What comes after a Dark Night of the Soul?
By Aubree Brown, Originally published on ElephantJournal.com
A lot of people are going through a hard time right now.
But I feel like I am finally emerging from a dark night of the soul.
What is a dark night of the soul?
It’s a period of suffering from which you think you won’t escape. A point of darkness when it feels like nothing will ever be the same. Where you’ve lost sight of the shore and keep drifting (or drowning). It’s called a dark night because it’s just that: pretty dark. You make your way as best as you can, but you have no idea what’s going on, where you’re headed, or what’s next. But you trust the process and keep going.
Some might call it depression, but to me they’re not the same and often don’t even overlap.
The dark night of the soul is a period of condensed spiritual searching, surrender, and even awakening—matched with an experience of intense hardship and suffering. It’s a time when you lose yourself and find…something else. Something more.
It’s not a ditch, but a tunnel—as Valerie Kaur writes, it’s the darkness of the womb that can be mistaken for the darkness of the tomb.
And I’m finally at the end of mine.
Over the past 11 years, I experienced C-PTSD, debilitating anxiety, a chronic and mysterious illness, eating issues, injury, and intermittent disability. I lost nearly everything I loved and found myself again.
It’s been a f*cking ride. No lie.
I pursued the path of a healer, found people and a path I resonate with, discovered my talents, and held on tight for a miracle.
I spent hundreds and hundreds of hours in therapy and coaching. I spent a summer camping at a holistic retreat center. I traveled the world, often by myself. I went to Ecuador for shamanic ceremonies and healing. I took hundreds of workshops and read as many self-help books. I learned from bad teachers and good—what to do and what not to do. I sampled over 100 healing modalities, mental and physical, in an attempt to heal and find my way through the winding labyrinth I somehow found my way into.
Along the way, I got a bachelor’s degree in psychology. Became a life coach. Studied shamanic healing, energy medicine, animism, liberation psychology, and somatic healing.
I learned my ancestry, my roots. Discovered my highest self. Came out.
I took test after test for my health. I tried endless diets, as well as conventional and functional medicine, acupuncture, myofascial release, tapping, chiropractic, energy healing, colon hydrotherapy, and voice lessons (and those are just the things I didn’t hate).
I tried talk therapy, EMDR, attachment therapy, somatic healing, meditation, spiritual coaching, group therapy, family constellation therapy, dance therapy, shamanic healing, intuitive readings, and nature healing.
I healed my relationship with my mom. I learned to speak up. To say no. To say yes. To listen to my body, spirit, and intuition. To be still. To dance. To shake things off. To connect with spirit. To get angry. To face my feelings, even (and especially) the ones I don’t like. To have a lot of fun. To be spontaneous. To be grateful. To healthily be with the ones I love. To not hate or judge myself or others. To not be a victim or a martyr. To question my thoughts and beliefs. To inhabit my body. To embody joy. To heal myself and others. To give a full-hearted yes to life. And not sacrifice that for anything.
I’ve seen myself at my darkest moments, when there was no way out but through. And I’m here to tell the tale. I’ve reached the end of the tunnel and it’s glorious. I have emerged a new person—whole, strong, and radiant.
The past 11 years have been my dark night of the soul. My trial by fire. My initiation. For what? I don’t know yet. I’m just beginning (again). And I can’t wait to find out.
If you are in a dark night of the soul, here’s what I have to say:
Get support. And keep going.
You are in a process of burning and shedding what you don’t need, what’s always held you back—a version of yourself that never served you in the first place. You will emerge bright and shiny. You will find the other side. And your “after” will be worth celebrating and savoring. Just wait.