Grief, Your Lungs & Gut
In ten years of clinical practice, grief is the emotion that shows up the most. Grief workshops are showing up in our communities more in the last couple of years. People need places to grieve and so we are creating them. Meditation retreat is where I’ve witnessed and felt the deepest kind of transpersonal grief. Personal grief shows up too. I’ve noticed grief has it’s own timing, intelligence and pace. By feeling grief, we allow a transformation to occur. In times like these, most of us are feeling some form of grief.
Types of Grief
Life is different and we may be grieving the loss of normalcy or safety. We may be considering worst case scenarios which is a type of anticipatory grief. This is occurring for individuals but collectively we are experiencing it in a way we never have before. My parents are getting older and ,sure, I’ve thought about how I’ll lose them one day. This is normal expression of this type of grief. But when I open up to the magnitude of collective suffering that this virus has the potential of causing, I’m overwhelmed.
Understanding the are stages to grief can be useful:
1. Denial: This isn’t real. It’s not such a big deal. It won’t affect me.
2. Anger: I need to work. You can’t stop me. This is crazy
3. Bargaining: Ok, I can do 2 weeks without my normal social activities as long as things will be normal by Easter.
4. Depression: This is never going to end.
5. Acceptance: This is the new normal. How can I adapt and live with this as it is? Note: This is where we have power to act.
Where Our Power is
Allowing ourselves the space to move through these stages requires noticing when we are overwhelmed. Anticipatory grief is much like anxiety. Calming anxiety by producing a balanced internal dialogue can be helpful. So alongside worst case scenarios you can also say, “I am doing everything I can to take care of myself and my loved ones.” “I can wash my hands and practice social distancing. I can make a mask and wear it.”
Mindfulness is an incredibly powerful tool for this. Today I was in the grocery store and it was busier than I’ve ever seen it. I noticed my nervous system go from zero to a thousand. When I got home I named how I was feeling and we took the dog for a walk. I focused on my surroundings. My foot on the path. The trees in the forest. I slowly came down. We can’t control everything but we can entrain ourselves towards the parasympathetic state. This creates more resiliency.
What Your Gut Has to do with it
Our lungs are where grief is housed according to Traditional Chinese Medicine. But the gut is how we give and receive. Today I went to the store to get my dad supplies. He sat in the parking lot and asked himself if he should risk it. I’m so glad he reached out to receive my help. I was happy to give. When we are cut off from these recipricol relationships we feel it in our lungs. There is a kind of grief that makes it difficult to breathe because it hurts so much.
On a scientific level our lungs and digestion are our interface with the world. Everything comes into our body through these organs. Oxygen and food as well as infections. The corona virus enters via the ACE 2-R system with the binding site being the mouth and nose. I’ve been pouring over the data coming out of China. More than half of those infected had gut symptoms. An altered microbiota is linked to the severity of illness. Research shows that front line support for best outcomes includes care for the gut microbiome. Your gut has everything to do with your immunity. There are herbs I can’t give my dad because of his medications. But I can support his gut and lung health.
We can all work on our gut health together from home. Join me for deep gut & immune reset. I will continue to follow the research and share updates as they are published.
This is what we do as humans. Bad things happen. We learn from them and grow. Right now we know what to do because we have done it before. No it was not exactly like this but this time we’ll learn new things. People are slowing down. We are being more kind. We are coming together in ways we never have. Yesterday we danced with New York from our living room.
Things will not go back to normal. There will be losses and there will be innovations. I am certainly feeling more grateful for the moments of connection, joy and laughter without ignoring the grief that is a big part of this.