Ambiguous Loss and the Way of the Wounded Healer

April 20th, 2016Sheila Foster, M.A., Counseling PsychologyPsychotherapist, Founder & Steward of the Temenos Center for Awakening And the Temple of the Sacred Feminine. Host: Dominie Cappadonna

About The Presentation

One way that many of us are called to the helping professions is via the activation of the archetypal path of the Wounded Healer. The medicine found in our own wounds informs the work we do, the lives that we live, and whom and how we serve. In this precious, wabi sabi life of impermanence, imperfection, and lack of completion, we have all suffered deep losses, many of them ambiguous and utterly heartbreaking.

Our ambiguous losses are more or less invisible, as they are not recognized, or acknowledged and witnessed as significant losses by others. We may not recognize our own ambiguous losses as such. I had to hear the term before many of my own ambiguous losses suddenly became visible to me and then I saw them everywhere.

When losses are ambiguous, grief can become frozen, solace and external support limited or non-existent. Unacknowledged ambiguous losses create ongoing stress that can result in physical, mental, emotional, psychological, relational, and spiritual fallout. These invisible losses can be devastating, paralyzing, and frightening because we may suffer them in isolation or may feel that there is something wrong with us because of how we feel or how we are changing because of it. This kind of pain goes on without answers, closure, or grief that gets resolved. We can get stuck living in hope or despair, and resilience declines in time.

Pauline Boss, who coined the term ambiguous loss, acknowledges two obvious types of ambiguous loss and has written about them:
1. There is a physical presence and psychological absence – as with dementia, for example.

  1. There is a psychological presence and a physical absence – as with the unexplainable disappearance of a loved one.

In our time together, I would like to explore these as well as less obvious ambiguous losses that we have as human beings and as professionals called to serve others who are heartbroken. Here are some ideas for exploration and perhaps self inquiry:

  • The importance of naming and acknowledging our ambiguous losses
  • Finding meaning through loss
  • Loss of identity that accompanies many ambiguous losses
  • Despair, ambivalence, and hope
  • Living with lack of closure and unresolved grief
  • The power of ritual and spiritual practices
  • Resilience

If we can name these losses, honor them as ‘real’ and learn to meet them, the lack of closure, and make peace with the unknown, it is possible to restore resilience and live a healthy, grace-filled life. When we can embrace our ambiguous losses as spiritual teachers, they become a path to grace. The pain of some of our ambiguous losses may never go away and yet we can come into a different relationship to it, meet the losses in new ways. We are given the spiritual help we need when we bring these invisible losses out of the shadows and welcome them.

About the Presenter

Sheila Foster, M.A. ~ Counseling Psychology, 1978

Sheila’s travels on the path of the Wounded Healer began in childhood. It wasn’t until 1982, while in Jungian analysis that her personal spiritual and professional path became clear and the Kundalini opened in her. It was then that her private practice shifted to serving others in the helping professions. She founded the Temenos Center, a healing and gathering place on the land in Maryland, and launched the The School for Women Healers training, which evolved into a contemporary women’s mystery school, the Temple of the Sacred Feminine.

She began offering her work with the Sacred Feminine and awareness of Kundalini and spiritual emergence to mental health professionals and clergy in the Baltimore-Washington, D.C. area, where she launched a branch of the Spiritual Emergence Network. Besides classes, workshops, performance pieces, retreats, trainings and supervision groups for healing professionals, she has presented at conferences, mental health organizations, churches, Jung groups, and to military suicide survivors. She co-created and directed an evocumentary film about Sacred Feminine Initiation called Eve’s Fire. Writing, photography, and making art are important to her inner and outer work. Divine Arrangement, receptive devotion, and love of the Mystery are threads that have been weaving through her life since childhood.

Sheila’s path and work as a guide, mentor, initiatory elder, systemic constellation facilitator, and teacher of the ancient yogic practice of Samyama, supports women and men as they go through their own deep inner work, spiritual awakenings, and initiations. Until recently, Sheila commuted to Maryland to continue the work she began there and recently began offering her work here after 21 years in Boulder. She’s working on a new Temenos Center website with more information, soon to be birthed.

Additional Resources

Email: [email protected]

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