Grief: A Case History…

Josh is an 86 year old retired astronomer who was recently hospitalized for a chronic lung ailment.  He is the neighbor and former colleague of my current caregiving client.

He stayed in the hospital for two days and the doctors could find nothing wrong with him. I am unsure what kinds of tests were done, most likely: a lung cancer screening, if Joe was a previous smoker, had signs of bloody sputum or significant weight loss.  It is possible that a biopsy would have been taken and a sputum cytology, CT,  Bone or Pet Scan might have been done if cancer was suspected.  (These tests and treatments, however, may only catch late stage cancers).

If diagnostic tests had discovered a bacterial infection, the doctors would have prescribed antibiotics.  If the situation was a rare fungal infection of the lung, this too would be treated with some kind of pharmaceutical medication.

Josh’s lung disorder was never clearly diagnosed and though he did not want to leave, the hospital discharged him.  The next day he entered again via the emergency room and spent 5 hours in the hospital before being released with no clear cause being found.

Using Chinese Medical diagnostics, Josh’s sedentary lifestyle would have been taken into account, along with his lack of adequate exercise.  It would also be noted that Josh was overweight. And the key symptom and sign (indicator) would not be missed:

The first episode started the week after Josh heard about his brother’s cancer diagnosis last Fall and Josh had a major recurrence just after his brother’s death and funeral a couple of week ago.

Josh has clearly repressed his sadness and grief.  This was compounded by lack of exercise, allowing his breathing to grow even more shallow.  This is called lung qi deficiency and correlates with a weakened immune system, specifically in the area of the lungs.  These repressed feelings states and a cold draft exposure on wind-driven fog penetrated his weakened energetic system at the time he first found out about his brother’s cancer.

I attempted to share with Josh, several weeks before his situation went acute, the benefits of Chinese medicine.  Josh had been to China many times and lived there for some years but still did not trust China’s ancient healing system which relies heavily on herbal medicines, acupuncture or acupressure for energy balancing, and lifestyle guidelines like diet and learning to breathe with a full abdominal breath.

Proper breathing facilitates the movement of feeling states. This is why so many of us in america do not breathe fully.  We are conditioned to keep feelings down and shallow breathing helps us to do this.

A Chinese Medicine practitioner would attribute Josh’s deficient lung qi disturbance to repressed sadness and grief over his brother’s initial cancer disclosure and subsequent death.  The repressed feelings exacerbated the lung and large intestine energy systems, which correspond to the emotions of: letting go, sadness and grief. (Each organ/energetic pair corresponds to different feeling states. This is one of the great insights of Chinese Medicine. For instance, the stomach and spleen and their disorders on the level of feeling relate to: worry and anxiety).

The shock and stress waves that hit our energy body when death, job loss or big life changes take place are usually aggravated by compensating lifestyle coping mechanisms, like: eating sugar, not exercising and other factors.  This further lowers immunity.

Locked up emotional energy allows an infectious agent to take up residence (or the repressed feeling state is the infectious agent itself) to invade the lungs, and even if a bacterial culprit was found, the antibiotics might not have resolved the issue fully, since the underlying feelings are unexpressed and the psycho-emotional element dynamic will keep the lung energy from complete restoration.

It is difficult for most of us to understand how repressed feelings can contribute to a serious disorder.

Feelings that clearly want to be released as a natural response related to a loved one’s demise keep spinning around and around wanting expression and release.

Josh seen through my eyes and the Chinese Medicine angle,  needs a ‘big cry’- a catharsis of tears.  He has to have the courage to allow the love he feels for his brother to wash over him.  Probably in Josh’s case his large intestine is affected too, most likely via constipation (failure to let go).  Other correlating signs and symptoms might also point to the need to allow sadness and release grief. Often our ability to feel love is inhibited by anger, which acts as a defense mechanism, keeping us from fully expressing ourselves.

Instead of feeling fully, most of us have been conditioned to repress our emotions, especially men.  This repression is an outdated and culturally inept way to live.  The idea that we must ‘tough it out’ is really just a cover up and false attempt to protect ourselves. From what? That we, too, might die!

Our body vessel dies but not our Soul essence.  Most of us think the body is us, defines who we are.  Many of us have not realized that the Soul or true Self is immortal, untouchable and never goes away.

Life is so simple when we naturally flow with feelings.  The life force is then strengthened not disrupted.

And yet even going through a dis-ease or repressed feeling disorder is the perfect unfolding.  In Josh’s case, it allowed his 3 children, all in their 60’s to come for a visit to support him and forced Josh, who lives alone, to get full time care-giving support from a local agency.



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