By Meghan McCarthy
Beth Segaloff, LCSW, is no stranger to grief.
Years ago, Beth found her soulmate, Ben Sklaver, at the beach community where both of their families lived. Although their families had been connected for years, the two didn’t become a couple until spending July 4th together in 2008.
“I was blessed enough to have the magical moment that all people hope for,” said Beth. “I met Ben, and it was like we’d been waiting for each other our entire lives.”
Six weeks into their dating, Ben said to Beth: “I have good news and bad news. The good news is that we are getting married the next summer. The bad news is that I am deploying.”
Then, Ben went to Afghanistan, where he served as a US Army Captain in the 422nd Civil Affairs Battalion.
A year into his deployment and before the pair could wed, Ben was killed in action.
Waves of grief engulfed Beth fiercely and wildly.
Following her loss, Beth pursued healing. She tried talk therapy, EMDR, and energy healing, and she began practicing yoga regularly.
“I was on the mat, and I started crying. For months, I went to the studio and cried, because being on the mat was a safe place that allowed me to feel again,” said Beth.
Beth’s emotions became new waves to navigate.
As a clinical social worker, she spent years working with children. Beth also lived in New York when 9/11 occurred. It was then that her personal and professional lives began to intertwine.
“On September 12th, I walked down to the American Red Cross and ended up working with families after 9/11 who had lost loved ones,” said Beth.
So Beth took a risk and entered new waters: she quit her school position. She became certified as a reiki master, yoga teacher, EMDR therapist, and breathwork facilitator.
Her work brought her to Costa Rica, where she met Paul Denniston, the founder of Grief Yoga, and his partner David Kessler, an esteemed author and grief expert.
Immediately clicking, Beth paired with Paul to support Grief Yoga and Grief Movement teacher trainings and certifications. She also became a guest on David’s Tender Heart platform as a way to connect with and support others through their grief.
Ever since, Beth harnessed her grief into a powerful experience of helping others.
For caregivers of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (ADRD), grief can come in many losses and waves.
The loss of your past life. The loss of your loved one as you once knew them. The loss of time for yourself.
“Grief isn’t only the death of a loved one, but can be grief around the life you expected or loss of your own identity,” said Beth.
At the Penn Memory Center, Beth guides grief yoga for caregivers on a monthly basis.
“Everything is stored in the body and the body always remembers. For those with dementia, the body remembers what the mind may not,” said Beth.
At the forefront of Beth’s teaching is the promotion of individualized practice.
“You have permission to do as you choose,” said Beth. “I am there to guide and facilitate, but yoga can mean anything. We’re talking, we’re breathing, we’re aware — that is yoga.”
In each class, Beth promotes awareness of feelings throughout the body. Then, she uses gentle movement, breathwork, and journaling/drawing reflections to release the emotions that are stuck.
Promoting fluidity and individuality, Beth leads with the mantra: “Do what feels good to you in this flow.”
Each month, class centers on a specific theme. Examples include finding forgiveness, freedom within, exploring connection, and feeling stuck.
Another central pillar to the class is accessibility.
You do not need to have experience with yoga, or even functional mobility, to participate. With every pose, Beth offers modifications in chair and laying positions.
Now, many years after Ben’s passing, Beth still lives with waves of grief. But, his legacy empowers her with the strength to move forward.
“The feeling around grief can become shifted from a place of pain and sadness towards love and meaning… one breath at a time,” said Beth.
For caregivers, grief is an inevitable part of taking care of a loved one. But, with the right guide, these waves are easier to navigate.
Caregivers are welcome to join Beth’s next Grief Yoga class on the first Thursday of each month. RVSP forms can be accessed here.
To learn more about Beth, or to access her coaching, please find her website here.
This article is dedicated to Ben Sklaver, who bravely served as US Army Captain in the 422nd Civil Affairs Battalion.