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3 Tools for Processing Grief

Updated: Sep 2

I never jump into aspects of physical healing before talking about the mind. This includes both mental and emotional healing. In this post, I want to specifically talk about grief. A cancer diagnosis conjures up many emotions, and grief is a huge part of that.


Elisabeth Kübler-Ross identified five stages of grief, which have been modified to include two additional stages:

  • *Shock

  • Denial

  • Anger

  • Bargaining

  • Depression

  • *Testing

  • Acceptance

Shock is an experience many my patients go through when finding out about cancer, and "testing" is a phase where my patients tend to seek answers to many of the challenges cancer brings before finally moving onto acceptance.


I teach on these full seven stages because I find most of my patients deal with all of them. You can read more about her work with grief here. We often think of experiencing grief after a loss of a loved one, but it can be experienced with any transition in life. You can expect to experience some extent of grief anytime you're letting go of what was and moving on to accepting what is new and different - a new job, moving, a break-up. Any of these seasons of life can bring about the grieving process.


It is completely normal and imperative to move through the stages of grief when you receive a cancer diagnosis. But in our busy world, it’s easy to want to cover that up and distract ourselves from experiencing the full and healing grieving process. In my Western medicine training, we don’t really look at how emotions play into our physical well-being.


I’ve had amazing mentors who are trained in acupuncture and Chinese medicine who are teaching me so much about how emotions play into disease. In Chinese medicine, the belief is that most disease comes from some type of unsettled emotional state - unresolved grief is definitely one of those. If we continue to mask it, that emotion gets trapped in our body and creates more disease down the road.


This is why it’s important for all of my patients to acknowledge the grieving process. You don’t want to just say, “get over it.” There is no set timeline for the grieving process. You have to allow yourself space and time to move through it. You’ll know if you are stuck in one of the stages of grief if you sense frustration. This would come up with feelings of, “I really wish I had the energy and interest in doing things I once loved.” You may be stuck in the depression phase. It's imperative to go through the depression phase, but if you linger too long in any phase your intuition will guide you by feeling frustrated that you've stayed too long. Leaning into the wisdom of trusted friends and family who can point out to us is also helpful. They can be the person who holds up the mirror and says, “I love you and I would love to help you find the tools to move through _____.”


Here are three tools to help process grief:


Essential Oils


Desiree Mangandog created this powerful Griever’s Blend, which is 2 drops of each of the following in your diffuser. Diffuse continuously day and night for a minimum of two days:

  • Cardamom

  • Eucalyptus

  • Helichrysum

I started using this myself and on the second morning, I was spending time in meditation and prayer and it became very clear that I was dealing with grief around having to resign the timeline of my goals to the current needs of my family. I had to grieve the loss of the timeline I’d hoped for with AwakenCARE. I hadn’t even realized I was dealing with that grief until I started using this blend and spending time doing my next tool...


Meditation and Prayer


We are blessed and also cursed with the distractions in life. It’s easy to not give ourselves the space and time to identify and name what we’re feeling. This is why carving out time for prayer and meditation is so important. Especially during the grieving process.


I recommend committing time to a medication and prayer practice in the morning before all of the weight of the day’s expectations are placed upon you. Quiet your mind and take time to center yourself. Whatever your belief system is, that’s completely up to you, but this is the time where I personally tap into the power of prayer.


Two-Way Journaling


Two-way journaling is a practice where you start with a specific question. For example:

  • What is the grief that I’m experiencing?

  • How can I best work through this?

For me this is asking the questions and waiting to hear from God and the Holy Spirit. For others, this might look like tapping into your subconscious or the Universe. Whatever it looks like for you, you're asking the question with anticipation of receiving the wisdom and the answers you need to hear.


The intent is to bypass the prefrontal cortex, or the over-analyzing part of our brain which tries to give all of the logical answers, and allow yourself to hear from your heart center. That place where true wisdom and intuitions resides. Then, you wait and receive that answer in your being, and write it down in your journal.


Try to use a pen and paper rather than take notes on your phone or computer if you can. There’s something very therapeutic about processing your thoughts on physical paper that is powerful.


Hopefully you'll find these tips helpful as you navigate your grieving process. There is tremendous healing in processing your grief whether it's been years or days since your transition. It's never too late. Take this practice and commit to it for a minimum of two days, but 3-5 days would be more appropriate - especially if it’s something as heavy as a cancer diagnosis.


What questions do you have about grief and the tools I’ve outlined? Leave them in the comments!

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Sara Gause, PA-C, MS

Oncology Physician Assistant

Certified Health Coach

Arvada, CO

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Tel: 303-416-6174

awakencare@gmail.com

© 2017 by Sara Gause.

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