10 Emotional Symptoms Of Withdrawal And Grieving
Being a healer is more than just burning sage. It is a call to action, it’s conjuring up, it is a witch’s brew of personal freedom and collective liberation. It is about being reparations when the state refuses and it’s about the restoration of the spirit in a world that depletes it. It is about the regeneration of a people’s collective body in the aftermath of institutional oppression and it’s about the rebirth of nations and countries breaking the chains of internalized oppression. The smoke of sage is a spiritual call to action sending signals to our ancestors to hold us, to clear pathways, to keep us safe, to ground and root us in what we most care about and where we came from, as we fight in this human world.
Inspired by the healing justice work I have been doing with my community; this article is dedicated to all victims and survivors. Specifically, allies and people of color leading and working in organizations and on the front lines of social service and social justice movements all over the world.
When the retreat is over, the feeling of withdrawal is real.
More and more of us, teachers, philanthropists, soloprenuers, healers, organizers, social workers, advocates, creatives, service providers, victims, and survivors are creating and attending events across states and countries. From conferences to training and retreats to delegations we are conjuring up spaces that provide personal healing and political truth. We are opening up sacred spaces within to listen to stories untold. Stories that make us think of things buried and hidden. For a day, a week or a month, we gather with others to evaluate and self reflect, and hold up mirrors, so we can validate each other and step into each other’s shoes in an attempt to save ourselves, heal ourselves and each other and create another world.
These spaces can be magical because we find ourselves in community and sisterhood. People see and hear us, and we feel like finally, we belong to something. Two, three days or a week or two we role deep with others, we see familiar faces and create new friendships. Anything is possible. We build, we get trigged, we politic, we cry, we laugh, and we connect to what seems like ourselves again. We find hope and creativity, we find our voice and we find our dreams again and all of a sudden, our lives make sense and THEN IT’S OVER!
Without preparation, we go back! We take airplanes, trains, and automobiles back to our lives. But what does that mean? Are we prepared? Did they talk to us about the aftermath, the impact and effects of detaching? and do we have the tools and practices to take care of ourselves in the journey?
For some of us the first couple of days of coming back, we may find ourselves being high on life, doing and being in action. Using all that we have learned about ourselves and the world in the process and we realized that it’s been a long time since we have walked with purpose, creativity, and intent.
However, for many of us we go home afraid and in fear. We are exhausted from hearing or telling stories of violence and coming face to face with our biggest fears. Some of us may even feel a spiritual withdrawal, feeling depleted energetically. While some of us go home to only be reminded that there is no one there.
After a training, workshops, retreat or delegation, some of us may have gotten so triggered that when you unpack you find out that you have come home with an extra backpack full of your own story, full of questions about your past and future. Thinking, what has shaped me? Where is my community? Who is my tribe? What do I do now without them? Who am I without the space they created?
WITHDRAWING after a 3-day conference, a retreat or a delegation is REAL and the feelings are very similar to withdrawing from sugar, addiction, and dis-ease. Our bodies will go through physical, mental, emotional and spiritual withdrawal when we have to transition from healing spaces back into our personal lives. If you find yourself going through some of these withdrawal symptoms know you are not CRAZY, and you are not ALONE.
10 Emotional Symptoms of Withdrawal and Grieving
1. We may go home, and we may feel restless. We don’t know what to do with ourselves, with the silence. We are not the same person anymore. The experience has changed us. To cope we start to find fault in our relationship and partners and even make them and ourselves wrong for who we are or what we are doing. We look at our social media and stroll for hours comparing ourselves or feeling disconnected, feeling like the other.
2. Alone in our home, we may feel shame, guilt, blame, disappointment and resentment because no one else around you has gone through this experience and may now find yourself on constant guard not letting yourself out and others in. Closing off your heart.
3. We may find ourselves in bed wanting to sleep all day or have trouble sleeping at night because we may have vivid memories or nightmares of our experience and what it bought up for us.
4. We don’t feel like we have the energy to talk to anyone, so we emotionally cut ourselves off and the feelings of hope and purpose we found in the group quickly turn back into negative self-talk of yourself or the world or both.
5. Being with like-minded folks for so long will have us believe that no one understands us or that everyone can see our story written on our faces, so we disconnect. We have been too vulnerable and now need to hide. We fear that we have been found out or that people have found out that we are imposters, living the contradictions.
6. We don’t know how to explain what we experienced, so we may become silent or feel like an outsider.
7. We may get really busy or feel really bored and may just want to forget so we avoid ourselves in every corner or mirror and avoid any possibility of thinking and being creative.
8. We walk around getting triggered, upset, anxious and nervous. Seeing violence, oppression, harm, manipulation and our story in everything and everyone.
9. We may even go back to disassociating or taking care of ourselves by picking up addiction in our lives for self-preservation. So we may default back to your old habits, addiction, depression, sex, care-taking, work etc.
10. And finally, we grieve. We grieve for the connections made, the loss of identity, and the safety found in the another or the group.
Returning back and leaving such sacred spaces may present amazing healing and transformation and also pose major challenges we are never quite prepared for. We may find it difficult to not only be ourselves, but we may not even know or start questioning who we are? How will we disclose to our friends and family our new story who we have become or that something happened in our past that has resurfaced? Do we tell, will they understand? How do we go back to be a wife, and a mother, a partner, a lover or friend when we realize we ourselves are victims of abuse and violence and something happens to us that has broken our hearts and everyone around us feels like a perpetrator right now? Will we be able to pick up where we left off?
Healing Tools for Re-integration, Restoration and Reconciliation:
Going from safe spaces back into an unsafe world is hard, but you are not going crazy and you are not alone. Please stay connected, reach out and get someone’s phone number you connected with and set up a time in advance to keep in touch. If you didn’t get the chance to get everyone’s info, you can also find people on social media and reach out. Do something bigger than yourself, volunteer, do some community service so you can stop focusing on your own story. Support your body in an emotional release so you can physically release trauma from your body by doing exercise, crying, shaking, punching pillows. Light candles to stay connected to your inner light and create an altar for yourself with things you bought or picked up during your experience. Also, do an altar for your ancestors asking for compassion and strength on this journey of grieving who we were and the fear of who we are going to be. When you’re ready to come back to your heart knowing that this too shall pass and you’re not alone. You are worthy, you are enough, it was not your fault, you belong.I love you, please forgive yourself and if not one has told you yet I am sorry.
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