Johnny Von Der Ahe loved to surf. He would catch waves at 56th Street or the Wedge, or Trestles if he could find someone to lead him there.

On the morning of July 1, 2020, the 15-year-old from Newport Beach had just recorded an epic surf session and was on his way home. Johnny was skateboarding outside his home in the community of Dover Shores with his cousin and younger brothers Jack and Charlie when he was hit by a car.

A sophomore entering Mater Dei High School, Johnny died of his injuries.

Johnny’s death shook the community of Dover Shores. Last year on October 28, which should have been Johnny’s 16th birthday, families decorated their homes with green lights – Johnny’s favorite color. Johnny’s 17th birthday was reportedly just a few weeks ago, and the children in the community wore green, or clothing from the “Ride On VDA” Foundation that the family started.

Amy Von Der Ahe, who has been teaching yoga for about 15 years, believes yoga saved her life after losing her oldest son. It took her about nine months after the tragedy before she resumed practicing.

“I thought about it a lot and tried a few times but just couldn’t do it,” she said. “I couldn’t do any of this. Then one day I just did it. I forced myself to do it a bit. Then every day it got a little better. Some days I take a few steps back and start all over again. But then I continue. Gradually, as I leaned into my yoga practice, it started to strengthen me emotionally and physically so that I could take another step forward.

Amy has long known the benefits of yoga. And she knew, especially during the coronavirus pandemic, that there had to be people suffering. She met some of them in Newport Beach and Laguna Beach, where she has long taught at Pacific Blue Yoga.

She decided to start a program called Yoga for Grieving Parents. She is writing and developing the program, which she hopes to officially launch in January, and has started Facebook and Instagram pages to develop a sense of community.

Newport Beach resident Amy Von Der Ahe is creating a yoga program, Yoga for Grieving Parents, for those suffering from the loss of a child.

(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

She said it’s a natural step in helping people in similar circumstances learn and develop methodologies for surviving what she called “indescribable pain”.

“I really have to believe that I am supposed to do something with this tragedy,” she said, tears welling in her eyes. “It’s a new task, a new challenge, but I just have to know that there is a higher purpose to it all. “

Amy Von Der Ahe said the program will likely last six to eight weeks and will feature both one-on-one work with her, in person or through Zoom, and self-study that she will guide.

It’s a positive thing for her and also for those she hopes to reach, said Andrea Martin, a Newport Beach-based yoga friend who introduced Von Der Ahe to the vinyasa style of yoga. Martin and Von Der Ahe now teach at Ekam Yoga & Pilates, located on Mariner’s Mile in Newport Beach.

“Although I am not a grieving parent, I am an empath,” Martin said. “When [Johnny’s death] got to Amy, we got so close. There’s this thing about yoga that has that connection.

“Yoga has given her a place to go, and that’s what I know she’s hoping for with her Yoga for Grieving Parents. They’re going to have a place to go. Not just a place to sit and talk about their child in a group community, but a real physical way to move your body. By calming your nervous system, it does wonders for your body.

Johnny Von Der Ahe of Newport Beach is shown on a fishing trip in June 2020, shortly before his death.

Johnny Von Der Ahe of Newport Beach is shown on a fishing trip in June 2020, shortly before his death.

(Courtesy of Amy Von Der Ahe)

Amy felt physical improvements, although the mental side can still be a struggle. She remains a strong mother to Jack, now in second grade at Newport Harbor High, and Charlie, an eighth grade student at Ensign Middle School.

She said she would like to eventually organize workshops at local studios and other places, where people facing loss and grief can come and work together.

“There are a lot of Facebook and Instagram groups dedicated to grieving parents, but that’s a lot of compassion, which is also needed sometimes,” she said. “Sometimes I just want to cry, and sometimes I just want other people to agree with me about the pain. But I also think you need a forum like this to help people make a difference. step forward and keep finding a way to live and find joy again. The pain will never go away emotionally, but physically it can. “

Amy enjoys talking about Johnny, keeping her memory as fresh as possible for those around her. She knows intimately how many others in her position might need help as well.

“If using this experience, both with my yoga and my pain, only helps one person, then I will have done something to make Johnny proud,” she said.

Her voice is weak again, but that’s okay.

It is the voice of someone who continues to ride the waves of life and wants to help others do the same.

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