Updated: Feb 16, 2020
Here is a list of some of the things I will cover in this article:
1. Grief Counseling
2. Grief Group
3. Behavioral Therapy
4. Energy Healing
5. Calming the Central Nervous System
6. Moving the Body
8. Connecting with Spirit
9. Connecting with Other Humans
10. The Importance of Feeling Safe
On January 16, 2017 my beloved husband, Hawk, left the planet. He left me here to deal.
I was in shock during the first few weeks and then the myriad of feelings that accompany losing a beloved began to surface, seemingly all at once! One minute I was sad, the next I was angry, the next scared, then back to sad. I felt like I was going crazy. (Still do, sometimes.)
Later, after attending grief group, I learned that having a milieu of feelings all at once is very common during grief. I was given tools for identifying my feelings and for knowing the difference between a “thought” and a “feeling”.
For example, the feeling of “guilt” actually comes from a thought. I might think, “I should have done this or that and things may have gone differently”. The real feeling is sadness, which I must feel in order to heal. Guilt will get me nowhere in my recovery. It’s a thought to metaphorically beat myself up with. I cannot change the past and I don’t know what the future holds, so staying in the present and using the grief recovery tools are what has worked best for me.
In a previous post I shared what worked for me during the first few months: Tools for Healing Grief – Part 1 https://www.reinventingmyself-agrievingwidowsjourney.com/post/tools-for-healing-grief-part-1
My judgement was not very clear in the months after my husband died. I found out later that this is common. I thought traveling might help relieve my pain. My daughter came over from Korea for Hawk's Celebration of Life. Four days later I got on a plane with her back to Korea and roamed around Seoul for two weeks like a zombie. Looking back, I realize this was probably not in my highest good, but I was in shock.
I flew back home to an empty house and my deep sorrow, still wondering why that truck hadn’t hit me yet.
A few weeks later, I decided I needed the healing hugs of my dear friend in Hawaii. While it was very therapeutic to breathe the island air and spend hours in the ocean, my grief was so powerful it overshadowed every moment. I flew home to that empty house again, and the excruciating sadness.
Take away – I couldn’t run away from my grief.
Reaching Out for my First Help
Even though I wanted to join my husband wherever he was, it wasn’t my path. (I was angry about that too.) Eventually, I realized that if I was going to stay here on the planet for possibly another 30 years I needed to REACH OUT. I knew on an instinctive level that isolating wasn’t the healthiest course for me. It is very common for grievers to isolate.
I feel like in the beginning this is perfectly natural and normal, but at some point (and this is entirely personal) we must re-enter the world of the living. Out of everything I went through since my husband died, this was the most difficult thing for me. As I’ve mentioned before, I was a control freak. My modus operandi was to take care of everything myself. The day I knew I needed to reach out for help was the day I felt like I was spiraling down a deep, black hole and couldn’t see the top or even get my fingers up over the edge. I was slipping fast.
My first instinct was to go to my local clinic. I remembered that there were counselors at the clinic. It was 8:00 in the morning. I think I was the first person in the reception area. I must have looked like hell warmed over. A counselor came out almost immediately and took me into her office. She recognized a person in crisis and the extreme state of PTS (Post Traumatic Stress). Her name was Rachel and she was my EARTH ANGEL that morning. She gave me some easy tools to cope and recommended I make an appointment with my doctor to check my vitals and talk about my situation. They discussed my case together and showed their deep concern for me. I felt “held” – safe. Since this was the first time (of many, as it would turn out) that I had found the courage to REACH OUT, it was very important that I felt SAFE, and these professionals totally GOT THAT. I am eternally grateful.
Upon my return from Hawaii, I went to a Qigong workshop which I had signed up for months before. It turned out I wasn’t ready for a gathering of that magnitude with that much energy in a room. As I sat outside on the steps crying, feeling lost, a woman I knew approached me. She had lost her brother and was seeing a local grief counselor. She gave me the number. I was beginning to believe that EARTH ANGELS were being sent to me by my Light Being Team. (Guides, Angels, Loved Ones watching over me.)
The grief counselor I was referred to was named Lily Marie, and it turned out she had run the local grief group for 20 years. https://www.lossandgrief.org/about-the-grief-group. I called Lily and she spent an hour with me on the phone. I scheduled one-on-one appointments and have been seeing her ever since. Lily became an important EARTH ANGEL in my recovery. She recommended that I attend the grief group, which I eventually did a few months later. This is the book that they use. You can find it on Amazon or probably in your local bookstore which is where I found mine.
Reaching Out for Therapies that Calm the Nervous System.
I thought I could “handle” the trauma of losing my husband. I’d controlled everything else life had handed me over the years, but this was beyond what my frazzled nervous system could process. I needed to REACH OUT for help and, luckily, because I was a holistic practitioner, I knew the modalities that would help me. There was a sense of relief in just being able to turn over some of my burden to healing practitioners. Each time I had a session my nervous system became calm. At first it didn’t last long, but over time it became cumulative. These healing modalities, in addition to other calming practices like yoga and qigong, added to the healing my nervous system needed.
