"You cannot prevent the birds of sorrow from flying over your head, but you can prevent them from building nests in your hair." - Old Chinese proverb
I like to say, “Grief is a full body sport.” I remember exactly where I was when I had that realization, and why. My husband and I had lost 13 people in an 18 month period - all close friends or family members. Going to funerals became de rigueur. But the physical pain! It came as a shock. One day, I looked over at him and said, “Does your body hurt as much as mine does?” Yes!
What is grief?
Every grief is different, and every one the same. My mother’s passing felt much different from when my father passed.. Sometimes, grief feels simply like loss or deep sadness. Sometimes, that sadness is mixed with other emotions - such as resentment, bitterness, unfairness - or even psychological symptoms, like dissociation. The person and their affect on your life, the circumstances of the life and the death, how that person left their affairs…all impact the survivors.
And, grief is not always about death. We grieve when our nest becomes empty, when we lose an important or long standing job, when we move away from home, when our bodies age, when we recognize some opportunities are lost for good.
So handling grief is about letting go of a profound attachment. It doesn’t matter to whom or to what - that attachment can be felt in the nervous system, in each cell. That’s why it sometimes physically hurts. And that’s why hypnotherapy can be such a great help.
What are the stage of grief?
Grief is a process that often takes as much as two years to experience; it’s a healthy and normal part of most people’s lives. Famed psychologist Elizabeth Kubler Ross wrote of the five stages of grief: anger, denial, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Depending on circumstances, those emotional states may be experienced in any order and to any degree. Hypnotherapy can help a client accept and even see the beauty in the five stages, as well as to observe their passage neutrally and even gratefully.
How does hypnosis help with grief?
Sometimes, however, that process may seem too painful to embrace and clients may act out in an unhealthy manner in response to loss by drinking, eating, shirking responsibilities, or taking it out on a relationship. Hypnotherapy can help separate good healthy behavior from destructive behavior. In most cases, the reason for the acting out can be found earlier in life. A previous trauma or loss sets the stage for a more negative reaction to later loss. My husband, for example, after losing two brothers, two cousins and two best friends, experienced chronic pain for years and that made him want to avoid going to work. By doing hypnotherapy, he reversed early trauma that made the considerable grief he was experiencing easier to bear.
Hypnotherapy is a time tested modality
Since the late 19th century, hypnosis has been safely used to treat battle related PTSD and to alleviate traumatic grief. Grief is traumatic when it follows objective and severe subjective trauma, and when post-traumatic reactions inhibit mourning. Such cases can be extremely complex. Some may dissociate to extreme degrees. Some may suppress or deny the loss entirely. Some may hallucinate or harbor false beliefs about the circumstances of the loss. In such cases, hypnosis can slowly bring the client back to normal perception and help the client gradually accept the loss. If appropriate or necessary, hypnotherapy can help the client relieve the traumatic event, neutralize powerful emotions tied to it, and even interact with the memory of the lost loved one to bring closure. It can also give the client psychological resources that may have been lacking during the trauma - such as courage, faith, or the feeling that everything happens for a reason - so that the client experiences the trauma with new insight and draws new conclusions about what the loss and the trauma mean.
What’s truly wonderful is that all healing comes from the client’s subconscious mind, and is not taught or imposed in any way. The client’s subconscious finds the resources from within.
How hypnotherapy accesses the superconscious to heal grief.
Grief - whether from the loss of a loved one, or an important life change like losing a job - is often seen in a religious sense. A client, for example, might feel angry at God for taking the loved one away, or feel punished for living with a horrible situation. Of course, hypnosis can help reframe and neutralize those powerful emotions, but because trance is a measurable state of mind that shares the same brain wave frequencies as prayer and meditation, it creates a state of love, forgiveness and acceptance knows as the the superconscious.
The superconscious mind encompasses a level of awareness that sees beyond material reality and taps into the energy and consciousness behind that reality. Some refer to this as the “ether” - a flow of electromagnetic waves that permeate all matter and space. The idea that we can experience something out of space and time is the nature of quantum physics.
The superconscious is the source of true creativity - the kind of creativity that feels like flow, and as if it comes from a higher source outside the body. Expressions of this kind of creativity are distinct from those that come from the subconscious. Artists create their greatest work in this state; scientists their greatest inventions. Profound physical healing can also take place in this state. Since grief may be experienced as a physical ailment, spending time in the hypnotic state makes sense to heal grief in all its manifestations.
Conclusions about using hypnotherapy for grief.
While grief is a natural reaction to loss that has STAGES and takes time to heal, it doesn't have to be physically or mentally crippling. Severe reactions to grief usually reflect some underlying subconscious beliefs or trauma that can be reversed to make the loss bearable. The circumstances surrounding a loss as well as the impact the person or situation, in the case of a lost job or home, has on the client, influences the clients experience of the loss. So while grief is expected and normal, it is always unique. Because grief reminds us of other grief and can affect the body physically as well as emotionally, grief is also always the same. Hypnotherapy can help a client Game perspective on a loss, retain faith in God or life itself, and stop self-destructive behavior.
To learn about PTSD, read this.