What can we do if our sadness is overwhelming or too frightening to feel?

aHugo_Simberg_-_The_Wounded_Angel_-_Google_Art_ProjectMany people avoid fully feeling their sadness as they fear it is something that will overwhelm them and they may never find their way out. However, sadness is natural, and we find people naturally move out of it when they have been given support to feel their emotions deeply.

There are some essential ingredients that are required if we are to fully grieve. The first is to find a safe space where our grief will be welcomed and allowed. This needs to be a place where, for a while at least, we don’t have to worry about our day to day responsibilities. The second is that we need at least one other person to be fully present with us and supporting us in this process. Grief can be overwhelming and we need another person present to show us that they are not afraid of our grief, even if we are. We need them to give us the message that we are safe, that we will get through this, and that our grief isn’t too big to be held. This is a lot to ask of another human being. For someone to stay present and open to our grief automatically opens the door to all their own unresolved griefs. IMG_0097If the person hasn’t been able to be present with their own grief they won’t be able to be present with ours, however much they may want to be there for us. It’s possible they may even subtly shame us for what we’re experiencing, or try to make it ‘go away’ by offering ‘solutions’ or ways out. If someone is to fully support us through loss it is important they understand that grief doesn’t ‘go away’, and that it’s not something that we need to ‘get rid of’. It is something we simply have to ‘be with’, a process which will gradually deepen and in time enrich our lives and offer us a much more vital experience. It is also important that we are supported by someone who understands the many different emotions of grief – rage, guilt, anger and fear can are all be part or the grief process.

As human beings we seem to be hard wired to maintain a connection to that which we have lost – whether it be a person who has died, a relationship that has ended, a child that we have lost through abortion or adoption, a job we have lost or any other of the many types of loss we can experience in our life. Many of us choose something painful as way of staying connected to what we have lost, especially if we lost in a painful way. But, if we allow ourselves to fully experience the pain, including all the difficult emotions such as guilt, fear and anger it is possible, eventually, to choose joyful ways to remember someone or something, and to keep them as part of our life in an ongoing way.

aWalter_Langley_-_Never_Morning_Wore_To_Evening_1894As we described earlier, most of us need support in this process. We may be lucky enough to have people around us who are aware of the full grief process and can give us this support. If not we may wish to find a supported space where grief can be released and the new allowed in.

Many cultures have prolonged and ritualised ways of being with grief. In traditional societies the whole community is involved in this process. C25In the same way as in the saying ‘It takes a village to raise a child’ it can take a whole village to hold a person in their grief. Opportunities to express grief in this way can be hard to find in Western cultures. In Shadow Work we can provide such a space. Either in an individual or group session, we can create a space where grief can be allowed and fully experienced. Participants can release the pain they are carrying and instead chose a new way to stay connected to that which has been lost. This is a process that can support someone who wishes to release their grief, even when it has been held for many decades from loss that happened long ago. This work makes space to encourage a deeper and growing connection to what we have lost. This means our connection loses it’s negative impact on us and instead becomes a rich resource in our lives.


For further information about Healing The Shadow work, including details of group workshops, 1-2-1 sessions, couples work and the practitioner training please visit healingtheshadow.co.uk

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