I walk to yoga class most days. It’s still a bit challenging with the weather, since it is kind of cool, but also threatening hot summer like temperatures. I dress in layers and try let myself be cold on the way there, so I am not sweating in my warm clothes during the walk back.

Recently I bought a workout shirt that I love, from the Nike outlet store. It’s sleeveless and a color that I don’t recall seeing before, kind of burnt orange. Really nice. So I find, I can wear this light shirt under the outer one, which I will tie around my waist for the return walk after class.

Last week, I donned this wardrobe ensemble as described, and as I was nearly at yoga when I noticed a stranger approaching the same cross walk moving toward me, also on foot. What struck me is that this young man wore a Nike t-shirt that was burnt orange and part of the same line of clothes I’d purchased. I thought about how my burnt orange was underneath and we unknowingly had this in common, while most of our other visible attributes were quiet different.

I could see his shirt, and I felt connected instantly. I considered lifting my outer shirt, just to show that I had the same thing on. Of course that wouldn’t have been a good idea, but I was comforted just knowing that we matched. We made the Nike connection. I knew it, he didn’t.

And this is the way connection works. When we see something in another, that resonates deeply within us we feel this “connection.” Whether we interact with the person or not, there are some nice brain chemicals that can mist the brain with feel good neurons! And since humans are hard wired for connection, this is a sure fire way to boost not only our mood, but our experience of life overall.

Recall the last time you made a new friend. What did you see in each other that sank up? I can easily tell you about mine. I was at the Heroic (heroic.us) launch in Austin, Texas last month. The first new friend I made was actually a pediatric nurse. Bam! The second friend I made was from Spain (I lived there as an exchange student in high school) and currently lives in London (I lived there as a college student) and we immediately clicked. These micro-moments of connection continued as I met people many new folks at this event, that I am now in contact with.

Since the name of my company is “LCM Connect” I thought it important to bring to light this idea of connection so that we can learn to recognize it, and instantly tap into the warm vibration and energy that is released in our brains (and our GI tracts) when we experience it.

Connection is what inspired me to want to show my “underneath” burnt orange shirt to a stranger. Connection is what heals us after Trauma (check out What Happened to You by Dr. Bruce Perry and Oprah). The neurotransmitters released during moments of connection overlap those same chemicals experienced during and after childbirth (see Serotonin and Oxytocin if curious). They are as natural in our bodies as the beating of our very hearts.

If you are still not sold on the power of connection think about our allegiances to groups like sports teams. If you are a fan, and you meet someone who is a fan of the same team, you have an instant chemistry! If we meet someone who is in the same line of work, or knows someone we know, we get the hit! Hopefully by now you are bringing to mind some experience of connection that you can carry into this next section.

So let’s talk connection and grief. Because for me, one of the ways I lost myself was that I didn’t feel connected to anything. My anchor has been my nearly 23-year-old son Zach with whom I activate this connection energy without even trying.  But at times, that connection felt like all I could access. I tried to stay connected in my work as a corporate sales leader. I tried in my friendships and in my family.

But the kicker of profound loss is that we don’t wear it. We don’t share it. We hide it. We numb it. We bury it. We tuck it away and hope we never hear from it again. Which never works because our pain is actually yearning for our love and attention. We may be walking around with burnt orange yoga shirts underneath our outer clothes, but we never see others in a burnt orange Nike shirt because just as we are indoctrinated to do, we never take that outer shirt off, and can’t find each other or see ourselves in the other.

There are ways to maximize our ability to heal, not to “move forward” but to actually integrate our grief, that can make our new normal more comfortable. Connecting with others for me, has been the fast track to feeling less alone and more able to manage the unmanageable pain of burying loved ones and especially our children, family and dear friends who have become our family.

As I ponder how to best serve the grief community, a major lever that I want to share is this connection lever we can pull to feel less alone. Again, the science on this is unequivocal, it’s not just my experience, although I would also consider that sufficient good news about how we heal in and of itself. But I am not the only who benefits from this deep sense of connection with others. It’s just the way we are made. So we want to get skilled at finding and making these connections.

I think I will wear that orange shirt to yoga today. And as I do, I will be on the lookout for micro-moments of connection with other humans and nature to help ground me today. Maybe someday we can all be proud of our scars, and wear them openly as medals and show off our burnt orange shirts. But baby steps work too. Just realizing you are not alone in your grief suffering (although your experience may be unique) can get you started.

It’s hard to enter a room and ask “Hey, anyone else here buried their kids?” So I don’t do that. But I am open hearted and my grief radar is always working to find other souls who are also yearning for a path of healing, one where we can all wear our burnt orange shirts and can smile knowingly in soft connection, instead of keeping that outer shirt on, not knowing anyone else in the room has a broken damn heart.


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