazing bonding experience, in my heart I knew we were making lasting memories. Who knows, one day I won't be here anymore and I wanted him to have wonderful childhood stories with his mom.

However, my trip was cut short when I received news of my mother's deteriorating health. She encouraged me to continue my journey, assuring me that she would be fine. However, my intuition was screaming strongly, so I impulsively bought a ticket from Barcelona to Santiago for the same week. When I arrived, I found my mom in delicate condition. I couldn't believe we were going through this again, making decisions about chemotherapy, radiation, and various interventions that I had always hoped would be a last resort. My older sister had not arrived from abroad and my younger sisters and I were emotionally distraught. I used my background in health to review some test results that even to the naked eye looked very bad... 

This continued for the next five months: midnight runs to the ER, days and nights spent in the hospital. My mother endured excruciating pain as the cancer had spread to her bones. It was difficult to witness her suffering and all I could do was lie down next to her, chant mantras, hold her hands tightly and pray for her recovery and comfort. There was so little that could be done. It all happened so fast, unexpectedly and unbelievably.

On December 12, 2022, She passed away. All my sisters were present: it was 5 am when we witnessed her soul leave after an arduous battle. It reminded me of giving birth, of the home birth I had with my son. It was a long, exhausting and uncertain experience, an extraordinary event that helped me understand the time it takes for a soul to leave the body, as well as the time it takes for a soul to enter. It is a complex experience, the convergence of the two dimensions: the physical and spiritual realms, the soul and the body. She didn't want to leave, and who would with her four daughters crying by her side...

Interestingly, I think her deterioration had a lot to do with her deep sense of loneliness, with all of us, her daughters, living abroad, she underestimated how much everyone else also loved her. More than 20,000 prayers were offered on her behalf through a WhatsApp chain. We were constantly receiving calls from friends and people who wanted to send their good wishes. It was an incredible and surreal experience.

It has taken me a year to recover from the start of this roller coaster. I made the decision to stop offering therapy for an entire year because I couldn't be there for anyone but her, and then myself... I had to find my peace again.

The hardest part was realizing that I couldn't fix anything; it was her own journey. Now, I must navigate her new presence, the intangible aspect that sometimes fills me with emotion and inspiration, while other times fills my heart with tears. Fortunately, I find peace in my daily practice, in the teachings of my gurus who have always been there for me, and in the support of my sisters, close friends, and in the company of my dog ​​and my beautiful son and his dad, with whom we are very good friends.

These experiences have given me a broader perspective on grief, both in myself and in others. They have fostered greater compassion towards those who experience pain, be it small or significant. Pain is something that originates in the soul and the body simply reflects it. Now more than ever, I hold tight to the principles of Ayurveda to maintain my health, a peaceful heart, and I feel stronger than ever the wish to share it with others.


Leon & I Europe 2022