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Boulders in the Heart: The Somatic Energy of Grief and Loss

by Lisa Avnet

Boulders in the Heart: The Somatic Energy of Grief and Loss, Lisa Avnet in Pittsfield, MA

Grief can be lodged in the body, a boulder on the heart, the internal landscape of loss. Many of my clients report feelings of grief and sadness, living in this time of profound personal, collective, and ecological loss.  They may have lost connection with themselves in the fast pace of daily life; they may have lost a loved one, a relationship, a job, a home, a dream. So many metaphors describe the somatic sense of grief, sadness, and loss:  I feel like there is a boulder on my chest, like my heart is broken, heavy, takes my breath away...all the color is gone.  These metaphors describe the feeling of the unseen energy of emotion which has form in both our physical and energetic bodies. 

Our modern culture has a difficult relationship with emotions in general, and with grief and sadness in particular; which can play out in daily life by limiting the flow of our life force, causing dullness, heaviness and fatigue.  We cope by holding on, holding it in, holding it all together, tuning it out rather than allowing emotion to flow through us and dissipate naturally.  Grief and sadness may be denied, minimized, and held in; people receive explicit messages to "suck it up" and "get over it" by those around them, and there is often little support, even within ourselves, for the vulnerability inherent in open expression of emotion.  Often, a client has had no modeling and no support during childhood in expressing emotion. Grief has a minimal sanctioned period in our fast paced culture - perhaps a year in the case of a major loss.  The pain of loss, particularly the loss of a deep attachment such as a parent or longtime partner or friend, has no timetable and can linger for years, eventually going underground. Grief can become a ghost, a boulder in the heart, that affects many areas of your life.

Sometimes, though, the loss might be old, minor, unrecognized and unconscious.  Because emotions, including grief and sadness, are located in the body/mind or somatic unconscious, they often arise in dreams. Sometimes you may know what the strong feeling of grief was about, it's explicit in the dream, but just as often, it's inscrutable because it's been relegated to the unconscious.  The feeling in the dream seems unrelated to the action and images. 

Because emotions come from a different part of us than rational thought, and live outside of our brain, it's possible to understand the story behind what happened, perhaps why it happened, and why you feel something, and yet, your feelings and emotional reactivity doesn't shift or change and remains firmly lodged - it's still easily triggered or felt, coming out in dreams or crying during sad movies or while listening to music.

Throughout the early days of the pandemic, when hospital wards were full and death was coming hard and fast, my grief and pain at the situation was overwhelming.  I grieved so many things: lives cut short;  the loss of connection with others;  the deep political divisions that arose; the valiant front line workers; the children stuck at home; the pain of women torn between the needs of their children and their jobs.  I found an antidote, releasing my pain by howling daily along with the wolves via the Wolf Conservation Center live or recorded wolf cams, allowing my pain to flow.  Vocalizing along with the wolves, offered me a sense of comfort in community that was unavailable during the lockdown.

I offer several pathways for working with held emotions, tailored to the unique needs of the individuals I work with.  Energy work combined with somatic methods; interactive guided imagery combined with hypnosis; shamanic practices; and dreamwork are all quite effective.

If you're interested in learning more, you can book an information call or a session here

Lisa Avnet offers Transpersonal Coaching in Pittsfield, MA