- The Hidden Elements of Healing
- Our own thought patterns effect the health of our body. Each
emotional thought pattern is really an underlying "cause"
of a physical illness, understanding the illness can help you
address the cause and thereby riding the body of the disease.
But how do you go about understanding the underlying cause?
- These thought patterns we set up within our consciousness
find their control over our subconsciousness through a form of
grief. Even if it seems to be a tiny issue, there is an element
of loss and grief within the situation. By identifying what the
grief component is, we can begin the process of healing from
the loss and find a better way to think about who we are, our
life and our place in the spiritual universe.
- What Is Grief
- Grief occurs from any event in an individual's life. It is
during Grief that many people feel the most alone and segregated
from the world around them. Perhaps in this context, Grief is
the ultimate example of Existentialism in action.
- Grief comes in many
forms of loss. Loss of a loved one, a relationship, a family
pet, a job, one's health or independence, even one's own freedom.
And dealing with loss comes in many forms, from depression to
denial or more serious reactions that affect an individual's
well being and mental health. We all have a way of dealing with
every day grief, but I think everyone would agree that prolonged
grief is never a good idea and can be detrimental to the wholeness
of mind, body and spirit.
- Additionally it can come from a side door that you didn't
even expect. Diane Sawyer conducted an interview with a psychology
professor in the mid 90's, and a piece of that interview stuck
with me. The professor explained that every person takes in information
about them self, especially negative information, even when they
know it's not true. As an example he told Ms. Sawyer that she
was a great reporter and the interview was in his view going
well. But even if he said as an example "You're a terrible
interviewer and cannot cover this story" that is the comment
she will remember most about their meeting. Even though it was
an example and not his true feelings, the mere inner critical
view we hold within ourselves will latch onto those negative
comments and save them to memory. Over time, we process these
thoughts and play them over and over. In many cases we learn
to dismiss some of these thoughts, but many last within our thoughts
and we slowly begin to believe what they say about who we are.
This is when we set up negative patterns in our sub-conscious
that slowly seep into our daily lives and begin to affect our
- But how do we turn these negative events and thoughts into
grief? What we grieve can be as varied as the people who read
this article. When we talk about a loss, those events are easy
to understand where the grief comes from. When the event comes
from a negative thought pattern, the loss can be an idea or another
way of saying it, a bruise to our ego. We mourn the loss of respect,
not just of our self but from others. We may mourn the loss of
an emotion such as not feeling nurtured by the ones we love.
We might mourn the feeling of support even if it's from a physical
perspective such as losing a job, or feeling as though our partner
or family won't provide for us in a manner we think we deserve.
- Understanding these underlying thought patterns and processing
them through the phases of grief we can work through the trials
and tribulations, to over come their long lasting effects. No
longer should an individual feel segregated from the norm, when
they realize their progression of thoughts and feelings follow
a pattern of emotion. This in and of itself can bring about peace
of mind as an individual deals with the trauma or bereavement
of a relationship or loved one.
- The Phases of Grief
- Grieving itself is a very individualistic emotion. No two
people will approach grief in the same way. It has been my experience
that it can be sometimes dangerous to assume that everyone will
react in the same way to a traumatic situation or event. Individuals
can through extremes of emotions from shock, denial, and anger
or experience a total break down in emotion that boarders on
emotionless expressions or the alternative extreme, hysteria.
- How is someone expected to react, what is the pre-formed
package of emotion that an individual is supposed to feel? The
problem with this approach is that not everyone goes through
the same life experiences as another person. Additionally, the
influences of an individuals spiritual beliefs and understandings
will also play a role in their expression of emotions. Because
of this, there isn't an expected package for grieving. There
is no right or wrong way to grieve.
- However an individual expresses their emotion, there is a
pattern of emotion seen in grief that is universal. Understanding
these different phases can help an individual understand where
they are in the mourning process. Thereby allowing the individual
to understand their grief, empower their reactions and provide
knowledge that enables them to move toward healing. These phases
of grief are similar to the stages of dealing with issues in
your life, those being Acknowledgment, Acceptance, Forgiveness,
Action and Letting Go. But when dealing with grief, we may approach
these stages a little differently or in more detailed stages.
