Three months ago I started to go to acupuncture specifically for grief and depression, I had benefited from acupuncture before for other ailments such as insomnia and allergies, so I had thought about trying it for grief for a long time, but like many things since John died, I had to get brave enough to do it, to step into yet another unknown.
From the first moments I was on the table and Jay, a soft spoken healer with incredibly kind eyes said quietly, “Yes, yes grief is extremely hard on the body and specifically the heart.” I knew I had work to do, because at these mere words, I started to softly weep. He then motioned to his heart and said that when grievers say they have a broken heart they are not far off because the heart is exactly where we hold grief and that those who have been deeply wounded can literally feel the pain of that grief in their heart. (I know I am not the only one who has felt the actual physical pain of grief! So many others have confided to me that they too have felt and continue to feel it for a long time.) Then he spoke about how depression settles into the lungs and that to help ease both, the grief and depression, and help move pushed down emotions out that we would treat both the lungs and the heart together, as they work in tandem, especially during grieving.
He slowly inserted the needles and I mistakenly thought it would be a similar experience to others I have had where I lay quietly in the dark for 45 minutes or so and then go home feeling tired but also feeling some better, and then better and better as the days passed from the appointment.
I was wrong, grief has it’s own rules and it was nothing like being treated for allergies or insomnia. He was barely to the door when the tears literally started to coarse down my face falling into my hair. He had barely closed the door when I let out my first sob, a deep, loud, raspy sob. I tried so hard to be quiet, so hard to stop the uncontrollable crying, but after a few moments I simply gave into it, after all, fighting it all is what had landed me here in the first place. Still, the emotions were so strong and the grief so overwhelming that I nearly called him back in to take out the needles because it hurt too much to feel all of what was pushed down for so many months. But I didn’t I was brave and stayed the course, remembering some advice I had received before, “we resist that which we need the most”, remembering that I made myself stop resisting and simply allowed myself to be present to what was.
After the first fifteen minutes of crying so hard my ribs ached I was suddenly calm, suddenly exhausted and still, and then I started to breathe! My body was literally choking down as much air as I could gulp in. My lungs, where depression is stored, needed the deep breath of oxygen, and for the first time in all the months since John died I could feel my lungs fill up to the bottom and release, instead of the many short, shaky breaths (the kind like when you’ve been crying a long time) I had found myself taking throughout each day for nearly two years.
When it was over, I was teary and completely wiped out, but I had others ask me in the following days about how I was doing because as one person close to me said, “You seem lighter somehow, the air around you does not seem as heavy or sad”. When I thought about that statement I thought ‘yes, I feel lighter as well’. A smile was coming more quickly, a laugh escaped more often and was more robust and honest.
I have been several times since and each time is a little different. The second time I didn’t cry hardly at all but was very floaty and found myself taking those deep gulping breaths for the entire visit. Another time I went, I found that cried for a long while, nearly half and hour I’m guessing but quiet, hot tears, not sobbing tears like the first time, as I suddenly felt the guilt of John’s death come to the surface and into the room. That time I spent a lot of time whispering to John that I was sorry, that I wish I could have saved him, that I felt responsible for not catching the signs of his impending heart attack.
So each time is different and each time is hard as well, in it’s own way. And a word of caution here. It’s not for the faint of spirit. When my therapist asked me if I was ready to delve deep and feel the pain that it would bring up she wasn't kidding and it’s a scary hard place to be. Each time I go to acupuncture I know that the day following it is going to be a really exhausted one physically and super rough emotionally, and therefore have to plan around it.
Also, and this has been a surprise for me but in hindsight maybe shouldn’t have been, it doesn’t just bring back grief from John’s death. It brings back grief from all sorts of things that have brought pain, suffering and sorrow. Some from my childhood, much from my failed marriage of youth, some from abuse suffered at the hands of an unkind person. It brings back, up and out ALL sorts of sorrows and grief, which is good for the body and the soul, but could be too much early on for a traveler of deep loss. I am certain it would have been too much for me early on.
For others, maybe it would be too much altogether or maybe it wouldn’t help at all-we are after all so very different in our grief and our healing. And i find myself now wondering if maybe other grievers have tried and had success from some technique that is considered “out there” or on the edges of the “norm”. If so, I hope that you will share it, because it is in transparency and honest sharing that I think we find our most effective tools for healing and in doing so also gain our deepest friendships.