In this post, we'll be going over ideas about shadow work for grief.
First, let's quickly go over what shadow and shadow work is.
What is Shadow Self & Shadow Work?
Your shadow self, or shadow, is the side of yourself you have no awareness of. It holds all the qualities you disowned during your formative years.
Although you learned to repress these qualities and push them outside of your awareness, they still live underneath the surface.
They unconsciously guide your actions and are the unseen cause for many of the troubles in your life.
Shadow work is the intentional practice of becoming aware of your unconscious shadow and integrating these neglected qualities into your being—becoming whole.
This is a process of building self-awareness, self-acceptance, and universal Love.
"Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate."Carl Jung
Shadow Work for Grief
One of the most challenging trials we must face is when someone we love dies, and we are left to make sense of it.
Understand that death is far beyond anyone's understanding.
The loss impacts everyone in many different ways. Although we have discovered the 5 stages of grief:
- denial and isolation
The process is not fixed. Every individual processes each stage at their own time and their own way.
The death of a loved one requires us to make meaning of their departure. We are left learning to navigate the world with this meaning that takes the space our loved ones once occupied.
Understand that there is no single way to mourn a loved one who has passed. Instead, each of us has a unique way of mourning and processing the death of a loved one.
Different Forms of Loss & Emotion
- Losing a child feels like an existential violation.
Since I don't have personal experience with losing a child, here is a video of those who have:
- It's hard to mourn someone you feel ambivalent or negatively towards.
One reason is that the surrounding social circles aren't going to afford your view of the person with any sympathy.
This is because death reduces many issues to the level of pettiness.
Regardless, I have witnessed the recent death of someone who was incredibly toxic towards others. Here are some phrases used by those who knew this toxic individual:
"I'm glad he's dead. He was a piece of shit and I don't like the way he talked to my aunt." - The Deceased's Nephew.
"I don't care he's gone. He was always lying and trying to make himself seem bigger than he was." - The Aunt.
"Good." - The Aunt's Son
"That's insane. I didn't like him. But I think I need time to process that he's actually gone." - Me.
The only people who cared much for this person dying were his mother, sister, and hopefully his own family he's raised (unlikely...).
- There are ambiguous feelings towards the death of someone who "wasn't themselves" by the end.
In the case where someone "wasn't themselves" by the time they died, there is both a sense of relief and mourning since you remember who they really were in their earlier days.
I talked to my friend who cared for the elderly who needed special care due to illnesses, such as Alzheimer's.
"How did people feel about the loved ones who died but 'weren't themselves' by the end of their life. For example, someone with Alzheimer's. How did their relatives react to their deaths?"
The following is her response:
"Honestly, I never saw someone that was completely upset. But it was always confusing for the family.
Some were happy they were in a better place. Especially if they knew who they really were in their earlier days.
Family members were happy for the [deceased] whose illnesses left them really confused, angry, and violent.
Then some people were scared for their [deceased loved one's] journey beyond."
Sudden Death vs Impending Departure
Having someone suddenly pass away is very different from witnessing someone suffer for months or years until the end.
When you witness someone slowly passing away, there is usually a sense of relief that their suffering has ended. And there is generally mourning done in anticipation of the final days.
As opposed to having a piece of yourself ripped away suddenly. Forcing you to breathe with a gaping hole having just been ripped into your chest.
Grief Work: How Grief Changes You
Grief is an inward journey.
The ego is the part of yourself that believes has control over your life. But the death of a loved one is beyond your control.
The ability to surrender to your grief is how you can leave your ego and heal with your inner resources.
- Accepting that the Universe is more prominent than you can ever comprehend.
- Learning that in the grand scheme of things, you are more helpless than your ego initially perceived, and—
- You are more alone and not alone than you originally thought.
These are lessons learned from the journey inward.
However, this is wisdom earned through a visceral experience. It can't be sufficiently understood through communication alone.
Helping Someone in Grief
To help someone with their grief work is to be compassionate and allow them to venture into their grief—along with some thoughtful supervision.
Be there for the grieving person. Tend to the parts of their lives that they are temporarily neglecting:
- "I'm here for you."
- "I brought food. Come eat."