- Before I continue with this section, let me add what I believe
to be an important element to Spiritual Psychology as it relates
to professional Psychiatric Therapy. Not all Spiritual Psychologists
are trained in the professional field of Psychiatric Therapy.
It's important to know your limits and understand the triggers
for when a client needs to be referred to the professional field.
- Phases of Depression and Anger in dealing with Grief, or
any type of therapeutic event in an individual's life, can bring
about violent punishments, not only to the individual, but also
to others. An individual might turn to drugs or alcohol to numb
the pain and memories. Thoughts of suicide or harming others
in acts of vengeance can arise. These cases should not be solely
monitored by a Spiritual Psychologist, but should involve Psychiatric
professionals as well. It is the responsibility of any therapist,
spiritual or other wise to pay close attention to their client's
needs and evolution through the healing process. When situations
occur that can put an individual or others in danger, it's time
to involve other professions who can assist in monitoring, assisting
and providing a great in-depth range of healing.
- According to Irving Yalom, M.D. (2002) there are several
stages of grief that can be dealt with through the four major
themes of existential thought death, freedom/responsibility,
isolation/loneliness, and meaninglessness.
- How we think and set up recurring patterns of thought directly
affect how we feel physically. Louise Hay (1982, 1999) who describes
her understanding of how metaphysical causality affects our lives
and our health. Ms. Hay outlines how to change these patterns
with affirmations to bring about change and turn the negative
patterns into positive ones.
- In her books, Energy Medicine (1998/2008) and Energy Medicine
for Women (2008), Donna Eden outlines how to work with the body's
energy system to live a healthy and happy life. Mental health
cannot be achieved in many cases when an individual's physical
health is over shadowing their daily lives. Ms. Eden provides
insight and exercises for the reader to change their own life
into a positive future.
- Taking those practical psychological approaches and applying
them to the spiritual path we walk, we can begin a process of
healing from within and affecting outer physical being.
- To start we can define the phases of grief into a structured
and simplified set of stages for any individual to review within
- Shock / Acknowledgement
- Shock is often the first stage of grief. It is accompanied
with disbelief or not wanting to acknowledge the loss.
- Individuals who are faced with an unexpected death certainly
go through this phase of grief. This can be especially true if
the passing results from an accident, unexpected health event,
or a violent crime.
- Relatives of fallen soldier may face a prolonged exposure
to this phase, if the deceased has been taken in battle from
an overseas theater. They worry about the care, respect and shipment
of their soldier's remains to return home. The extended time
between hearing the news from Military officials and seeing their
loved one helps to maintain this period of disbelief. For some
that can be helpful in that it allows the family to plan and
organize burial before the soldier is returned home. For others
it can be a time of terror and extreme denial.
- A family facing the sudden loss of a loved one through an
accident or violent crime can be hit hard news of this type of
- Victims of abuse also may see a prolonged exposure to this
phase of grief, as shock is often the more common emotion seen
here. This is often more accurate for victims of sexual rape
and assault. But this can occur with victims of physical assault
and battery. Even if the victim reports the assault to medical
or law enforcement officials, there is a feeling of numbness
- For victims of sexual assault, answering questions, feeling
violated again by medical probing to collect evidence is just
another step in what many feel as the continuation of the assault.
A large number of these victims slowly move from shock to denial
as they are returned to some form of control over their situation.
Often a rape victim will immediately find a hot shower to wash
away any remnants of the rapist. Only to find a few hours later
their conscious mind thinking through the trauma feels the need
to take yet another hotter shower to wash the feeling and images
- Individuals who face notification of news that ends a relationship
may have varying responses during this phase. The nature of the
break up, the type of relationship and the circumstances surrounding
the situation all play a role in how an individual may respond.
- One thing that is common between all these types of circumstances
is the initial response to the sudden loss of the principles
of trust and security. The soldier looses trust in his or her
ability to back up the team or unit. The survivors loose trust
in the their understanding of the world, the military, police,
spirituality, or even God. A victim of a violent crime loose
trust in society and law enforcement to protect their community.
