By Lona O’Connor
The way that Lynn Migdal has chosen to grieve is very particular to her. She is the first to point that out, in the introduction to her 2017 book, Eternal Love Connections.
Her unorthodox approach adds a dash of magic and maybe even whimsy to the practice of grieving. While others may not follow exactly the path she chose, they can use it as a model to find their own ways, she hopes.
Migdal, a chiropractor, practiced for years in Delray Beach before July 12, 2012, when her two daughters, her ex-husband and their home were buried in a mudslide in Johnson’s Landing, British Columbia.
As crews searched for their bodies, Migdal went to British Columbia to wait for news.
Even in the midst of her own misery en route to the scene, Migdal couldn’t shake her habit of ministering to others.
“I was being helicoptered in with the fire chief of Vancouver, and I’m teaching him about his neck,” she recalled while eating lunch in a Delray Beach café.
The place where her house used to be — only the roof was visible — was a grisly sight.
“I was praying for the [search] dogs, but dogs are useless once the mud turns to cement, 32 feet of cement,” Migdal said.
The family members “were suffocated instantly, though it took a long time to get that information.”
Searchers found the bodies of Diana, 22, and Valentine Webber, and it took another week to find Rachel, 17. Their neighbor up the hill was never found.
For the next two years, Migdal’s first stage of grieving was to work.
“I wrote two books, started a nonprofit foundation and somehow directed and ran a natural healing center.”
She describes Wind Kissed as a “self-empowerment fantasy novel for children and adults.”
The second, Women’s Natural Guidebook, combines practical information with affirmations.
To liberate her emotions, Migdal spent time outside, in nature. She practiced deep, full breathing.
She took time every day to experience her grief head on. During that time, she bumped into something she came to call “eternal love connections,” which gave her the pleasure of feeling the presence of her departed loved ones.
In 2014, Migdal had a lightbulb moment.
As she watched, a 2-year-old boy took his mother’s cellphone and assumed the usual position, bent over and mesmerized by the screen. What she saw was a child in one of the worst possible positions for his spine and breathing.
“I realized I had to go into education. I can’t put my hands on everybody,” she said.
Thus was born what Migdal calls the Looking Up movement.
The Mayo Clinic in 2000 had already identified what is called the “forward neck posture,” worsened by hours spent bent over computers and, more recently, by constant scanning of cellphones. It is also known as “text neck” and can lead to arthritis, pinched nerves and other long-term negative effects.
One easy way to counteract text neck is to raise the cellphone to eye level rather than hunching over it. As part of teaching better posture, Migdal tries to entertain her audiences. Her nonprofit foundation, Looking Up, has sponsored events that included belly dancers and people dressed in skeleton T-shirts or cellphone costumes.
Foot-tapping rap and reggae versions of the song Look Up, can be done cha-cha-cha style or with a hula hoop.
Looking up is the simplest way to a healthier respiratory and nervous system in the cellphone age, and Migdal and her associates — other chiropractors, healers and therapists — have made it fun.
“We want to be an educational foundation that entertains,” said Migdal.
Sometime in the nearly six years since she lost her family, Migdal’s curly hair went from brown to silver. A small woman with a fashionable flair, she demonstrates, with a slightly self-mocking air, how she can adjust the wired Elvis-style collar of her short, spangled black jacket. She gives off a frisson of intense energy.
“Back in the ’70s, I was a hustle queen in New York City,” she said. “I Spanish-hustled my way through chiropractic school.”
Later, dancing came to her aid again.
One day, when she realized how much she missed dancing with her daughters, “I put their pictures on sticks and danced with them. If you’re missing, you’re not listening. I cry a lot, but I breathe and dance and connect with love. If you can connect with what you’re missing, you’re blissing. There is no lack. You can’t hug the body, but the energy never dies.”
She has held dances for parents who lost children and for divorced parents.
“Dancing can work for anger as well,” she said. “Parents feel so guilty that they don’t allow themselves pleasure.”
She now offers her services as a “wellness nanny,” helping families avoid mental and physical illness.
“I’ve done this work for over 40 years, I’ve gone through sudden death. I’m taking the show on the road,” she said.
Last year Migdal wrote this message in the newsletter of Bereaved Parents of the USA, whose national convention she also addressed: “Although Mother Nature caused my grief, she is also responsible for my healing and my return to gratitude. I am reminded by her daily that I have a mission of helping her to heal the rest of her children.”
To learn more, visit lookingupthemovement.com
Lona O’Connor has a lifelong interest in health and healthy living. Send column ideas to Lona13@bellsouth.net.