- "People have been wondering how you've been."
Be someone who grounds them to the outer world while they journey into their inner world for the answers they are looking for.
After spending enough time in their inner world, they will need someone to bring them back to the outer world.
They need to be "loved" back to life. Where you will pull them from their own depths and back into life again with care and lively stimulation.
Except now, when they come back to life, they will have their memories of the departed grounding them to their inner world—hopefully deepening their connection with their spirituality and understanding of "Oneness"—as they go on living their lives.
Why Grief is Important
When somebody we love dies, we are called to confront our own mortality. And we ponder big existential questions about life.
"Why is the world going on as if nothing happened?"
"Why do they get to live, and you don't?"
This is existential trauma—where we realize that the beliefs we had about life are fully not aligned with Reality. Things are not as they seemed.
Over time, a widower may one day find someone new and consider a relationship.
If she has fully mourned, her transition back to the "living" world will be easier.
But if she hasn't fully processed her grief, she becomes haunted by guilt—
Remaining a ghost who hasn't finished her inward journey of grounding herself spiritually and existentially.
How to Reach Acceptance
Grieving is a necessary part of the process.
But there may come the point where the act of mourning is the last line of connection that must be severed to bring the person back to life.
The most important part of your griefwork is finishing the morning.
But many people don't want to finish mourning because they feel that it means forgetting the person they loved so much.
However, those final aches won't go away until you finally make peace with what happened.
Let go of the belief that you can somehow keep them alive.
And say your last goodbye.
Because there is nothing left for you to do—
but let go.
Why Grief is Good
It's not uncommon for people to experience "supernatural" events or perceived synchronicity after losing a loved one.
When my grandfather died, I wasn't very close to him, but somehow my intuition awakened. I know it was always an integral part of me, but my connection was "lost" due to inner child wounds and unconsciously "fated" harmful environments.
(In retrospect, he was the last father figure I had. So when he passed away, it makes sense that I took back whatever subtle projections I put onto him. Without a remaining father figure to seek guidance or protection from, the psyche's only choice was to integrate the qualities he was holding.)
My mother, who is my grandfather's daughter, would start calling me weekly. Telling me about the wind blowing flowers in her direction or surprising critters by her little fountain—somehow attributing it to her father.
Although I won't claim that these events are evidence of "supernatural" activity. I will say this—
Everything that happens in this world brings more Love.
Love = Awareness = Consciousness = Acceptance = Truth = God
The death of a loved one does all of this as well. Even if it takes some time to cleanse your psyche enough to see it.
My grandfather's death also made me realize that if I only saw my mom once a month for the next 30 years. That means I would only see her 360 more times before she's gone (if I'm lucky).
Another thing I learned is that when someone is on their death bed, the best thing you can do is spend time with them.
It doesn't have to be a crazy adventure, and you don't have to do anything necessarily exciting.
You just have to be there.
It made me realize the importance of just being there with the people you care about in your regular, daily life.
They are only here for a limited time, the same as you. And on an existential level, all you need to do to show your love is to be there.
Each of us must take the inward journey to grieve over those we have lost.
Upon our return, we bring back something new into our lives going forward.
Here are some resources I recommend:
Shadow Work Course is based on my in-depth research and personal experiences with shadow work, projection, sadomasochism, inner child healing, triggers, and all things shadow. This course is updated every year and gets new content at no additional cost. Learn more here.
A Light Among Shadows is a guide on self-love and being. This short course goes over consciousness, spirituality, philosophy, and makes sense of why people are the way they are. Recommended for people dealing with resentment and self-hate. Learn more here.
Shadow Work Journal: 240 Daily Shadow Work Prompts contains inner work exercises related to relationships, anger, anxiety, self-love, healing trauma, abandonment issues, depression, forgiveness, etc.
Manifestation Manual: The Path of Least Resistance bundle teaches you some holistic and systems thinking along with how to mend your inner child wounds so you can align with your higher self and move forward in life. This includes 20 video clips as a free bonus.
Shadow Play (or “DsR”) is a small sister website that goes over “sensual” shadow work through my BDSM experiences. If you are 18+ and are interested, go here.