In addition they share a sense of loss of safety, and their own
sense of personal security. A person dealing with the end of
a relationship also faces a sense of loss of trust that strikes
at the core of what some belief is the purpose of human existence.
- The initial incident that kicks off the flow of emotions
facing grief may be wide ranging, but the initial damage to the
psyche affects more than just the sense of loss of an individual
in death or a relationship.
- On some level most people acknowledge the notification of
news of a loss. Assault victims may subconsciously acknowledge
the event, even if they attempt to block out what happened. But
it's important to note here that acknowledgement doesn't mean
acceptance. Acknowledgement on this level refers to the taking
in of information. A crude comparison would be the acknowledgement
of seeing an email in your in-box. You know it's there, even
if you haven't accepted it's delivery.
- Denial / Acceptance
- Not wanting to accept that the loss has occurred is very
common and follows quickly on the heels of shock. Denial can
be a powerful response when dealing with grief and loss. "I
don't believe it" or "No, this can't be happening"
are very common thoughts during this phase.
- Denial can evolve into a greater issue once the initial shock
of a situation has subsided. In an attempt to protect the conscious
mind, many rape victims will fall into a complete state of denial
and sometimes face a self-imposed amnesia to escape the pain
of the assault.
- Victims of physical assault can mirror this response depending
on the circumstances surrounding the attack and the severity
of physical damage. But they may also create a block in memory
for the initial cause or reason behind the assault as a means
of dealing with their own emotional turmoil. A precursor so to
speak, that cuts off the concepts of feeling self-guilt before
it has a chance to get started.
- One group of individuals that I've worked with that don't
seem to spend a lot of time in denial, are soldiers of war. The
horrors of death are something they saw face to face in an instant,
or witnessed as the aftermath of an attack. When the events of
loss occur on a more personal level, the concept of denial is
rarely a thought. They know what they have been through, what
happened and can often recount it in vivid detail. For them,
this phase deals more with the concepts of acceptance than denial.
- But in all these types of scenarios, an individual will come
to terms with the traumatic event. Even if the situation isn't
one of violence, but rather the passing of a loved one through
illness. An admission that the loss has occurred will at some
point set down into reality and acknowledged.
- I have yet to counsel a client that is dealing with a loss
that hasn't had feelings of guilt on some level. It's common
for people to start blaming themselves for what has occurred.
"If only I had done this", "If only I had not
done that" are questions an individual may begin to ask
of themselves. Especially if the loss is something you think
you could have controlled, such as being laid off from a job,
a relationship or a suicide of someone close.
- Parents of soldiers face this phase just as anyone else.
Looking for answers as to why it was their child that was taken.
What did they do wrong that caused their child to be punished,
as if their sin or crime was carried out upon their child.
- Military Soldiers often find the phase of Guilt the hardest
to overcome. Especially if the loss they are facing was related
to a war effort. Not only do they face the guilt of being a member
of their team to survive, in some cases, they may be the only
one who wasn't killed. Additionally, they replay the scene of
battle in their consciousness mind allowing the images and guilt
to permeate their subconscious and establish thought patterns
that develop into personal illness. In a manner of speaking,
they establish scenarios of self-punishment to attack the guilt
they feel for surviving or being the only one unharmed.
- Soldiers who return home with their unit can find themselves
falling into guilt because they are not there in the war theater
backing up their company, or division. Those who fall into Post
traumatic Stress may find they are left behind when their unit
is reassigned overseas, adding to their guilt that they are home
safe and sound, while their compatriots are now in harms way.
- The end of a relationship can create similar inner turmoil
and conflicts. Especially when an individual is unaware of situations
that create the separation. They begin to replay each day in
the relationship through their conscious minds looking for the
ultimate questions of "why" or "what did I do".
Once again taking on the blame and guilt into their subconscious
being. This same scenario can be seen in individuals who have
lost their job, failed at an intensely personal goal or project,
or a variety of other situations where an individual feels personally
- Abuse victims are conditioned to believe their beating or
abuse is self-inflicted and they are the cause of the abuse.
