How to cope with grief

Great barrier grief.

The abyss of grief is a chasm so vast that no compass can navigate its exodus. Time is suspended, daily tasks rendered impossible. It is the only state where time and date are so irrelevant that the segmentation of society’s structure is blindingly apparent. As if in apology, time slowly returns and allegedly can heal all wounds. Coping with grief is a kaleidoscope of knots and kindling scars. The multifaceted void knows no remedy but rest. Distraction is futile, conversation pointless. While we can put the past behind us, we cannot bury its bones for it rears its eternal head at the whisper of loss and the well of grief draws deep again.

Sadness and sorrow are ingredients of compassion and make up the wheel of life just as happiness, joy and ecstasy do. The incomprehensible emptiness that the loss creates – be it human, animal or mineral – is part of the process, the cycle of life. While we do not simply get over death we can get back on board with life.

The forces of Autumn create dryness in Heaven and metal on Earth; they create the lung organ and the skin upon the body . . . and the nose, and the white color, and the pungent flavor . . . the emotion grief, and the ability to make a weeping sound.
— Inner Classic[1]

In Chinese medicine, the emotion of grief relates to the metal element, the lungs and colon and the season of autumn. Rather than paraphrase such important information, here’s what Chinese Medicine Master Paul Pitchford (whom I certified under) discusses: When grief is expressed and resolved it strengthens the internal basis of health, but repressed grief causes long-term contraction in the lungs, which interferes with their function of dispersing nutrients and qi; ultimately, the lungs become congested with undistributed matter. Virtually everyone with lung and colon problems, regardless of the source of the problem, has unresolved sadness that needs to be cleared. Understanding the inward nature of this emotion offers a clue to working with it.

From grief to relief

If we accept that our lungs house the emotion of grief, then we can understand just how vital the breath is. Think for a moment how a child expresses sadness – not tantrums but genuine sadness perhaps from a loss of a pet. They typically hug their chest to their knees, curl up and weep. Adults of course do this, usually in private. The physical body wants to protect the lungs and heart from further hurt. There is a natural contractive energy to this, an internal mechanism that draws the energy within. The expansion of this is to let go. From within to without to heal and release. Without this primal mechanism, long term illness can manifest.

Image: Nelly le Comte

How to cope with grief through food

In the process of using food as medicine for grief we prescribe pungent foods. Think about some or all of these foods – ginger, garlic, onion, cloves, cayenne, cinnamon, cardamom, cumin, thyme, sage, turmeric, wasabi, horseradish, mustard seeds and greens, radishes, black and green peppercorns. They are spicy, warming and quite robust in flavour which is the first port of call for the lungs. This is the energy of pungency and how it works internally is to disperse energy and fluid – phlegm and tears for example.

‘The essence of food is received through the sense of smell and appetite is stimulated by the warm fragrance of baked and sautéed food’ writes Pitchford. For chronic lung conditions, slow cooked food is best. During my three month convalescence with pneumonia I mostly ate boiled peas and mashed potato. The simplest of comfort food and the most easily digested so as to alleviate the gut from doing too much work. This is my testament to healing and the reason I do not endorse the prescription of cold and raw food for chronic illness. For more stories about food and healing you can read my book The Healing Feeling available here.

In loving memory of Tess Ley 1984 – 2019
Always in our heart.

Our last big conversation Tess said to me “If I surrender my body (to science) imagine what they’ll learn?”

The Felt Sense Prayer

I am the pain in your head, the knot in your stomach, the unspoken grief in your smile.
I am your high blood sugar, your elevated blood pressure, your fear of challenge, your lack of trust.
I am your hot flashes, your cold hands and feet, your agitation and your fatigue.
I am your shortness of breath, your fragile low back, the cramp in your neck, the despair in your sigh
I am the pressure on your heart, the pain down your arm, your bloated abdomen, your constant hunger.
I am where you hurt, the fear that persists, your sadness of dreams unfulfilled.
I am your symptoms, the causes of your concern, the signs of imbalance, your condition of dis-ease.

You tend to disown me, suppress me, ignore me, inflate me, coddle me, condemn me.
I am not coming forth for myself as I am not separate from all that is you.
I come to garner your attention, to enjoin your embrace so I can reveal my secrets.
I have only your best interests at heart as I seek health and wholeness by simply announcing myself.

You usually want me to go away immediately, to disappear, to sleek back into obscurity.
You mostly are irritated or frightened and many times shocked by my arrival.
From this stance you medicate in order to eradicate me.
Ignoring me, not exploring me, is your preferred response.
More times than not I am only the most recent notes of a long symphony, the most evident branches of roots that have been challenged for seasons.

So I implore you, I am a messenger with good news, as disturbing as I can be at times.
I am wanting to guide you back to those tender places in yourself,
the place where you can hold yourself with compassion and honesty.
If you look beyond my appearance you may find that I am a voice from your soul.
Calling to you from places deep within that seek your conscious alignment.

I may ask you to alter your diet, get more sleep, exercise regularly, breathe more consciously.
I might encourage you to see a vaster reality and worry less about the day to day fluctuations of life.
I may ask you to explore the bonds and the wounds of your relationships.
I may remind you to be more generous and expansive or to attend to protecting your heart from insult.
I might have you laugh more, spend more time in nature, eat when you are hungry and less when pained or bored, spend time every day, if only for a few minutes, being still.

Wherever I lead you, my hope is that you will realize that success will not be measured by my eradication, but by the shift in the internal landscape from which I emerge.

I am your friend, not your enemy. I have no desire to bring pain and suffering into your life.
I am simply tugging at your sleeve, too long immune to gentle nudges.
I desire for you to allow me to speak to you in a way that enlivens your higher instincts for self care.
My charge is to energize you to listen to me with the sensitive ear and heart
of a mother attending to her precious baby.

You are a being so vast, so complex, with amazing capacities for self-regulation and healing.
Let me be one of the harbingers that lead you to the mysterious core of your being
where insight and wisdom are naturally available when called upon with a sincere heart.

Author Unknown

[1]The Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classic (Huangdi Neijing, 黃帝內經) is the most important ancient text in Chinese medicine as well as a major book of Daoist theory and lifestyle. (Source: Wiki)

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