What Does It Mean to Live In a Shadowland
I’m Anne – an executive leadership consultant, pop culture junkie, world traveler, Minnesota hockey fan, and grieving parent. I lost my 9-year old son, Ben, to an undiagnosed and asymptomatic infection in his trachea that closed his airway as we played Jenga together on a Sunday afternoon. In a matter of fifteen minutes, my whole world changed.
That was in 2015, and my grieving has largely moved into the shadows of my day-to-day life. I seldom start crying in the grocery school aisle, spend days immobilized in bed, or wake up in the middle of the night to go into his room to touch his clothes and toys. I don’t break down when his friends come over, when I watch a sad movie about loss, or have a dream about him. And yet…
I’ve come to realize that I will never get over this grief, but that I will learn to live with it. That I don’t have to get resolve sorrow to experience joy. That I can not only survive this experience, but can actually thrive in this new life that I would never have chosen but that has chosen me.
I’ve learned that many of us have rich, complex, and sometime dark, shadow lives that follow us everywhere but that most people don’t see. I’ve learned that ignoring, or even worse, denying, these shadow lives as vital parts of who we are comes at a cost. We may not lead with this part of our identity, publicly declaring “I’m a grieving mother” (or alcoholic, or someone who is depressed, or someone who is struggling in a marriage, or someone who hates her body, someone who is parenting a special needs child…), but it is a part of us all the same.
Turn Off The Lights
When my first child was born, I read a book on photographing infants, and the first piece of advice was “turn off the lights.” There was a whole chapter on the importance of shadows as the critical element that bring depth, dimension, and authenticity to a photo. Shadows make the difference in capturing the profound reality of life instead of white-washing and flattening it through glaring, artificial light.
So, this blog is an attempt to share the shadows that enrich and complicate my life. Some aspects involve being a parent who has lost a child. Some include other parts of my life that I didn’t expect, didn’t ask for, wouldn’t typically share, but that now I find value in naming.
I hope that reading my blog allows you to name your own shadows. To recognize the depth and dimension they bring to your life. To encourage you to reject the artificial glare that is so tempting (especially on Facebook and in casual conversation) in service of living a richer life. Embracing the shadow parts of your life that can lead to hope and healing.
I hope you’ll join me.