After prolonged abuse, individuals begin to believe what they
are told and that message is transferred from their conscious
minds into their subconscious.
- Anyone who has worked with Rape victims knows this scenario
all to well. Though society doesn't help with its approach to
blame the victim for their assault. Whither a person shouldn't
have been wearing a certain type of attire, they shouldn't have
been walking in a certain area during that time, or they shouldn't
have left the window open at that time or in that neighborhood.
- It's important to remember that there are always things going
on in the background of these situations that an individual cannot
control, no matter how hard they try to convince them self otherwise.
If the loss comes from the result of a suicide for instance,
it's hard to remember that the person who passed made their choice
on their own and the resulting passing was their responsibility.
- Depression often comes and goes through out all stages of
grief. But it maybe exceptionally difficult in the early stages
when an individual is begging the Divine for help and their prayers
seem to go unanswered. Everyone needs time to cry, feel sad or
lonely and feel the loss they've experienced. Without an individual
giving time to the self to be sad, they are not able to release
and heal the emotions that have been opened.
- But there are varying levels of depression that should be
monitored. Severe and deep depression can cause new issues and
sometimes can create new dangers. Clinical depression can be
triggered by a variety of stresses in an individual's life. The
losses of a loved one, a relationship or some type of violent
situation are certainly big triggers for kicking off a serious
condition of depression.
- At some point everyone gets angry after a loss. Blaming the
person who left, the people or organization involved, or the
situation that caused the loss takes some of the burden off the
guilt the individual may feel toward them self.
- Families loosing a loved one to war or a violent crime may
shift blame to the enemy or criminal. Sometimes taking this level
of anger to a passionate effort that prevents the situation from
happening to someone else's child. This can be a good avenue
of release as an individual works through the healing of the
loss as they channel their energy into a project that still connects
them to what they lost. We have seen this in our generation with
the fight for MADD, Megan's Law and a variety of other legislation
that have been enacted as the result of survivors taking their
anger and channeling it into personal goals that benefit society
- But sadly the phase of anger can be detrimental as well.
Especially when feelings are turned outward onto others and even
inwards toward the self. Just like the concerns of individuals
falling into depression, Therapists are warned about the signs
of anger becoming harmful to an individual or those around them.
- Anger serves little purpose in grief, but it is a release
of emotion and can be the predecessor to healing. At some point
an individual grows tired of crying, or being silent and begins
to seethe with anger. The energy it takes to stay angry can be
draining physically. The negative thoughts that permeate the
conscious and subconscious can create negative patterns that
build into physical illness in the body. What one expresses outwardly,
will be used to attract the similar energy back into ones life.
If not dealt with, these emotions can slowly create a snowball
effect and what was once a sad situation can migrate into a bad
situation that evolves into seriously destructive life.
- Anger can also be one of the more important phases of grief
on the opposite side of the emotional coin as well. When an individual
acknowledges their anger how it affects their life, they can
use it as the catalyst for change and healing from the situation.
On some level that makes the phase Anger a necessary component
for instigating a desire to change and healing from grief.
- The first step to healing in grief is Forgiveness. Absolving
the self, the situation or others involved who have shared in
some way with this loss. Forgiveness comes in many forms and
for many reasons. Each situation is going to be different. And
each person is going to have specific details from their own
perspectives about what has occurred, what needs to be addressed
and what needs to be forgiven. It's not about what others think
an individual should do or address, because those outside influences
may or may not have any affect on the inner sub-consciousness
of the individual. This is about the individual self and how
they look at the grieving situation through their eyes and sub-conscious
- It's also important to state that forgiveness on this level
isn't about passing judgments, or absolving someone of a crime
or abusive act. It's about releasing the negative energy an individual
holds within their conscious minds that cause detrimental harm
to their mental and potentially physical health.
