This is the Best Way I Know for How to Soothe the Fear of Loss

by | May 30, 2021 | Anxiety, Health anxiety, Holidays/Holy Days/Seasons, HSP, Intrusive Thoughts | 19 comments

Our older son is off today on another adventure, this time one that requires traveling by air. Those of you who have been following me for a while know that Everest is an aviator, got his pilot’s license at 16, and literally lives for aviation and space, so today is pure joy for him.

For my husband and I, on the other hand, the thought of our son traveling through two international airports today and being on the other side of the country for a week is, well, not exactly pure joy. I’m joyful for him, but my heart has been in my stomach for the last few days, and once again, I’ve relied on my practices to see me through my own grief and fear so that I can show up for him with the excitement and trust he needs to feel from me in order to launch fully into the world. He doesn’t need to be burdened by my worry. He needs my support, which I show him by communicating that I trust him and I trust life to hold him through these adventures.

I would not be able to show up for my children in this way without my practices. I also wouldn’t be able to show up for my husband, my friends, or my work without my practices. As I share in Episode 3 of the Gathering Gold podcast on Nighttime:

“Healthy rituals are like baskets that can catch us across these tenuous thresholds. They’re the internal places we can learn to rely on that can bring comfort because they connect us to something bigger than ourselves. We know that we need rituals; that’s why we sing to babies and rock them to sleep. That’s why we tell bedtime stories. That’s why we pray.

“We need meaningful rituals to see us across the liminal times of life – transitions both big and small, including waking up, the end of the day and entering sleep. It’s why religious traditions pray morning, afternoons, and night – and often a couple of other times throughout the day. The ancient priests and rabbi and holy leaders knew that we needed prayer and ritual; we as modern people have forgotten this. And even if/when we remember, many people aren’t connected to a religious tradition – so then what?

“The trick here is to find bedtime rituals that are meaningful for you – that offer you a sense of okay-ness, of comfort, the sense that you’re being held in safe arms, that you’re connected, that you’re not alone. For me, it comes back to practicing how to be in reciprocal relationship where there’s a giving and receiving.

“I bless the night, I bless the moon and trees and stars, and what comes back to me is a sense of safety and connection. I can almost hear them receiving my gratitude and saying goodnight to me. I’m reminded that I’m not alone, and it’s through the blessing – which can be gratitude or a short poem or just saying “goodnight and thank you” out loud – that the web of reciprocity is activated. I am now held in this web, this net, like a baby wrapped in a very warm and safe blanket.”

Every time I woke up last night with stomach-dropping nerves about Everest leaving and flying without us, I wrapped myself in a cocoon of prayer. Whenever I write the word “prayer” I feel the need to clarify that I don’t mean prayer in a religious sense; prayer, for me, is a way to establish a regular, reciprocal relationship with something both within me and greater that me. And it can be as simple as thank you.

For many years, I didn’t understand what people meant when they said they had a regular spiritual practice. As I didn’t grow up in a religious tradition, I knew I needed to find my own way to connect to this place of okay-ness, the place that soothes intrusive thoughts and helps send worry downstream. I would also hear from clients and course members weekly with these questions:

  • I understand that at the core of intrusive thoughts is the need for certainty and the invitation to grow more tolerance for uncertainty, but how do I do that?
  • I’m seeing that at the core of anxiety is the fear of loss, but I don’t know what to do with that fear.
  • I’ve had a fear of death my whole life that has shown up as fear of my parents dying when I was young, health anxiety, and now fear of something happening to one of my kids. How do I work with this fear at the root?
  • You talk about how the relationship anxiety hook “I’m not in love” in an invitation to fall in love with life itself. How do I do that?

I created Grace Through Uncertainty to address these questions by helping people learn how to create a personal and meaningful spiritual practice, a daily recipe or toolbox that, when practiced, catches uncertainty, soothes the fear of loss, and, by extension, helps us grow the rush and high of infatuation that we mistakenly place on a romantic partner.

I also touch on some of these practices in this week’s podcast episode, where Victoria and I shine light on what’s happening in the highly sensitive heart during the dark, quiet (and sometimes scary) hours of the night. Here’s the description:

“Beginning with the sense of emptiness, dread or loneliness that may arise when the light starts to shift and we dip into sunset, then twilight, Sheryl and Victoria describe feelings that have accompanied them in these liminal times, particularly during childhood. Then, we talk about fear of the dark, Victoria’s first panic attack that occurred in the middle of the night, and Sheryl’s first experience with insomnia during her transition into junior high school. Sheryl describes her practice of taking time at night to reflect on the day, with compassion and curiosity, and the importance of finding bedtime rituals that feel nourishing, comforting and enjoyable to you. We close with a guided nighttime practice from Sheryl and a bit of poetry that reflects the gold we can uncover when we turn and face the night.”

I look forward to connecting with you in the comments below, especially if you have questions about Grace Through Uncertainty or would like to share your thoughts on the podcast. As always, Victoria and I welcome your review/rate/share on Apple Podcasts or Spotify if you feel inspired! Thank you for reading and listening.

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19 Comments

    • Joshua- beautiful. We all have a part of us that doesn’t speak in words so we have to find another way to comfort it. Awesome to think of it like a scared dog.

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  1. Thank you, Joshua. Beautiful poem!

