Apr 4 / Paul

Experiencing Grief As Shadow and Light

In our most recent Holy Ground teleconference, we explored the realm of grief through a process which I borrowed from the early Quakers.

It’s normal to experience grief as suffering, as pain, as sadness, loneliness – even as regret, resentment or fear. But that is not the only way to experience grief.

In our teleconference, we experimented with a practice that starts byfully embracing these dark emotions. With a single candle or lamp in the room, we looked into the shadow cast by that light and allowed that shadow to represent all the sadness, suffering and loneliness that our loss brought into our lives. We simply allowed that shadow – which is shaped like us and attached to us – to represent everything about our grief that causes us to suffer.

Then, while still focusing on that dark shadow, we allowed ourselves to become aware of the light that was everywhere else in the room. All around the shadow was light – indeed, a shadow cannot exist without the light that surrounds it.

This metaphor was made physical in our room by the single lamp or candle that we had lit.

Then each of us asked ourselves, “If that shadow is my grief, then what is the light?”

There are a number of ways to ask this question: You might ask, “What is the light that makes my grief so dark?” or “What is true about me that has me grieve for the loss I’ve suffered?”

It seems that the most powerful and enlightening answers come in the form of a simple sentence about oneself. Certainly, there is something to be found in a statement like “I am grieving because my husband Harold was a wonderful man.”  But there is something more powerful in an answer in this form: “I am grieving because I am….”

The light that surrounds the shadow of your grief is something fundamental about you.  The light is part of your essence. And the light is what you will take forward into your life beyond the loss you have experienced.

I want to thank Miriam Hawley for her partnership in creating this teleconference and the whole series that we have embarked on.

I invite you to experiment with this metaphor of shadow and light with any kind of suffering that shows up in your life, whether you call it grief, disappointment, resignation, or even anger.

And please let us know what you discover about shifting your experience of grief.

3 Comments

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  1. Laura Green / May 16 2013

    Simply beautiful. Thank you.

  2. Kenny U. Hudson / May 26 2013

    In everyday life there is light and there is shadow. If there is no light, there is no shadow. If we focus only on the light in our life, then the shadow gets larger, wanting our attention. Grief is shadow. When we turn to shine a light on our shadow, it is transformed. For centuries the creative process has offered people a way to express the inexpressible, to integrate the shadowy parts of life. Many of us say we “are not creative,” but we are all born creative. Every time I facilitate an art therapy group, I hear people apologize for their artmaking, and by the end, they have created something that speaks from their heart. They no longer apologize; they celebrate. It is a natural need and craving, but, by now, it may be shut away in a deep dark room within our hearts. If anything can unlock this door, it is our grief.

  3. Greta Calderon / Jul 19 2013

    The light that surrounds the shadow of your grief is something fundamental about you. The light is part of your essence. And the light is what you will take forward into your life beyond the loss you have experienced.

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