Acupuncture and Loss
Jill Ellen Smith L.Ac.
As we come out of summer and approach Autumn we leave behind our experiences of the loss of some loved celebrities like Michael Jackson, Farah Fawcett, to name a few. Icons and imprints on our cultural national stage.
But, what of our own personal losses? The death a loved one? What about the grief we bare and how it affects us – body, mind, spirit? Where does Chinese medicine and acupuncture come into this conversation?
According to Chinese Medicine, the process and emotion associated with Autumn is about grief and letting go. Just as the trees let go of their leaves, we must move on in spite of our loss… Much easier said than done…that struggle is part of our human condition. An acupuncturist is prepared to identify how any fresh or even long term unresolved grief may manifest in a person.
An acupuncturist will be able to help a patient tie together the lose threads of their symptoms to understand how their particular symptoms may tie in to their grief.
The lungs, and not only the heart, are often the ‘target organ’ of our grief. . If you recall, Christopher Reeves’ wife died of lung cancer shortly after he passed. Often times the element where a person predominates in their constitution will reflect the imbalance of the organ associated with that element.
For example, the Lung and the Large Intestine are the organs associated with the Autumn season. It is not uncommon to see grief show up as Lung disorders (frequent upper respiratory infections, asthma, chronic cough etc and colitis, bowel disorders etc). The skin, considered the ‘second lung’ in both Western and Eastern medicine, may show up with rashes, psoriasis etc.
But more than that, the Liver (which in Chinese Medicine is associated with the smooth flow of emotions), may be impacted by our grief. If we are unable to move forward in our lives and bring our grief to closure, our Livers can become burdened with the emotional stuck ness. Liver imbalances can show up, reflected by a multitude of symptoms. For example, headaches, menstrual disharmonies, menopausal problems, muscular issues are examples of Liver imbalances.
That is why your acupuncturist will want to do a thorough evaluation on you on the first meeting. It is the only way to understand the spirit issues associated with the physical symptoms.
Often times, a person will come for treatment of their depression and grief directly. In the process of treating this, physical symptoms usually respond beautifully. Why?? Because we are a body, mind, spirit beings. We are more than our symptom…and we are more than our grief.
There are actually acupuncture points with names (English translation of the Chinese) like ‘Foot Above Tears’ and ‘Wail of Grief”.
I recently treated a woman whose son had died 7 years ago. She was having headaches, but most troublesome to her was her depression and lack of joy in life, not to mention her multitude of conflicts with her family. After a few acupuncture treatments she was able to begin to realize that ‘moving on’ was what she was not doing, and that this had been her choice. Her initial clearing treatments opened her up to seeing where she was going…. or not going.
Sometimes our grief is simply about accepting disappointment on how certain life relationships, or dreams, or hopes didn’t happen. These are losses…. and if we are unable to reach acceptance, then we become stuck with another type of grief which can affect our bodies as described above.
Can you understand then how the Autumn is associated with the letting go? ‘Letting go’ does not mean forgetting. Nor does it mean abandoning your loved one’s memory. It means living a full life in spite of your loss. Only by healing and moving on can we make room for more growth and new possibilities? And you know what that means… Spring will offer rebirth if we’ve done our healing work. (But of course we must go through the rest and rejuvenation of Winter first… but that is waiting in our next article.)
Enjoy your Autumn.