A few years ago, I treated a woman with a terrible, chronic cough. You know how, sometimes, you will hear a cough so wracking that it actually hurts to listen to it? This was this woman. She couldn't go for longer than a minute or so without coughing, and it sounded as if she was ripping her lungs out with every heave. It was awful. She had been coughing like this for nine months. Nine months! Her doctors had run every available test, she had taken rounds of antibiotics, had X-rays, etc...no one could figure out the cause of the cough. By the time she walked into my office, she had exhausted all other options.
As I do with every initial session, I sat down with her to discuss every aspect of her health. I focused particularly on traumas and losses over the past year, since the Lung energy is connected to grief. Although I asked her several times if she had experienced any deaths or traumatic events around the time that the cough started, she could not come up with anything. We finished the intake and she hopped up on the table to start her session, still hacking away.
As I needled her, we began to chat a bit. I carefully inserted needles into areas on her hands, arms, and chest to build the energy of the Lungs, and to help expel whatever it was that was causing the cough. In Chinese medicine, there is no separation between the physical and emotional responsibilities of the organ systems. This means that, quite often, patients can experience emotional reactions to the points being needled, even if I am using these points to treat a physical issue. I worked my way around the table, still talking, and somehow we came to the subject of owning pets. I mentioned that I had two Ragdolls at home, and she told me about her beloved dog...who had passed away nine months ago.
"Nine months?" I repeated. "Remember when I asked you if you had experienced any losses over the past year? Did the cough start before or after your dog died?"
It had started right after, but she didn't seem to see the link. I can't blame her. It sounds so hokey, connecting the passing of her dog to this annoying and painful health issue, but I see it all the time. Grief weakens the Lung, and this imbalance of energy can create all sorts of respiratory symptoms. I was sure that her dog's death was the cause of all this, but I didn't press the issue. I simply inserted the rest of the needles and let the treatment do its thing.
An hour later, as she got off the table, we began to chat again. This time it was easier, as her cough had vanished entirely. A few weeks later, I received a lovely email from her, thanking me for my work. In all honesty, it was one of the easiest presentations I had ever treated. I was grateful for her email, though, and felt lucky to bear witness to such a clear-cut case of grief affecting the physical body. It was all well and good to learn about the connections between emotions and health in a classroom; it was quite another to see it first-hand.
Acupuncture is such a powerful tool in assisting with grief and loss. Unfortunately, most people don't realize the extent of what this medicine is capable of. If you or someone you know is suffering physical or emotional issues following the loss of a loved one, give acupuncture a try. And I'm not just talking about human losses; animals count too. It can make a world of difference.
And speaking of loss, I'd also like to take this opportunity to introduce a wonderful organization that I can't speak of highly enough. The organization is Jeff's Place, and it is a place for bereaved children and their families to gather for support and connection. Check out their website here.