I have an elderly friend who has lived many years under the heavy blanket of grief. He lost his wife to cancer many years ago and it seems he just lost his ability to take the next step forward and “live.” His friends have all been in and out of his life trying to talk him into making some minor adjustments to start him on the path to living again. He is one of the most talented, eloquent individuals I have had the honor of knowing, yet, I see in his eyes and hear in his words, that the blanket is far heavier than anyone knows. This, as an observer and a friend, has perplexed me for a long time. I have suggested counseling, but he responds to the idea with a nervous laugh. Having been the recent recipient of receiving things from the universe as I have needed them, I stumble upon a most interesting conversation with a gentleman from one of my classes about an option for treating grief that was news to me. I was so intrigued, I booked some time with him to learn more.
Last week, I had coffee with Stephen Hanson, a licensed acupuncturist at Turtle Dragon Health Services. I wanted to know more about how acupuncture helps people work through emotions such as grief. I consider myself a neophyte when it comes to body and healthcare, but I was all ears that day. It was fascinating to learn that the Chinese or Eastern philosophy believes that all disease has an emotional component. This is a concept that those of us in the West probably don’t acknowledge until we are faced with health problems. He educated me on the five basic emotions that are key foundations to our health – Anger, Joy, Worry, Grief and Fear . When he got to grief my ears perked up. He said it usually manifests itself and has direct ties to the lungs and the lungs in turn control the liver. If the lungs become weakened by grief, then the liver is not regulated and the imbalances occur. A disturbance in the lungs can cause a disturbance in the abdomen (in Stomach, Liver, Gallbladder, Bladder, Pancreas) and in the pelvis area (Intestines, Kidneys, Prostate) and vice versa. (My friend has now a history of recent bladder cancer so I was wondering if this was a potential contributor to his cancer.)
Stephen now had my attention – interesting – the potential of physical manifestations related to emotions. I questioned him further about how this would work for someone experiencing prolonged periods of grief versus going to counseling or would both be appropriate. My thoughts were racing right about now……… alas, he said a most profound thing. “Sometimes people can’t verbally express their grief and acupuncture is a way for them to get that release.” (again, thoughts of my friend who cannot seem to approach counseling as a potential treatment). Why didn’t I think of that? Just a few weeks earlier, I had gone over to my friend’s house to check on him as he was experiencing sleep-depriving back pain. I had him lie on the floor and rubbed the knots in feet as I do for my “other half” who also has back pain on a regular basis. For the first time in weeks, I saw his face soften from the pain and realized quickly that “touch” was so important in relieving the tension of pain. He said he felt so much better the next day and even had a little more spring in his step. Now I started connecting the dots while I had coffee with Stephen. Emotional and physical manifestations, emotional and physical options for treatments. As Stephen said, “people get stuck and they feel they have lack of options.” This I truly believe. Talking to some friends who have gone to acupuncturists, they agreed that acupuncture could be a super tool in working through the murky waters of grief. I am glad to have stumbled upon this conversation and knowledge. Thank you Stephen for graciously letting the conversation go for 2 hours after I said I only wanted an hour of your time. If you have questions or would like more information on acupuncture and helping someone through grief, ask your friends if they know a good acupuncturist or contact Stephen Hanson. You can reach him at the Turtle Dragon Health Services 512-452-1410.