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Physical Metaphors as Anchors when Grieving

Grief leaves many of us in liminal state. We often move between a fixed internal world where what and who we've lost is still with us and an external world that feels unreal without our person, without previously assumed safety, and without sensible hope for restoration of a familiar and beloved before.


Naming, counting, affirmations and mantras are grounding exercises which provide mental anchors to hold ourselves together in moments of collapse, anxiety, disassociation, overwhelm. I recommend use of these until the body is ready to try physical metaphors as anchors. Feeling into the present moment can take as long as it takes (months, years - a lifetime- sometimes never) when loss and trauma have occurred in manners that permanently alter one's internal and external landscape. Making contact with a present that does not include the person and or the life vision you've held dear creates a kind of "illogica". To say "F* You Death and Loss" - I can still feel the pull of the river... as beautiful and simple as it sounds is an act of courage so great that it looks like zen on the outside as the river tugs and breaks around you; as it rips and washes away a known past that is loved.


Different water bodies of water offer different flows and allow layered metaphors to be created. Tuesday morning I found myself in the James River among a few others. We sat in the middle of the wide river that is only 2 -4 feet in depth across. Picture it, a Tuesday afternoon, a few interesting people scattered among a shallow river all working the metaphor, "I can still feel the pull of the river and the sun on my shoulders". The water runs quick in the James River. It is not the gentle flows from the last summer in the mountains of the Appalachia Trail. It get's inside, it breaks things down, and it moves things forwards.


"I rise and and rest with the sun," is another helpful physical metaphor. This physical metaphors can provide a simple and profound anchor of connection to a present reality that really hurts to live. I can feel, I can rise, I can rest. When grief has engulfed us returning to feeling, getting up, and going to sleep with some detachment to what happens in between is painful and powerful. Having physical metaphors as anchors helps yourself and clients practice feeling, rising and resting when grief and loss make those things the hardest thing to do.


A great metaphor that came of out some session work yesterday was, "The eye cannot see itself". A reference to Yoga Sutra 4:20 and 4:22- which refers to the ultimate state of unity that can be achieved through the praxis of yoga. I'd love to hear about any physical metaphors that are meaningful to you :)

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