Tragedy, Collective Soul Loss, and the Healing Story

Holding_Hands_shadow_on_sandIn shamanic work is the concept of soul loss, or when an aspect of the soul has become distanced (I describe it as “shelved”) and can’t re-engage with the earthly consciousness. Souls are infinite, made up of limitless soul parts that travel in and out of our awareness. This soul traveling is the natural progress of growth, widening our awareness, expanding our consciousness. In times of trauma, when a soul part leaves and can’t return to the earthly consciousness, that’s when problems arise: chronic illness, feelings of depression, lack of motivation, feelings of not being completely present. Such is the path of soul loss in an individual. When considering collective soul loss, these factors plus another comes into play, making mass soul wounding more challenging to heal.

Horrific, heart-wrenching tragedies, such as the killings at Sandy Hook, in Nigeria, China, Portland, Colorado, at Virginia Tech, Columbine, 9/11, cause collective soul loss. Natural disasters such as Katrina, Sandy, the 2004 tsunami, the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, which caused the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, result in mass soul wounding. As a population watching tragedy from afar, once we can process beyond our instinctive reflex to assess self and realize we are physically unaffected by the disaster, our hearts go out to those who were. We grieve for those lost. We mourn for those who lost loved ones and survived. We devote compassionate support to the affected community, through donations, prayer, providing manpower. We watch through the haze of the media circus, judicial process, and/or legislative attempt to prevent future disasters, seeking release, perhaps even hope, vindication.

Somewhere along that road we begin to realize that we are more affected by the tragedy than we realized, and we feel guilty for that fact. We feel that because our lives were not directly impacted by the disaster, we shouldn’t be disrupted in the daily honoring of life. We shouldn’t be stunted or disconnected from our joy. We shouldn’t feel it as much as we do. We feel selfish for thinking that we need healing, and for turning that heart focus to ourselves, rather than those in the immediate community.

Guilt and ego are the key inhibitors to healing collective soul loss. To devote healing to the whole dynamic, to treat the wound of collective soul loss, we have to include ourselves in honoring what happened, how it left us feeling, and in the healing offered. We must grieve the dead, even if we didn’t know a single one of them. Have compassion for the survivors, and all of the dark days ahead of them as they put their lives back together. Support them and their community in the way that we best can without depleting our own resources. Then repeat that whole process for ourselves.

Animism teaches us that we are all connected in the web of all things. As trauma in our personal lives creates perceived fragmentation of our souls, so collective trauma results in the perceived tear in that web. Only by remembering that we are all connected do we heal. Nothing heals in isolation, but through the combined efforts of us all. We must do what we can to express support for the immediate community, then our healing efforts must turn to our own wounds, knowing that what we heal in ourselves generates healing for others. This is the shamanic narrative. Through the creation of our own healing stories and sharing them, we inspire others to speak their stories. We create a bond focused on collective healing, assuring wellbeing for all.

Take time to reflect on your healing story. Write it down, if it helps, or draw it, paint it. Express all of the feelings wrapped into your experience of the healing process, and know that in doing so, we all heal. We all move closer to wellness.

Originally published on The Huffington Post.