- This type of forgiveness can be especially difficult from
the perspective of an abuse victim. The last thing many victims
want to do is absolve their perpetrator of the harm and suffering
they caused. But holding onto the anger and hate one may feel
toward that individual is only allowing them to continue their
abusive control. An individual can forgive the self for allowing
their attacker to control their emotions, energy, and perspectives
of life. In other words, victims may not want to absolve their
abuser, but they can absolve their own guilt and anger toward
themselves that may have developed from the abusive event. In
doing so they can make a stance to take that control back and
release the connection they have with their abuser. In doing
this, the Victim can become an abuse survivor and the perpetrator
moves into the realm of a non-entity. No longer having the ability
to intimidate, control or threaten the survivors sense of trust,
security, or emotional connections to themselves and those around
- Soldiers have an equally hard time pinpointing who or what
to forgive. They seem to have a common focus in blaming them
self for not being fast enough, or reacting a certain way after
a military confrontation. Others facing PTSD may not have a specific
event to pinpoint, but rather hold guilt of not being able to
be there for their unit as it returns to a combat theater. Or
they may hold anxiety concerning a feeling of not being 'whole',
supportive or being able to interactive with their family. Once
again the issue comes down to forgiving the self.
- Hope / Action
and Letting Go
- The forgiveness, action and letting go are the hard parts
to dealing with any loss. But through inner reflection, counseling
and meditation, an individual can learn to forgive and let go.
Sometimes forgiving and letting go on a spiritual level can help
release the pain and emotional hurt felt on a physical level
as well. Through all this a person can rediscover hope.
- An abuse victim who has forgiven them self of allowing others
to control their actions and emotions, can release that control
and take back their life. Letting go of the past actions of others,
and looking forward into their own future with hope.
- A soldier can release their guilt, fear and feelings of always
having to look over their shoulder. In doing so, they can learn
to move forward in trusting their own instincts, actions and
others around them helping to provide a sense of self-assuredness
- When the loss deals with a death of a loved one, letting
go can be especially hard. But individuals can let go of the
past and still maintain a sense of the relationship through spiritual
interaction. Letting go of the traditional understanding of communication,
and moving forward into a new spiritual communication.
- There's no way to pinpoint which of these phases is the most
difficult to move through, as each individual is different along
with their situation. Putting thoughts into action is one way
of moving through grief and discovering the steps of healing.
One way this can be done is through a "Letting Go"
meditation. The method I use for clients is provided in Appendix
A and lays out a step by step process for putting thoughts to
paper and releasing the anxiety, pain and anger associated with
mourning and loss.
- Individuals face a myriad of issues in their conscious minds
during these phases of grief. Their emotions ride on the surface
and often times anything another person may say can burrow into
their consciousness and add fuel to the fire. Even if the words
are not meant to do so, an innocent comment meant as support
can be a trigger for an emotion break down. This continual self-attack
on the emotions and psyche of an individual is detrimental to
healing from the issue that caused the mourning process to begin
- Here is where Spiritual Psychology can step in and provide
guidance to understanding the real circumstances behind the issues.
- Healing The Spirit and Mind
- Sometimes sitting down and trying to meditate is the last
thing an individual wants to do. But this type of inner reflection
can provide insight into what an individual faces on a subconscious
and super-conscious level. Even if an individual feels to distraught
to relax for meditation, a Spiritual Therapist has the ability
to help guide an individual through the process. The most successful
therapies adapt to the strengths of the individual, but also
to the potential of the Therapist as well. The healing process
is a joint effort. Even though the primary burden is on the client
to allow healing to take place, the Therapist has the ability
to guide or direct the client toward a path of understanding
- Shirley MacLaine (1989) suggests that going within our own
spiritual consciousness allows us to see the world and the events
around us with Divine sight. Dr. Paul Master (2007) teaches this
similar approach, sighting our ability to connect with the Divine
knowledge within our own spiritual consciousness and developing
a personal connection with the Universal Divine wisdom to look
at the events in our life though God's eyes.
- While mainstream psychology would frown upon these types
of approaches to find closure and healing, spiritual psychology
may promote these concepts. These spiritual approaches not only
allow the individual to understand the situations that occurred,
but also provides a gateway for communication to gain additional
information and even answers to address the 'why' questions that
torture so many during grief.
