Monday 7 March 2016

Grief in Everyday Life

When we suffer the loss of a loved one, then we must allow ourselves time to grieve. Grief is a process of healing, and it is necessary to experience each stage of this process before reaching the final stage - acceptance, learning to live with the loss which has occurred.

The stages of grief we experience start with shock and denial; we feel anger and want to blame - ourselves, someone or something; we may feel guilty or sink into depression and withdraw from life; we may start bargaining - asking the 'what if's' and the 'if only's', until gradually we learn to carry our burden and accept the loss, enabling us to reach out to others and get involved in life once more.

The stages of grief don't follow any particular timeline. Some people experience all the stages, some seem to skip a stage; many bounce back and forth between stages and some get completely stuck. There is no expected duration - there is no right or wrong. Some people are denied the time to grieve or don't allow themselves to do so, often by keeping themselves frenetically busy. This is a coping mechanism and /or an avoidance technique which allows them to function in the short term, but it cannot be sustained.

The grieving process also comes into play at other key moments in our lives - often when things are done to us or taken from us ie things happen which are not of our choosing. Things such as being sacked from a job or being made redundant; retirement; divorce; children starting school, leaving home, going off to uni or getting married.

When it comes to our health, there are also instances when it would be appropriate to go through a grieving process, although it may not be obvious at first glance that this is indeed what we're experiencing.

Some women can struggle emotionally on reaching menopause. Fluctuating hormone levels play a big part in this, but with it also comes the realisation that her child-bearing days are over - the door has closed on that part of her life and she will never get it back again.

Being diagnosed with a life-changing medical condition  can also bring about an emotional struggle, brought about by the realisation that it is no longer possible to live by the same lifestyle as before the diagnosis. This diagnosis can bring with it intensive medication and treatment regimes, dietary changes, limitations in mobility and life expectancy. Once again, the door has closed on the 'normal' pre-diagnosis life and it will never be the same again.

At times like these it is therefore appropriate - and indeed necessary - to grieve the loss of the previous 'normal' life. Although the body will never fully heal, it is possible to heal the mind and the spirit by allowing ourselves to grieve - to give ourselves time and permission to experience fully all the stages and emotions, so that we can reach the stage of acceptance of our 'new normal' and begin to live our lives again.

Five Element Acupuncture is a very useful therapy in supporting patients who have received a life-changing diagnosis. The treatment room provides a safe space where the patient can talk about how they are feeling, a place where they can be heard and given permission to off-load without fear of being judged. It is particularly useful at times when talking is just to painful - we just let the needles do their work.