A Groundhog's Shadow

Through the story of the Groundhog's Shadow, Ann Leach teaches you not to dig a hole and hide from your grief. Don't be like the groundhog and disappear when you feel threatened by your environment. Come into the light ready to face your shadow and create the grief recovery you desire and deserve.

by Ann Leach

Well, he did it.  The groundhog saw his shadow on February 2 and that means six more weeks of winter. I'm not sure how much of a true weather animal he is; those of us in the Midwest have enjoyed a pretty mild winter, especially compared to last year's. Still, those who know say the groundhog never lies. When he sees his shadow, we all know what that means.

What about your shadow? I know a lot of people who live with the winter blues and depend on that furry creature to bring good news, letting them know they will soon move out of the blues and into the light of the sun, signifying a cheerier outlook for themselves and others. Are you aware of how your shadow affects your outlook day-to-day?

I gave up reading Peter Pan years ago, you tell me. I don't have a shadow. Well according to Debbie Ford, best-selling author of The Secret of Your Shadow, you do. We all do. Ford says, that the stories we tell ourselves about our lives do not define who we truly are. In fact, they prevent us from grasping our purpose and potential. When we live in these stories, we engage in noisy internal dialogues, self-defeating habits and abusive behaviors.

How does that happen in grief? What stories are you telling yourself about your life after the loss of a loved one? Maybe it's that "the only person who truly loved me is gone now and I am really alone" or "I have to take all the responsibility for the household now", for example. And yet, neither of those stories are true: you've had a steady stream of neighbors, friends and family who volunteer to do things for you and they've made a real effort to include you in events and called late at night to assure you that you are by no means alone. You've seen evidence that your story is really a lie you're telling yourself to ease your pain.

Here's how to determine fact from fiction: first, acknowledge and observe your feelings, good and bad, then work with a grief coach or counselor to release any fears. There's a saying that "fear" stands for False Evidence Appearing Real. Taking time to examine your evidence and put it into perspective can help you release any limiting beliefs or experiences. Second, release your judgments. Your shadow is just a shadow; contrast to show you the gap between where you are and where you want to be. Rather than judging it, accept it and use it as a springboard to more of what you want in your life.

Don't dig a hole to hide in! The groundhog disappears when threatened by changes in his environment, but you don't have to do the same. Instead, come into the light of day, ready to face your shadow and work with it to create the grief recovery you desire.

Ann Leach is a life coach, freelance writer, publisher of In the Flow, a bi-monthly publications that supports, nudges and informs families and professional caregivers. She is the director of Life Preservers: a global grief support community. She is a certified grief recovery specialist and founded the Cancer Support Network when living in Illinois, where she facilitated support groups for those living with cancer and AIDS and their caregivers.

As an only child, Ann lost both parents to cancer and, by the time she was twelve years of age, had lost every mail in her life through death. Ann's experiences with loss have shaped her approach to life, causing her to celebrate each moment and explore what's truly important for her life.  She started Life Preservers as a way to support others doing the same and to have a global impact on how our current society views death and the emotions associated with it.

You can learn more about Ann and her organization's outreach by visiting http://www.life-preservers.org/


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