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Natural Remedies To Add To Your Grief Counseling Treatment

If you recently lost someone close to you, you may naturally enter into the 7 stages of grieving. These natural remedies can support your grief counseling plan to help you heal faster.

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Grief counseling can help if you recently went through a hard time or lost someone close to you. Common forms of treatment may include talk therapy and group therapy.

However, did you know that Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) can be used to help overcome grief? Read on to learn how herbal remedies and acupuncture can be used to help improve the effectiveness of your grief counseling treatment.

What Is Grief?

A grieving woman sitting on a bench next to a rose, crying with her head in her hands.
There are 7 stages of grief that make up the grieving process, according to Psychiatrist Elizabeth Kubler-Ross.

Swiss-American psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross first attempted to describe grief with her model, 5 Stages of Grief in 1969. It has since been adapted into the 7 Stages of Grief. 

Together, these 7 stages of grief make up the framework of the grieving process.

1. Shock and disbelief 

At the first news of loss, there is an initial reaction of shock. This is a defensive and self-preserving mechanism that protects us from pain.

2. Denial 

Denial may follow shock, where you refuse to accept the reality of loss. While it is another defense mechanism, it is important to move on from this stage eventually.

3. Guilt 

Guilt arises once you start accepting the reality that you have just experienced the loss. The feeling of guilt stems from ruminating on whether you could have prevented the loss in the first place.

4. Anger and bargaining 

As you attempt to live with this new void, you feel angry. Some people who grieve even blame the deceased for “leaving.” You may “bargain” mentally (“I will do x if only this loss can be reversed.”) 

5. Depression and loneliness 

In this stage, there is a deep sadness as you begin reflecting on how much the person meant to you. While difficult, this is also an aspect of grief that has the potential to open you up to progress. 

6. Reconstruction  

You are genuinely working through the grief and your new reality, even if your sadness has not lessened. You’re actively building new routines and making modifications that better suit your new normal. 

7. Acceptance 

You have fully accepted the loss. You may cry or smile when you think of your loved one, but it is no longer debilitating.

You find life not just bearable but enjoyable. This stage is only reachable after having done the painful and challenging work of grieving. 

Types Of Grief Counseling

A sad young man attending group therapy
Talk therapy can help you recover after a great loss.

Years of research indicate that grief is associated with unfavorable health conditions. For example, the relative risk of death is 22% higher among widows and widowers compared to those whose partners are still alive.

Different types of therapies can help you work through your grief. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a proven method that helps you recognize negative patterns and learn to change them.

Other types of therapy that may help include complicated grief therapy and traumatic grief therapy. There is also art and play therapy, as well as group therapy. 

How Can TCM Support Grief Counseling?

TCM has always combined mind, body, and spirituality. Each organ system is associated with a spirit type.

“The disruption of the flow of the Heart and Kidney’s qi (vital life force) upsets the shen (spirit) and zhi (will). These are the spiritual aspects of the Heart and Kidneys, respectively.”

Senior TCM physician Brandon Yew.

He states that the Liver is associated with anger, the Lungs with sorrow, and the Spleen with contemplation.

Herbal remedies

A TCM practitioner can determine a combination of herbs to address symptoms in different stages of grief.

“For example, for depression, loneliness, and reflection, the Ban Xia Hou Pu Tang formula dispels Stagnated Qi, Dampness, and phlegm to ventilate the Spleen’s yi or intellect and the Lung’s po or vigor.”

Senior TCM Physician Brandon Yew

Both human studies and animal models have shown that this formula can alleviate symptoms of depression. 

Meanwhile, Cordyceps, Lingzhi, and Ginkgo biloba can be used to alleviate depression, stress, and anxiety, respectively.

Acupuncture

As with TCM herbs, most studies of acupuncture focus on depression rather than grief. Still, the fact that these modalities modulate important neurotransmitters involved in emotional regulation indicates their potential.

In a 2012 review of acupuncture for the treatment of depression, researchers were able to conclude that acupuncture is effective. They believe acupuncture mediates neurotransmitter signals to bolster adaptability and balance.

This is echoed by Physician Yew when he gives examples of acupoints that he would use on a patient.

“The shen men (HT7) acupoint regulates the Heart’s shen or spirit, helping with shock when first experiencing a tragic loss. Meanwhile, the yun men (LU2) acupoint regulates the Lung’s po or vigor to help bring a grieving person to the final stage of acceptance.”

Senior TCM Physician Brandon Yew

TCM Supports Your Grief Counseling Plan

Research and practice continue to hone our understanding of grief. Fields within Western medicine and TCM offer a host of frameworks and tools to help someone grieving through their journey of healing.

As intensely and extremely difficult as it is to experience loss, know that you will eventually overcome this life transition with time. Share this article if it can help someone experiencing grief and loss.

References

  1. Psychosomatic Medicine. 2019. Grief: A Brief History of Research on How Body, Mind, and Brain Adapt. [online] Available at: <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6844541/>
  2. Counselling Directory, United Kingdom. 2020. What are the 7 stages of grief? [online] Available at: <https://www.counselling-directory.org.uk/blog/2020/10/26/what-are-the-7-stages-of-grief – accept-cookies> [Accessed 2 November 2022]
  3. Talkspace.com. 7 Grief Therapy Techniques for Coping. [online] Available at: <https://www.talkspace.com/blog/grief-therapy-techniques/
  4. Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment. 2016. Nine traditional Chinese herbal formulas for the treatment of depression: an ethnopharmacology, phytochemistry, and pharmacology review. [online] Available at: <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5036551/
  5. The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry. 2012. Acupuncture for Depression: A Review of Clinical Applications. [online] Available at: <https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/epdf/10.1177/070674371205700702
  6. Medical Acupuncture. 2013. Traditional Chinese Medicine as a Basis for Treating Psychiatric Disorders: A Review of Theory with Illustrative Cases. [online] Available at: <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3870484/

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