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Working with Grief - Part Three

Emotions Stress Management

This is part three of a 3-part series on working with grief that appeared in Acupuncture Today in the October 2022 issue. I refer to these articles in the video class, Working With Grief, and expand on the skills I talk about in the article.

In this article I talk about how mindful body awareness of physical symptoms can help patients realize how they distract or protect themselves from grief and how it impacts their physical and emotional health. I relate a case about a patient who came in to address symptoms of IBS and a technique I use that I call mindful assessment of the triple burner. In this process she discovers grief hidden in the inflamed sensations she feels in the middle jiao and the resource that appeared in the lower jiao.

Discover Hidden Grief Through Body Awareness

In the first two parts of this series, I talked about how we can be mindful of the ebb and flow of the grieving process and help our patients work through the pain of grief and absorb and anchor the love and tenderness that can follow in its wake.   We do this by helping them create the space to grieve during their time with us and turning awareness towards their bodies. The same place in the body can hold the pain and be a portal for emerging wisdom and relaxation from deeper parts of the self. People learn to trust in their bodies and trust the process. It’s a learning investment for the future and a way to face all situations even to our own death.

In this article we will explore how mindful body awareness of physical symptoms can help patients realize how they distract or protect themselves from grief and how it impacts their physical and emotional health. Most of the time the person is not aware of the underlying process and comes into the office to get help with the physical symptoms. Once the deeper roots are discovered, the physical symptoms change, and we help our patients connect with their intuition and wholeness.

Self-protective parts often show up in the body as a tight neck, tight jaw, worry and thinking, hesitation, procrastination, inflammation, distraction, shallow breathing, tight diaphragm, insomnia, anger that persists and much more. It can be easy to treat symptoms without realizing their significance in the bigger picture of grief (or any other process). 

In the following example, my patient came in talking about her problems with IBS. As a result of deeper self-awareness, she realized she was distracting herself from her grief and it was having an impact on her intestinal inflammation. She ultimately reconnected with her intuition through the symbol of a dragon which emerged in her awareness of her lower dantian. I held strategic points in each of the three jiao and engaged her in mindful self-awareness. I find this technique very helpful for informing both of us about roots and the branches that are presenting in the present moment.

I held CV 17 and GV 11 as we explored the felt sense in her chest. She reported that it felt like molecules of energy were bouncing around in her chest in many directions. To further her mindfulness and discover her mood I asked, “if this entire room was filled with these molecules, how would we feel in it?” “We’d be pleasantly entertained,” she replied with a lighthearted smile.

Next, we explored her upper abdomen. I placed my hand above and below her body at CV 12 in front and GV 6 on her spine. She focused her awareness and said with a little surprise in her voice that it felt quite empty in comparison.  “It’s like a ghost town,” she said.  The walls were sore and pressing inward. “It reminds me of how I have been trying so hard to force my intestines to move,” she said. 

I asked Rachel to gently keep her attention focused on the empty feelings and sore walls and sense what mood was there. After a few moments she began to cry and told me that she was remembering the man she had broken up with a few months ago. “It was the hardest thing I ever had to do,” she said.

With a gentle touch to her arm, I let Rachel know that I was present with her and let her cry. When the emotional wave subsided, I acknowledged,” So there is grief here too.” I asked her what she missed most about her former partner. “He was able to deeply listen to me.  He would stay with me through a difficult process and be with me until we got through it.” 

I suggested that we focus on the gift of deep listening he had given her as one that she still had and was in fact giving herself right now by being present with herself in this way. As she considered my suggestion, she felt calmer and complete in the moment.

Next, I moved my hands to her low abdomen, and put my palm over Cv 4 and behind on her sacrum. I asked her to describe what she noticed in that region. She said the walls were irritated and inflamed.  I asked her to stay with the awareness of her intestinal walls here and see if there was anything else she was aware of.  The image of a dragon came into Rachel’s awareness. “I haven’t been aware of this dragon for a long time,” she said. “It’s my intuition and it wants to protect my best interests.” Intuitively she knew that even though there was a lot of love between herself and her former partner, the relationship was not sustainable over the long run. The presence of the dragon enlivened Rachel’s mood. We affirmed it as a message of inner wisdom emerging into her consciousness.

That part of the session took 15 minutes. I then put needles in Dr. Tan’s Tai-Yin/Yang Ming balance combination to address both the Lung and Large Intestine and encouraged Rachel to let the sore walls of her abdomen and belly soak in the presence of her dragon to soothe and comfort them. This is an important integrative step that anchors the image and its message in the body. She emerged from the session refreshed.

Before we ended, I asked her another integrating question, namely what she wanted to remember from this session. She said she wanted to remember that her busyness was a distraction from her grief and that she can be in touch with and trust her intuition to get her through life events. A few days later she reported that her elimination improved significantly.

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Working With Grief


This class will help you guide your patients through the grief process with an integrated mind-body approach.

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