by Stef Cordes & Lisa Baird
The loss of a loved one is life-shattering, and affects us physically as well as emotionally. There’s a reason why we talk about being heartsick, or sick with grief. How we think and feel has a very real impact of our bodies.
Grief makes us more susceptible to common colds and flus. This may be because persistently elevated levels of stress hormones can reduce immunity, therefore decreasing our ability to fight off bacteria and viruses. If someone had a physical illness before the death, grief can worsen existing illness, and the majority of bereaved people can expect some kind of physical illness within half a year after the death of a loved one. Studies have shown that following the death of a spouse, people are more likely to report worse overall health, aggravated physical pain, and among the elderly in particular, the loss of a loved can leave a person more vulnerable to infection.
Grief is a healthy, normal and necessary process of letting go and it often takes much longer than one expects. We are not trained counsellors, and we don’t suggest that acupuncture can supplant the role of a good therapist. But we’ve seen how supportive community acupuncture can be for our patients through the slow, difficult and messy stages of grieving.
Acupuncture is a potent treatment for the shock and numbness often following a traumatic event like the death of a loved one. Acupuncture is also effective for insomnia, reduced appetite, compromised immunity and stress, all common symptoms of grief. Some of our patients have commented that it was a blessing to receive treatment in our group treatment room and be around other people in a quietly supportive space where they weren’t expected to talk. Other patients have noted that community acupuncture sessions give them a chance to go inwards and do some important nonverbal integration of their grief.