September 15th, 2020
Co-authored by Dr. Holly Holmes-Meredith and Bill Yarborough.
Most of us have encountered life events that create grief. Perhaps it was the death of a loved one, loss of a job, end of a relationship, deteriorating health, or another life challenge. A WebMD survey conducted in 2019 found that 72% of respondents said they had experienced grief over a life event in the past three years.
Has the Coronavirus pandemic triggered additional sources of grief for you? Maybe it’s the loss of social connection and community, ongoing threats to your health, unexpected financial hardships, loss of ability to travel, or a sense of displacement and being overwhelmed. Or, if a loved one has died because of Covid-19, your grief may have been amplified by an inability to say goodbye in person. While many of us have escaped such misfortunes, we may share in the grief experienced by loved ones or the broader community.
In her 1969 book On Death and Dying, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross introduced the five stages of grief people experience on the path to recovery: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. These stages are not necessarily linear. You can experience more than one at a time, or go back and forth between them, particularly if an event triggers you to return to an earlier stage.
How long does recovery from grief typically take? In the WebMD survey highlighted above, nearly half of respondents said their most powerful feelings subsided within six months, and two-thirds indicated they had recovered within a year. But some people get stuck in grief, leaving scars that can linger for years or a lifetime.
The good news is that you can take action to promote recovery. Seeking professional help from a qualified practitioner, particularly for severe grief, can be an important first step. Many practitioners are available online or in-person using a variety of techniques to shepherd you through the stages of grief. Teaching professionals often have interns who charge minimal amounts.
You can also take action on your own. We recommend Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) or tapping. EFT involves tapping on body pressure points to get release from negative emotions. It’s a fast, easy, and proven method, and there are many sites on the internet and YouTube that demonstrate its use. Check out Gary Craig’s, the founder of EFT, website emofree.com (click Gold Standard EFT Tapping Tutorial on the website’s bottom right).
Holly and Bill have worked extensively with EFT for grief created by loss and trauma. We have examples to share of its effectiveness, but to maintain anonymity, we have changed the details. Holly worked with a woman who lost her child. For over ten years she sat on her sofa isolated, depressed, and nonfunctional, doing little but watching TV. After one session of EFT, her grief cycle was broken, and the next week she started a job search, embarking on a new and rewarding phase of life.
In another case, Holly worked with a man who had felt a sense of guilt his entire life. He was always apologizing but didn’t know why. EFT helped him remember a key aspect of a tragic incident in his childhood. He recalled that when his brother was hit and killed by a car, he—only a boy then—hid in his closet, taking on the trauma and guilt of his brother’s death. With time he forgot about his reaction, but his buried grief and guilt unconsciously affected his life.
Sometimes it takes several sessions of EFT to gain results, since it could involve peeling off layers, such as multiple incidents that caused or re-triggered grief. Bill worked with a man who had lost his wife a few years ago. The man grieved for about a year but successfully worked through the stages of grief to reach acceptance. When the Coronavirus pandemic struck, he found that without a partner, the sudden isolation of sheltering-in-place re-triggered the grief over his wife’s death. Daily sessions of EFT for a week helped him break his grief cycle again.
Grief when left untreated can stay with a person a lifetime. We both had parents who never fully healed from the traumas of World War Two. Holly’s father was the only soldier to survive in battle when a grenade hit his unit. Bill’s mother was just one of two girls in a large group who survived the bombing of the railroad station in Dresden, Germany. Both parents suffered from lifelong survivor’s guilt.
So, we are gratified to expose you to the powerful tool of EFT and the professional help available online or in-person to aid with grief.
By Dr. Holly Holmes-Meredith, D. Min., MFT, Board Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist and Bill Yarborough, CHT, and Certified EFT Practitioner.
Below is the link to the September Diablo Gazette. Our Emotional Health column is on page 15. You can also see the photo of a bobcat and cub I took at our backyard waterfall on the bottom, left-hand corner of page 3.