Grief is a healthy response to the experience of loss. When you are grieving, your body also grieves. The mind/body connection in grief is profoundly strong. Our body is very wise, and our body never lies. Our bodies are a trustworthy source of wisdom and guidance. Our bodies carry hidden knowledge about what we need during this time of grief. Our body is always calling out for our attention. So, what does all this really mean?
In this article I will attempt to share with you a brief background of the role of the body in one’s journey of grief. We will explore the physical manifestations of grief and the immediate needs of the body. I will also share with you the inner terrain, the deeper access of the wisdom and guidance our bodies hold. I invite you to become curious about your own body and the story it longs to have you know.
We live in a society that is hurried and compulsively busy. We are often told our grief has a time line. Even well intentioned people try to divert us from our emotions, thoughts and deeper inner needs. Alan Wolfelt, Ph. D. states; “after the loss of someone you care about, one often feels shock, a kind of psychic numbing of your senses, and a physical slowing of your body. You are taken down to your very basic needs of physical, emotional and spiritual survival. Even the simplest acts of life seem harder.” When this is ignored our bodies have no other choice than to talk louder, even begin to scream. How do our bodies talk to us? One way is through physical sensations. Our bodies may experience the following; insomnia, crying, muscle weakness, headaches, nausea, constipation or other challenges of the gut, low energy, anxiety, exhaustion, even difficulty breathing. Grief has a strong effect on our immune system. Grief can also be experienced as physical pain and has been described in many ways: dull, aching, stinging, biting, sharp, contracted, or constricted. Any or all of these reactions are normal parts of grieving and simply need our attention. Science shows us that grief is recorded in our bodies and retained if not attended to. Self- care is crucial at this point in our journey of grief. Physically it is important to provide our body with rest, nourishment, drink lots of water, fresh air, exercise, movement, quiet time and stillness. The art of massage therapy & bodywork can offer “new input’ to one’s body at this most precious time. It can gently offer you permission, perhaps remind your physical self to rest, receive nourishment, to be still and breathe! Our “body is truly our beloved partner” especially at this most delicate time.
And now, follow me as I guide you through the inner terrain, the deeper access of the wisdom of the body. Our body is a direct link to our emotions. Our body also does a very good job guarding us, even numbing us from our emotional self. Our body does this through constricting of the muscles, shallow breathing and lack of movement. Sensation, breath and movement are the “language of the body.” If you have ever taken a foreign language, you understand it is foreign. It takes time, presence, practice, and attention to begin to feel, speak and embody this “foreign language.” The same disciplines hold true for learning the language of the body. However, unlike learning a foreign language, learning the language of our body gives us access to the wealth of information stored just below the surface of our consciousness, often hidden from our awareness. Learning our body’s language is highly experiential, rather than analytical. One must deepen into, become still, mindfully observe, feel and eventually welcome this inner terrain in order to translate and gain insight and wisdom our bodies offer. And from this space grief can offer us meaning, transformation and healing.
Don’t run away from or rush through your grief ~ Walk slowly; learn to embrace the unseen, the unfelt. Handle your grief with unclenched openness. Become still, breathe, and surrender. Come to rest in awareness where it may be tenderly and gently touched and transformed. Open to the gifts grief can offer. Remember – Your Body Never Lies!
Kathy Ginn is a Massage Therapist & Somatic Educator. She is the creative force behind 4 ~ Rivers Center for Well Being, located on the Shorehaven Campus in Oconomowoc, WI. Kathy has been active in the profession of massage therapy & bodywork for 25 years. She has completed advanced training in Hakomi oriented body therapy. Kathy’s work specializes in mind-body-heart support for those who are grieving. In addition to her Massage Therapy practice, Kathy offers workshops that facilitate mind/body growth & healing. She offers workshops on the topics of Embodied Spirituality, and Your Body as Beloved Partner. Her devotion to the sacredness of the body blossoms out of her personal journey, wonderful mentors and teachers and a deep desire for a life lived deeply. She is grateful for all who allow her into their world through the gentle art of healing touch.
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