- For instance, the physical loss of someone or something doesn't
mean we can't communicate on a spiritual level. Whither that
communication occurs through dream, meditation or a consultation
through psychic talents. Individuals sometimes only need an opportunity
to say goodbye, apologize for a perceived injustice or inquire
as to why a situation occurred and what they could have done
differently. We may not communicate in the same way as when they
were alive, but in some cases we might be able to communicate
more often or even on a more compassionate and loving level.
A Spiritual Therapist has in their armory of tools, access to
psychic mediums (if they are not one themselves) that can assist
a client in connecting to and interacting with spiritual communications.
- From a metaphysical perspective, an individual can find comfort
in understanding the lesson behind the situation or what karmic
issues were involved. Noel Langley (1967) reports the approach
taken by Edgar Cayce on the concepts of reincarnation, the soul's
ability to choose lessons and take accountability for the events
in our lives.
- Michelle Lusson (1994) describes the spirit as the culmination
of all our lifetimes, energies, and spiritual essence. The spirit
is that which we are in the totality of being. Every life, every
memory and every action ever taken on ones spiritual path is
the essence of a spirit. The soul is a subset or smaller section
of our spirit. It is the section of our total being that we chose
to pull into a single physical incarnation to work with and work
through for karmic issues and spiritual lessons.
- For those who hold a belief in reincarnation these concepts
can open doors to understanding the spiritual connotations behind
the physical situations they are confronted with in the physical
embodiment. While it may be difficult to gain an understanding
of going through pain and grief as the result of a karmic issue
from a previous lifetime, it still gives an individual insight
into what they are going through. It provides meaning to an otherwise
meaningless situation in their life.
- An abuse victim can discover if their attack was karmic,
or if the event was chosen to provide an experience that gives
them knowledge and understanding of other victims. Allowing them
to become healers of abuse later in their own lives. A soldier
might discover that the loss of a buddy in combat was designed
by that person's soul as a means to provide spiritual lessons
to their family or friends in the realm of compassion, support
and unconditional love. There are just as many potential reasons
and possibilities for why something has occurred on a spiritual
level, as there are people on the planet. For some, this approach
gives an individual meaning, acceptance and the ability to discover
peace over the events that have taken place.
- According to White Eagle (1983) once the soul has made its
choices to learn lessons or work through karmic issues, it will
leave or put to rest a relationship that no longer benefits the
progression of enlightenment. Or if the soul has completed its
mission, it will leave this physical world in a manner that leaves
the gift of enlightenment for those it leaves behind.
- From these perspectives of the spiritual purpose of a chosen
lifetime, individuals can learn that choices are being made every
moment through out the life of the soul that causes adjustments
to the spiritual blue print. At some point, the soul will see
the life it has built and decide the construction has been completed.
When the physical body dies, the soul detaches itself and prepares
to return to the larger spiritual body.
- The biggest issue people face when dealing with grief of
any type is "why". Why did a parent have to die, why
did a buddy have to be killed in battle, why did a young woman
have to be raped, why did a relationship end with betrayal. It
is human nature to want to understand the reason behind situations
that cross our path. The not knowing 'why' often provides the
ammunition for what many people use to create self inflicted
guilt and anger. Seeking answers on the physical plane that may
not become apparent, creating frustration and hopelessness, a
feeling that there is no meaning to life or the situations that
occur within it.
- By using meditation to seek answers within the Divine Self,
an individual gains a powerful tool that can guide their physical
actions through out the immediate situation and through out the
grieving process. This helps each person walk the path of their
soul, making choices that lead them closer to fulfilling the
purpose of their soul and the intent of their life in this incarnation.
While at the same time, helping them to see through Divine eyes
the issues and circumstances, or the meaning behind why situations
have occurred as they have. From working on karma, spiritual
lessons and working through grief the view of spirit can bring
about comfort and peace within the person in mourning.
- Additional Reading
- Evolving the Spirit
- This article is
based on my Ph.D. Doctoral Dissertation - Spiritual
Psychology and Dealing With Grief (PDF)