The following article is written by Angela Prider, celebrated Spiritual Teacher, initiated Spiritual Healer, and Somatic Practitioner based in Vancouver, BC.

Our soul is our inner spark, our essence. The part of us that’s connected to the Great Mystery beyond our logical knowing. Our soul isn’t particularly invested in whether our bills get paid or we get that promotion, that’s the ego’s job. The soul’s job is to seek authenticity and remain connected to nature and the cosmos. 

Understanding The Soul

The ancient Celts believed that the soul permeates our whole being — our blood, our breath — and that our physical body is actually within the soul rather than the other way around.

This viewpoint makes the soul more of a wanderer, who – although still very intimately woven with the mind, heart, and body – can travel for short periods of time. If however, it’s gone for too long, our whole being (heart, mind, and body) becomes adversely impacted.

The Definition of Soul Loss

This is where Soul Loss comes in. Soul loss is the soul’s natural coping mechanism to deal with trauma. What Western medicine calls shock, and Psychology calls dissociation, many animist cultures use the term ‘soul loss’. That’s because soul loss and trauma go hand in hand. When the Soul feels overwhelmed by a situation and can’t see a way through, sometimes a part of it leaves.

There are as many different kinds of soul loss as there are different kinds of trauma but it’s important to know that in general, the parts of the soul that leave during soul loss tend to return spontaneously when we have some resolution, are more able to cope, have better supports in place, or have experienced physical healing.

In the years I worked as a counsellor, when I wasn’t doing animistic (also referred to as shamanic) soul medicine in my sessions, I often witnessed clients work through big issues and say something like, “I feel like a part of me has come back.” And from that moment forward, they felt a vitality they hadn’t felt in years.

How Soul Loss Happens

Soul loss can happen suddenly, like during a car accident or with the sudden loss of a loved one. It can also happen slowly as if the soul’s essence is leaking or whittling away over time. This usually happens when we are living in a situation that’s not in alignment with our truth like a toxic relationship or job.

Symptoms of Soul Loss

Some of the symptoms of soul loss can include a feeling of numbness or deadness where we crave connection but we seem to observe life rather than fully participate. It can also feel like we’re hungry to live fully but at the same time, we feel disoriented, lethargic, and burned out. We may have an emotional or psychic deadness and have no urge or passion for expressing our natural gifts the way we once did. For example, perhaps we once loved playing music or dancing but since something traumatic happened, we have completely lost the inspiration. Very often, there’s simply a strong intuitive knowing that part of our soul isn’t with us because we simply haven’t been the same since  ______(fill in the blank.)

Where Do Soul Parts Go During Soul Loss

You may be curious about where the soul parts go when they leave. Sometimes they find a new, pleasant, safe place in the Otherworld. Other times, the soul part gets stuck in the time and space of the original trauma, and other times still, the soul part ends up walled up somewhere in the body, our energy field, or in our shadow.

Soul Retrieval: The Process of Reclaiming Soul Loss

So how do we get our soul parts back? Often times we can do some concentrated personal work to call our soul parts home. By holding a clear and devoted intention, we can work with an altar, our dreams, spirit journeys, energy medicine, conscious writing practices, and more. We may work on this in therapy and/or by doing a Soul Retrieval ceremony with an initiated and trained practitioner or spiritual healer. I’ve held space for Soul Retrieval in both contexts (clinical and spiritual).

Here’s how they tend to differ. In a therapy session, you may spontaneously experience the return of a soul part, but the story of where that part has been, why it left, and how you can best integrate it may not come into the work. Whereas, the goal in spiritual healing or shamanic work is the understanding of the topography of where they’ve been, the healing of the soul parts, and the spiritual integration of their gifts and wisdom so they mature and become fully integrated into our soul as a whole. In addition, the process may also include ancestral lineage clearing, past life healing, even the healing of a place. 

Integrating soul parts can be absolutely straight forward and at other times really tricky. What I’ve discovered over the 20 years I have been offering soul retrieval, is that two things can create challenges. The first is dysregulation and unresolved trauma symptoms in the nervous system. Sometimes, soul parts simple won’t return or settle into an unstable container. This is where starting with Somatic work can be really helpful in creating a more successful soul integration. The second challenge is if we are living in a situation that mirrors the reason the soul part left in the first place. For example, perhaps we grew up in an alcoholic home, and then went on to live with an alcoholic partner. The present-day energy of the household is likely very similar to childhood – the unpredictability, abuse and conflict are likely still present. This means that in order for the soul part to fully trust returning home, the current home situation would need to change.

These two factors are the driving forces behind my passion for soul care work. If you’re interested in learning more about Soul Loss or Soul Retrieval, I share many resources on my website and welcome you to connect.

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Angela Prider is one of the most beloved earth medicine teachers in the Pacific North West, and one of the most inspiring people we know. Because of her clinical background, she takes a very down-to-earth and accessible approach to topics that can feel unfamiliar in our Western culture, yet have so much to offer those seeking healing and wholeness. If you’re on a journey to greater wholeness and looking for support and community, I’d highly recommend her Soul-Care to Sovereignty program, a 9-month deep-dive healing journey that includes Soul Retrieval ceremony, where you can learn somatic practices to help with healing trauma and regulating your nervous system to create a stable container. She also teaches on how to set and maintain boundaries, reclaim your voice, live from your needs and values, and rewrite ancestral stories. Bonus, it’s a beautiful community container, which we all need now more than ever. Learn more.

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Soul Loss + Soul Retrieval Explained + How They’re Connected with Anxiety