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  2. Dear Sheryl,
    I want to sincerely thank you for your incredible work. I’ve struggled with anxiety for a long time and reading your book was such an important step for me to shift my perspective on it and learn to not get sucked into the same cycle over and over again when it arises.
    Your podcast is fantastic and I especially enjoyed the last episode – I’ve never felt more heard and I could definitely relate to the dread associated with nighttime as a child, as well as a strong sense of groundlessness. Listening to you and Victoria was such a breath of fresh air, acceptance, and also helped me better understand your work around spirituality.
    From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

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    • Adele: Thank you so much for this beautiful, heartfelt comment, and I’m so glad you’re enjoying the podcast!

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  3. This is so enlightening. Just the notion that there are small transitions that can prompt anxiety and intrusive thoughts throughout the day is sort of an epiphany to me, both from a parenting perspective, and in terms of reflecting on my own childhood and past. It is so obvious in retrospect, but yet, something I never quite grasped. I always understood the macro notion of life transitions affecting stress levels, but the micro level is something I never even thought to ponder and yet affects me greatly, especially as a highly sensitive person raising a highly sensitive adolescent.

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    • Yes, I wish there was more education/conversation around these smaller transitions as it would help HSPs make more sense of their lives and find healthy ways to embrace the groundlessness of those liminal times.

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  4. I loved this week’s podcast. Nighttime has always been a hard time for me. I felt lonely a lot at night when I was little, even when there were a lot of people in the house. I grew up in a house with 9-10 people in it, including myself, and only recently have I realized that only 34of those people were really emotionally available to me- my mom, my grandma, my older uncle, and to some degree my little brother, who I didn’t really expect to take care of my emotional state when we were little. At the time, my mom and grandma worked a lot, and now my older uncle and my grandma have both essentially left (mental illness and stroke and possibly some dementia respectively). So it wasn’t unusual for me to feel lonely at night, especially in the winter. Not because of school, because I was homeschooled, but because I grew up in Alaska. It doesn’t really get dark in the summer, but in the dead of winter, it’s basically dark by 4 pm.

    There was a particular line in the podcast that inspired me to journal something that I felt like sharing here:

    “Listening to Sheryl Paul’s “Nighttime” podcast, talking about the loss of nighttime- specifically ‘we are losing a day that will never come again.’ It made me think of EVERY time after going to see Owl City in concert that I would feel so sad- like grief sadness- when it was over. This feeling never happened after P!nk, OneRepublic, The Script, or any other artist. I wondered why a lot of the time. And I wonder, I keep getting stuck in the ‘Celebrity Obsession’ worry, but I’ve never been that person. I feel like the truth is; my soul, for whatever reason, my heart connected to Adam’s heart, and Breanne’s heart, and they were there in one of my most vulnerable times, when I was recovering from being sick (BIG ulcerative colitis flare in 2009, before discovering Adam’s music). So is it that weird to believe that when I would go to an Owl City concert, I was literally in the presence of the hearts I connected to so much (more so than some people in my family), and by the time we left, I was actually grieving that my heart didn’t have more time with them?

    Is that so weird? Somehow or other, I connected with them. Is it a cultural thing that says it doesn’t count because you don’t know them on a practical level and they don’t know you? I mean, my reasons for liking Adam and Breanne are not superficial. They’re not influencers. It’s not fashion. It’s not that I want their life. It’s because they poured their deep, deep hearts and souls into their music and music playing and I felt that, and they did so much to heal teenage me.”

    P. S. I also loved the part when you talked about having a CD player in your room with an alarm on it. I may be one of the few, but I never want CDs (or DVDs) to go out of style. I love CDs. I have all the OneRepublic albums and all the available Owl City albums on CD. My name is even in the Thank Yous on Breanne’s EP from 2015, and I treasure those CDs. You’ve inspired me to get a CD player with an alarm.

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    • That all makes sense, Riley, and thank you for sharing here.

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  5. Shed some good, healing tears while reading this tonight. Thank you as always Sheryl!

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  6. Though Ive left organized religion I hold close two simple “prayers” a beloved spiritual mentor once taught me. Maybe they can be helpful for those of us who miss the space nighttime prayers once filled in our hearts:

    mercy, mercy, mercy

    thank you, thank you, thank you

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    • Those are among the very best prayers. Thank you.

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  7. I love ho’oponopono – I think it’s originally a Hawaian prayer? Carrie Grossman sings a beautiful version of it ❤️

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    • One of my daily prayers (sometimes hourly). Can’t wait to listen to her song!

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  8. Next live round starts on June 19th and yes that’s a common trajectory of courses..

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  9. Dear Sheryl,
    I have read so many of your posts, but never commented. So before all else I would like to thank you for helping me learn so much about myself. So many insights and wise question which resonate a lot. Just now with the “small transitions” it opened up my eyes!
    However, I was so spiked (relationship anxiety) when I listened to the podcast episode. After a few weeks into my now 1.5 years relationship, I woke up two times in the middle of the night with the message “He is not the right one” and lots of fear/panik. Back then I didnt know how to really be with myself or soothe.

    I know now not to take thoughts face value and question them to See what is behind. And now I felt confused as the messages of the psyche at night do want to be listened to, as you said on the podcast. Where is the difference/distinction?
    How would you respond to it from your lense?

    Reply

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