Can acupuncture help to heal my grief?
Usually, the articles I write deal with issues from a purely professional perspective as an acupuncture therapist.
Like most people, I have personally experienced periods of stress and anxiety, of sleepless nights and of course, like everyone, I’ve had my fair share of colds and other illnesses, some mild and others a little more serious, that have left me feeling less than 100 per cent physically.
I’ve always thought of these things as conditions that feel, in some ways, quite generic in the sense that we can all empathise with one another.
And so, in writing about them from a professional point of view, they’ve always felt a step removed from me at the time. I feel empathy but, by and large and with one or two exceptions, my experiences of most of them have left no scars, either emotionally or physically.
Today, I sit at my keyboard to write about a topic that feels uniquely personal: grief.
In the last week or so, I and my family have experienced personal loss, and even though I know many of you reading this will also have faced very similar emotional challenges in your lives, the events of the last few days have made me realise that grief is inherently individual and always extremely personal.
The truth is that most of us will be bereaved at some point in our lifetime and will find ourselves in a situation where we will need to deal with grief, as I am having to at the moment.
But it’s important to also recognise and acknowledge that grief isn’t just about death – there are many events in life that can trigger grief: the loss of a job, a miscarriage, failing health, the mourning of a different and kinder time in your life or simply the recognition that a dream we once had will not be achieved.
Acupuncture is a very effective way to help process feelings of grief. I’m deliberately not talking about ‘getting over’ grief, because that implies a sense of life returning to what it was before, and the one absolute truth of grief is that it is impossible to return entirely to the life that preceded it.
Grief and loss change everything. But just as we may heal from any injury that leaves a scar, so the same is true of grief. The scar that is left behind is a reminder of the sorrow or loss we felt, but it no longer hurts in the same way.
In the world of acupuncture, grief is strongly linked to the lungs and the large intestine – organs that acupuncture practitioners know as the Metal organs.
And this makes sense because, in rudimentary terms, both organs allow us to excrete that which we no longer require. In the case of the lungs, they take in oxygen-rich air and expel poisonous carbon dioxide, and the large intestine processes the sustenance that is no longer needed once our body has extracted the nutrients it needs from it.
This ‘cleansing’ function of the lungs and large intestine isn’t just limited to the tangible production and disposal processes that are part and parcel of keeping our internal engine running.
These organs also process our emotions in the same way.
When we experience grief, our psyche produces emotions that are necessary for expression at a moment of loss. Those emotions, in that moment, are natural and healthy, too.
But in many cases, they can become stuck, leaving us unable to continue the forward momentum of life. And it is at this point that the Metal organs can use a little help from acupuncture to expel them once they have served their natural and healthy purpose.
As anyone who follows my blogs and social media will know, ancient Chinese medicine believes our physical and mental wellbeing all stems from the energy life-force – or Qi (pronounced chee) that we all have.
At times of emotional or physical crisis, the pathways through which our Qi travels can become blocked, resulting in prolonged physical and/or emotional symptoms that can be debilitating and unhealthy.
Grief, though very personal (we all experience it in different ways, whether it’s a numbness, shortness of breath, constant anxiety, or something else) is nevertheless a psychological response to trauma that, like other emotional states, is triggered when our Qi becomes blocked or interrupted.
Acupuncture can help here because it is designed to clear those blockages or interruptions through the use of superfine and completely painless needles inserted into the skin at specific points on the body.
I know that the pandemic has meant more people than ever have been affected by bereavement.
If you’re one of them, or if you have suffered some other kind of bereavement – perhaps redundancy as a result of Covid’s economic impact, for example – then please do get in touch for an informal and obligation-free chat.
As I’ve already said, grief is personal, and life is forever altered by it. But with support and care it is possible to move beyond grief into a new phase of life where loss is never forgotten but is also no longer an emotional roadblock.