If you’re from the U.S. or Canada, you’ve most likely heard of Groundhog Day. Since 1887, February 2nd has been an official holiday that commemorates a groundhog called Phil who predicts the upcoming weather. The lore states that if Phil sees his shadow, we’re in for six more weeks of winter. So what does this have to do with loss? Keep reading to learn how to quell the fear of the shadow of grief, and how even a groundhog can teach us important lessons.
What is the shadow of grief?
First, we need a reminder of what a shadow actually is—a dark area or shape produced by an object or other body coming between rays of light and a surface. It’s the perfect description of what it’s like to have the feelings of grief be opposite the feelings of joy and light, with our bodies in the middle.
But the shadow doesn’t just live on the outside; we can carry that around inside of our bodies, too. It can manifest as a weight on our shoulders, back pain, headaches, or a plethora of other aches and pains.
I remember the night I arrived home to flashing lights as my son, Reed, was being wheeled into an ambulance. I inhaled sharply, seeing his sheet-draped body on a gurney. My diaphragm froze. It was many years before the trauma in my diaphragm was released with the gentle listening touch of a certified Rubenfeld Synergist.
Why does the shadow of grief inspire fear?
Grief is intense, no matter if it is in your body, or outside. Knowing that there’s an ocean of emotion ready to crash over you at any moment can wreak havoc on the nerves. And because we’re an emotion-phobic society, having the prickle of tears in the corners of your eyes at the drop of a hat can make it hard to cope with everyday activities.
For some of us, there’s also the fear of what may be hiding in the shadows. When we are presented with the darkness, we’re also presented with the invisible, unfelt, and often unfamiliar. As children, we often see things in the shadows that aren’t there. Our imaginations fill in the blanks of what we can’t see with our worst fears, and many adults do this, too—but with fear of the future and feelings, instead of monsters and goblins.
So how do we quell the fear of the shadow of grief?
It takes time, conscious effort, mindful living, and the use of tools that you find helpful. Here are a few:
- Support: This can come in the form of counseling, therapy, friends, and family. It’s important to surround yourself with those who can listen to you without trying to tell you how you feel, or tell you how you should feel.
- Meditation: This is a great way to soothe the painful thoughts and feelings you may be experiencing. Some people choose to meditate in silence, while others prefer guided meditation. I have a free meditation you can listen to here, and a Virtual Gift Basket of meditations here.
- Journaling: Writing down your feelings can grant you clarity. Some find that writing is more effective than speaking when it comes to using this tool to help process emotions.
- Mindful breathing: Exhale forcefully like a lion, then inhale through your nose while counting silently (you decide how long to inhale). Next, hold your breath for the same number of counts, then exhale through rounded lips twice as long. For example: Breathe in counting silently 1,2,3,4,5. Hold your breath as you count silently 1,2,3,4,5. Then exhale through your rounded lips 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10. This engages the parasympathetic nervous system, which is calming.
- Make contact with your body. Sit down and notice a place that is tight in your body. Rub your hands together until you feel warmth between them. Close your eyes and gently float one of your hands to rest on that tight place. Notice, with curiosity, what happens to that place by just listening with touch. It may soften, or shift. By making contact with your body you are communicating with it using Gentle Listening Touch. This is an aspect of the Rubenfeld Synergy Method ®. To learn where to find a Synergist to facilitate the release of trauma in your body, go here.
And finally, consider this:
Punxsutawney Phil only goes back into his burrow when skies are overcast. If there’s a bright, blue sky, he sees his shadow which means six more weeks of winter. It’s when skies are overcast and the world seems grey that the season of growth, renewal, and fresh opportunities are the closest.
Love all around, above, below, to the left and to the right, before you and behind you,
If you’re struggling with the emotional process of grief...
I want to share a free gift with you that can help you recognize the physical, cognitive and emotional reactions you may be experiencing. You’ll also take away prompts to use daily along your journey.
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