Loss is a fact of life. It’s part of the journey from the time we are born until we take our last breath. Loss comes in different forms from loss of job, relationships, financial security, mental health and death of a loved one. Each loss brings with it a time to grieve and an opportunity to find meaning and hopefully healing toward the next chapter in life.
In my acupressure practice most clients who come to me usually complain of physical ailments such as back or shoulder pain, women’s health issues, digestive issues, insomnia etc. Some clients who come for relief of side effects of cancer treatments are amazed to find that acupressure provided an additional benefit of soothing their emotional and spiritual well being. This additional benefit was made possible because Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) takes a holistic approach to viewing a person. Physical, emotional, mental and spiritual variables have equal standing in diagnosing and treating a client. My studies in TCM armed me with the knowledge to offer sessions that could address all these variables and to offer self-care acupressure routines as well.
Now, loss and grief have found their way into my life. Four weeks ago I received the news that my brother died alone in his apartment. He was a Viet Nam war vet who for more than forty years suffered from PTSD, diabetes, depression, stroke and many other health and mental health problems. When I received the news of his death, it was a shock, expected but not expected. During much of those forty years, I watched and supported him to seek help when his health/mental health issues took its toll. As I look back on those many years, I realize that I have been in a state of grieving the loss of who he once was as a vibrant and brilliant human being before the effects of war took over his life.
As I embrace my grief, I have been comforted by friends and family. The same healing tools that I have offered others, I now am partaking in. The road I chose to help my healing of grief and loss incorporated activities that I already knew brought health and well being into my life. They included meditation, deep breathing, acupressure, writing, tea and altar honoring. These activities are my friends that I can count on to support me. Each helps me to slow down and tune into my own rhythm and the rhythm of life.
Here is how I bring them all together:
MEDITATION: Every morning I sit quietly before my day begins. I have practiced meditation for many years and know that when I sit I am open to the feelings and thoughts just as they are real and true for me right now. Meditation helps me to be grounded and to acknowledge and accept the reality of the loss and grief I feel. Meditation helps to encourage self compassion and acceptance that grief may be my companion for some time and that’s ok. Loss and grief are a natural part of life. There is no time frame for experiencing grief. It may come in waves and degrees. Grief and loss are individual experiences. This is why I sit quietly in meditation every day to reach down into my soul and inner healer to access what is the right path for me. I know now that this every day practice gives me strength, support, and inner courage to face this difficult time in my life.
Whatever it is called meditation, quiet time, chanting or prayer can open one’s heart and soul to allow one to lean into loss and grief and embrace it for what it has to offer.
DEEP BREATHING: Along with my meditation, I take some time to breathe deeply. It takes practice. Deep breathing from the belly can bring me back to a more grounded place. Too often fear, stress, anxiety take over and suddenly breathing comes from a more shallow place in the chest. My shock at learning of my brother’s death left me breathing from that shallow place. Later, I began to calm myself and to practice deep breathing. The benefits of deep breathing-in healthy oxygen and breathing out the carbon dioxide toxins helps to slow the heart rate, increase circulation, improve mental clarity and bring calmness. I combined my deep breathing with potent acupressure points that in the past have offered me the peace of mind and emotional balance.
ACUPRESSURE: My hands have become my healers. The instruments that offer comfort and solace as I navigate my way through my grief, loss and stress. What I most wanted when I heard the news of my brother’s death was to be hugged. My heart was broken, my shock took hold and my tears just flowed.
There are some 365 acupressure points. When the QI (chee) energy in our system is flowing we are in balance and harmony. When loss and grief knocked on my door, I invited them in because I knew that these feelings are all a part of what life is all about. I felt so much sadness accumulating and centered in my chest. I am a firm believer in “being with what is right before me now” and so my Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) studies kicked in and have supported me through this time.
As much as I would like to distance myself from the unpleasant feelings of loss and grief I know that healing comes from embracing and living with what is in the here and now.
Here are a few acupressure points I have learned that resonate comfort and support for me. I practice them every day along with deep breathing. Lu1 (Central Palace) is located three finger widths below the outer portion of the collarbone.
CV 17 (Sea of Tranquility) located at the center of the chest. This point nourishes, supports and calms one especially during heavy emotional stress times.
I criss-cross my hands over the CV 17 (Sea of Tranquility) point and touch the Lu1 (Central Palace) point breathing deeply. I use these points several times a day which I have found to be helpful to release what my heart holds and to calm my spirit and hug myself.
Grieving takes its toll both emotionally and physically. I have found that my energy is low and sluggish my focus can be scattered, my sleep patterns are disrupted and generally my overall being is dispirited.
I utilize a combination of CV17 (Sea of Tranquility) with a point just below the navel CV6 (Sea of Qi or energy) that help to balance my system and encourage my resiliency to follow my path in my own way.
To address my emotional state, I find myself holding a point in the palm of my hand, P8 (Laogong or Palace of Labor). It feels comfortable and a way to release stress and calm the mind. These acupressure points and more that I will discuss in another Blog have formed the basis of a daily practice along with the deep breathing and meditation that I offer to myself. It gives me practices to do during a time when I have felt hopeless and helpless. When the mind scatters and the emotions of the heart are overwhelming, I have found that having a foundation of practices offers some stability in my day and a reminder that life is about change and some changes result in endings that we don’t necessarily want to experience. Yet, life brings endings that turn into new beginnings and somehow we learn to incorporate our grief into a special place in our hearts and move forward.
ALTAR HONORING: During this very sacred time of grieving, bringing together pictures, mementos, letters and other reminders of the one who has passed on can be a very healing activity. My tribute to my brother is showing up in a couple of different places in my home. In my meditation space, I have my own altar set up with my personal mementos, candle and flowers. I also have a picture of the two of us in a happy, healthy time displayed in my living room. Both places offer an opportunity to pass by and honor him.
I have now added my brother’s picture along with rosemary from my garden to the altar. Rosemary has long been considered a symbol of friendship, loyalty and remembrance. I have bundled rosemary with a ribbon and given it as a memento at remembrance services. Now I incorporate rosemary on an altar near my brother’s picture and even combine it with hot water to make a soothing tea that has loads of antioxidants and is known to tonify the nervous system and uplift the spirit.
My grief will probably stay with me for some time. But with writing this blog and incorporating these healing tools into my life, I feel that I can be on the road to rebalancing my life and that these difficult times will ease in time. My heart that is wounded can heal.