How Water Helped Me Heal From My Mother’s Death

There’s something in the water.

Nothing in life prepared me for the death of my mother. Not even her diagnosis of cancer.

There are just some things you’re never ready for, storms so powerful they turn the sturdiest houses to toothpicks with one lash. She was my favorite person and best friend, and without her, I felt lost. And the worst part was that I desperately wanted to run to her for help, have her offer me reassurance and guide me through ways to handle the pain. But I couldn’t.

With nowhere to turn, I dived into water. I don’t even know why. I drove to the beach and watched the waves crash against the jetty. I sat by a river and threw rocks for no reason. (I may have hit a duck by accident. She was fine. She flew away.) And one day I rented a kayak and paddled right to the middle of a lake, leaned back in the seat, closed my eyes, and did nothing but breathe mindfully.

Those early weeks of mourning were busy. Dishes still needed to be done, bills paid and floors vacuumed. Life went on. There really wasn’t time to grieve. But water is addictive. And after that first time out on the lake, I felt compelled to return. It became a weekly ritual, putting aside the work of the day and sliding into a kayak. Out there, there was no cell reception. Nobody to avoid. No obligations other than to stay focused and afloat, carefully guiding the craft with and against the wind.

One day in an angry state I paddled unreasonably far from the dock and found myself completely exhausted, unsure if I could get back by dusk. But there was no choice. There was no one to help, no one to call. There was nothing but a 10-foot boat, a beautiful, indifferent lake, and my own determination.

I shed a tear or two in frustration, then ordered my arms to do their job. And when I brought the kayak in, I felt a sense of satisfaction and confidence I’d never known before. It turns out you can handle almost anything if you have to, even if you don’t think you have it in you.


Water helped teach me that.

And it turns out I’m not the only one who’s discovered the healing power of H20. Water, it seems, is the cure for everything. Every week there’s a new study out suggesting that time spent on, in, or near water can benefit you emotionally, psychologically and physically. Being near water has been shown to reduce stress, improve mental cognition and enhance overall wellbeing. There’s even a term for it, ‘blue mind’, a phrase coined by marine biologist Wallace J. Nichols to describe the meditative state our brains supposedly enter when exposed to water. Any water. Fresh or saltwater, natural or man-made. It’s true, happiness may be as close as your bathtub.

This should come as a surprise to no one. We’ve been drawn to water since the dawn of time. Looking back, I remember my own childhood bedroom, my haven from the rest of the world, had swirly blue carpeting and soft blue walls because I wanted to feel like my bed was a boat. As an adult, I conquer insomnia by listening to the soothing burble of a babbling brook at night, thanks to a sound machine. And there’s nothing I love more than a steamy bath to wash away the tension of a rotten day. This is an example of research confirming what we all kind of knew already. Water makes everything better.

So the next time you feel lost and confused, frustrated and overwhelmed, uninspired, or simply a little unhappy, try something different. Go jump in a lake. Sit and watch the sea. Stand in the shower and think. It’s not hard to do, doesn’t cost much, and is way healthier than drowning your sorrows with a bottle of wine. You might find just the rejuvenation, peace of mind and clarity you’re looking for.

I did just that, and it helped bring me back to life.

Images via and

Comment: Have you ever used water therapy? How did it help you?