It is prevalent in our daily lives, yet many people struggle with grief. Usually beginning as an emotion, extended periods of grief typically manifest physically, a phenomena that clearly demonstrates the interconnectedness each human body possesses. By accessing the energetic manifestation of grief, bodywork can unlock this commonly repressed emotion. Upon associating physical complaints with barricaded grief, therapists who have the skills to prompt its release can help their clients achieve a major breakthrough in reaching their health goals.
Grief is the normal response of sorrow, emotion and confusion that comes from losing someone or something important to you. A typical reaction to death, divorce, job loss, a move away from friends and family or loss of good health due to illness, grief has many dimensions. While conventionally focused on the emotional response to loss, grief also has known physical, cognitive, behavioral, social and philosophical dimensions.
There is no allocation for how long grief lasts. Accepting and learning to live with the experienced loss is the greatest determining factor in the time spent grieving. There are many reasons for these differences, including personality, health, coping style, culture, family background and life experiences. In addition, the time spent grieving depends on the relationship with the person or thing lost and how prepared the person was for the loss. For some, grief lasts several months – while grieving may take years for others.
Just after a death or loss, many people experience feelings of emptiness and numbness – similar to being in a state of shock. Physically, problems such as trembling, nausea, difficulty breathing, muscle weakness, dry mouth, lack of appetite and insomnia are common during the earlier stages of grief. However, prolonged, unresolved grief can have many additional physical manifestations.
Complicated grief, or Prolonged Grief Disorder (PGD), is diagnosed by mental health professionals when normal grief and loss processes appear to become “stuck” and persist for six months or more. While there are many emotional and spiritual signs indicating PGD, some of the problems often addressed by bodyworkers, include:
- Pain – especially of the neck, head and back
- Gastrointestinal disorders
- Chest pain or breathing difficulties
Bodywork for Grief
Although any kind of bodywork may reveal hidden feelings, certain modalities are more likely to access the energetics of grief for initiating an emotional release. Of the many types of bodywork to choose from, two healing systems identify grief as a component of an imbalanced element: Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and polarity therapy.
Massage therapists using TCM and polarity methods on clients harboring grief are especially likely to have their clients release this repressed emotion and prompt harmonization between their clients’ physical, emotional and spiritual planes.
- TCM – According to TCM, grief primarily disrupts the metal element, which governs the lung and large intestine meridians. Symptoms relating to the lung or large intestine such as chest pain, breathing difficulties and constipation are common when these channels are blocked. Thus, applying acupressure techniques along the lung and large intestine meridians, and on their Front Alarm and Back Shu points, commonly accesses and releases stagnant grief energy.
- Polarity Therapy – According to polarity therapy, ether governs the specific emotion of grief. Because ether’s center is in the neck and throat, these areas must be open and relaxed for grief to flow freely and be released. Polarity therapy offers various techniques to unblock this area and harmonize ether with the other elements and with the nervous and musculoskeletal systems.
While today’s healthcare system typically doesn’t recognize or address the full gamut of grief-related problems, verbal therapists such as grief counselors or psychologists can provide substantial emotional support. Thus, massage therapists working with grief-stricken clients should have a referral list of recommended talk therapists.
Whether a client is grieving from a recent loss or harboring prolonged grief, bodyworkers who practice TCM-based acupressure or polarity therapy can be especially helpful. By enhancing circulation in the lung and large intestine meridians or in ether’s domain, stagnant energy that houses grief can be freed – thus releasing the emotional, physical and spiritual blockages that have perpetuated a grieving client’s disharmony.