For over 15 years Hawk and I had been receiving Network Chiropractic. This modality is very effective for trauma and the nervous system. I resumed appointments for these treatments with our friend, Dr. Lisa Moore, in Fair Oaks, California. http://vibranthealthchiropractic.net/ Lisa had been with us throughout Hawk’s illness. She knew our entire history. She joined my Earth Angel Team.
Hawk and I had also been seeing an acupuncturist, Renee Klorman L.Ac., for several years who also knew our history. I reached out to her and started having weekly appointments. Acupuncture is very calming for the central nervous system. Renee is also a CranialSacral therapist, like me, so I got the added benefit of both treatments. This is a link to learning more about CranialSacral Therapy: https://www.upledger.com/therapies/index.php
Renee joined my Earth Angel Team. Unfortunately for me, but fortunately for all the folks in Walla Walla, Washington, Renee decided to move there and now has a thriving practice. Here is an article she recently wrote. She works at Thompson Family Acupuncture Clinic. https://stickoutyourtongue.org/2020/01/22/part-2-are-you-thinking-about-what-you-would-like-to-do-a-little-or-a-lot-differently-in-2020/
After Renee moved to Walla Walla, I needed to find a new acupuncturist. I reached out to Lisa Swanson L.Ac. in Grass Valley, California https://www.dharmaacupuncture.com/ Lisa has a formal practice, but also runs Dharma Community Acupuncture which is somewhat along the lines of Network Chiropractic. The basic concept is that you are lying in a room with others, each person receiving their own personal treatment, but the energy is flowing around the room, making the treatments more powerful.
These links explain more about Network Chiropractic and Community Acupuncture:
What is Community Acupuncture: https://weacupuncture.com/community_acupuncture/
What is Network Chiropractic: https://www.daocloud.com/network-spinal-analysis/
In addition to these wonderful modalities, I also allowed myself to receive massage every other week when I could afford it. I felt that it was very important to receive touch and made sure to go to massage therapists I felt safe with. Often, I would lie on the table and cry. Later, in year two, I was able to trade my bodywork for massages. During year one I wasn’t emotionally capable of working on anybody.
Moving Energy is Important for Grief Recovery
In addition to all the above treatments I attended both Qigong and Yoga classes.
I cannot stress how effective Qigong has been in my life. I practice a form called Sheng Zhen. Here is the link: https://shengzhen.org/ It is important to keep stagnant energy moving, especially while grieving. There are many forms of Qigong with many videos available on You Tube. I like https://www.yoqi.com/ and https://www.qigongforvitality.com/
Restorative Yoga is another extremely calming practice for the nervous system. Try lying with your legs up against the wall or up on a chair for 10 minutes each day – it’s like taking a 3-hour nap! My restorative yoga classes were taught by Schuyler Bright. http://holistictraumarecovery.org/yoga-ayurveda/ Restorative yoga specializes in helping those recovering from trauma.
Walking in nature every day also moves energy and provides energy. Taking a 3 mile walk every day during year one was part of my recovery regimen. Many times, I would cry along the way. I imagine people passing me wondering what was up with this woman! But I really didn’t care because I was learning to put myself first. There was always a tree to hug if I saw someone coming.
Calming the Mind
All the above treatments and practices are very effective for calming the central nervous system, which also calms the mind. In addition, each day I would sit in a comfortable chair and practice BEING with my feelings – one hand on heart (2ndchakra), one hand on solar plexus (3rd chakra), breathing slowly in and out. Sometimes I would say a mantra, like “I am safe, and I am loved”. Sometimes feelings would express, like crying, and many times I would breathe through the feelings and no tears would come. Whatever happened I would allow it, without judging myself.
Anxiety was a real problem for me in year one, so I turned to simple pleasures that helped calm my mind, like coloring and playing the ukulele. Coloring got me out of my head, and since I wasn’t capable of performing any activities that required brain power, (like understanding words on the pages of a book), coloring was very calming for me. There are some beautiful coloring books out there these days and I can’t tell you how many colored pencils I have at this point – probably over 200! I also invested in an electric sharpener because I like my pencils sharp! Here is one of my better attempts:
I took up the ukulele at some point during year one. I shared the story of how I found my ukulele with the help of my husband (yes!) in another post on my blog. I had the generous support of two friends who created an important weekly ritual for me: we would meet for lunch by the pool, swim, and learn the ukulele. It’s a fairly simple instrument to learn and brings a lot of enjoyment. I highly recommend it for getting out of the head and having to focus on something that brings a simple pleasure. I couldn’t listen to music, but for some reason, I could pluck at this simple, little instrument. There are tons of videos on You Tube for beginners. There are also ukulele groups in almost every community. It’s surprising how many people play the uke. And some are virtuosos!
I feel like whatever helps a griever to stop thoughts, past or future, and BE IN THE PRESENT MOMENT, is very healing. It seems almost all of the arts would be very healing as they get us out of our heads.
I was being HELD by all the EARTH ANGELS mentioned in this article. I had the courage to REACH OUT and was surrounded by HELP. It was a revelation. I never expected to receive so much love and care, but I would have never known if I didn't open my heart to it. I offer my experiences using these tools for grief recovery as examples. There are just as many loving possibilities as there are individuals suffering through sorrow. REACH OUT