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  • Erika Barr

Part 3: My Journey to Conscious Parenting

Updated: Nov 17, 2019

When Allegra died I felt like I died along with her. And the truth is, a huge piece of me did. Although it was excruciatingly painful, it was necessary for me to go through this to propel me into healing parts of myself that hadn’t been looked at since I was a teenager…

I mentioned in my last post that I grew up in a chaotic home. That might’ve been an understatement. One of my earliest and most vivid memories was when we moved from Southern California to Northern California. I remember it being my last day at the preschool I was attending and all of the teachers hugging my mom and giving my brother and I coloring books and new boxes of crayons. They were all crying. We left school and did not head home. We went to someone else’s home. When we got there we were greeted by an older man and shown to our room. Again, my mom was crying. I asked her why we were there and she said, and I quote, “This is a battered women’s shelter. We are moving away.” I learned what a battered women’s shelter was at the age of 5.

Age 5

Within a few days we moved on and started a new life in Northern California.

And shocker…It was less than 6 months before my father joined us…

My father was in prison (for the first time) by the time I was 12. The first 12 years of my life were scary. Often times, REALLY scary. I lived in a home where safety did not exist. Fear was so palpable, it was like a fifth member of our family. It wasn’t just fear of my father. Fear was modeled for me in many different forms. This kind of living situation has a profound impact on a child. I never, ever felt safe. I also took on the impossible job of protector. Later in life this would manifest as that intense need for control I mentioned in Parts 1 & 2. I felt so out of control in my environment and witnessed my mom unable to protect herself, so it only made sense that I would develop a coping mechanism to “keep myself safe”.

I could write 50 pages on the traumas of my childhood, but that’s not the point of this post. The point is, Allegra dying brought up all of my past trauma and forced me to face it. All of the safety that I thought I had created in my adult life (through control) was crushed when I lost her. When Allegra died I could not function. I made Sean work from home for 2 weeks because I did not want him to leave my side. I started having panic attacks. I was terrified of having Sean or C out of my sight. In an instant life felt so fragile. They could die. They could die at any moment and there was nothing I could do to stop that from happening. The feelings of panic were so strong that I wanted to die. I wanted to be with Allegra. I didn’t want to feel this pain. I wanted to escape the pain and the fear. The fear. So much fear. 30 years of fear that I had stuffed and stuffed and stuffed. I couldn’t escape it now.

This was taken four days after Allegra died.

I could not take a pill to numb the feelings. I was pregnant. Losing Allegra in a time when I could not numb the pain away was the greatest gift. I had to feel it. I had to feel every raw, excruciating second of that grief and re-emerging trauma.

Crawling out of that hole took time. I cried every single day of my pregnancy. I cried because I missed Allegra’s perfect little body, smell, and bark. I missed everything about her. But there was something else. At the time I didn’t realize it, but in hindsight I know that I was also crying all of that built up trauma out of my body.

The grief was a process. I sought out help from therapists and healers. I practiced gentle yoga at home (mostly I cried on my mat). I read spiritual books, and books on personal development. I slept A LOT.

I realized in that time that I had to do my best to accept that most things are out of my control. I couldn’t fight it anymore. I had to learn to trust that everything was happening for my highest good. Every hardship I had experienced had a lesson wrapped up in it. I just wasn’t paying attention. Through this process, I started paying attention. Everything suddenly became so clear. My lens widened. I had previously been seeing the world through a narrow fear-based lens. Now I could see the world with that filter taken off. I could step back and notice where my thoughts were arising from.

I was by no means perfect after this awakening. Again, it was/is still a process, but I truly was seeing life through a new set of eyes. Once I woke up and became open to looking at and healing my past, I was able to pave the way towards a new future with my eyes wide open.

So how is all of this relevant to Conscious Parenting?

Prior to Allegra’s death, I was unconscious. That is really the only way to say it. I lived my life according to the rules, beliefs, and fears that my family of origin and culture had imposed on me. I wasn’t living life from my heart and was definitely not parenting from my heart. I was parenting the best way I knew how to, but up until that point it was from a place of fear, lack, control, and ego. I wanted to control everything my kid did to make sure he fit into the mold, to make sure he didn’t offend me, to make sure he didn’t make me look bad. I wanted people to see him as well-behaved because that meant I was doing a good job as a parent. If things were messy that meant I wasn’t in control.

Losing Allegra didn’t turn me into a conscious parent, but I was a completely changed person after her death. Had I not lost her, I don’t know that I would have ever been forced to look at my past, heal old wounds, and in turn, not pass them onto my children. I was now raw, open, and more connected to something out there beyond myself. Like I said, I was seeing the world through a new set of eyes. Some of my layers had been washed away. I was clean and ready for a shift.

Enter Dr. Shefali and her work on conscious parenting…

Some months after Allegra died Sean and I were watching Super Soul Sunday on the OWN network. A woman named Dr. Shefali Tsabury was being interviewed by Oprah. She had written a book called, “The Conscious Parent”. She spoke about parenting our children’s’ authentic spirits. She spoke about how our children are called here to show us where WE need to grow. She said things like, “The child NEVER needs fixing.” She talked about approaching the parent-child dynamic with the intention of attunement and connection. She described how we project our insecurities, our inadequacies, and our desires for greatness onto our children. I wanted to write down every single line she said. I was in tears by the end of the interview. Sean and I agreed that we needed to read her book immediately.

We had been doing everything all wrong and we had to figure out how to fix it…

Part 4, the last installment, coming up!

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