Guest Post: Embodied Grief by Janice Lodato

Embodied Grief: Introduction

A client of mine recently arrived at my office limping from a severe pain in her left ankle. She said she didn’t fall or twist or do anything unusual. It was a nagging pain that kept getting worse. When we talked more about it she explained that it was not just in her ankle, but that her lower back was seizing up periodically to the point where she couldn’t take a breath or move from her chair. She said the pain seemed to follow her around throughout her day and it peaked at the most unexpected times — often during complete stillness while working at her desk.
She had come in for a grief support session. These sessions usually begin with 5-10 minutes of talking and understanding how she is currently doing and if there are any new insights she wants to explore. Then she always wants some Reiki, where we talk and explore some more.
For this session, we continued as usual and got her comfortably positioned on the table and started the Reiki. When I asked what she was seeking from the Reiki, she said, “Freedom.” I asked her what freedom looked like for her and she said freedom from her broken heart. She went on to tell me of the recent death of her estranged uncle and recounted the multiple miscarriages she had experienced over the past 5 years. How each one broke heart even more and she felt held by the grip of grief.

Visualizing Freedom

As we continued with the Reiki, I asked her to visualize what freedom looked like. She said it was walking in the Colorado woods with her husband — easily climbing the hills and walking for hours at a time, fully immersed in nature. As her body settled more into the peace of Reiki, I asked her to find where her grief was living in her body. Immediately, she said it was her heart. Then she stopped, opened her eyes and said, “No, really it lives at the base of my spine. It’s trapped there like a barrier. It holds me in place and restricts me.”
We acknowledged the grief at the base of her spine — breathed and sent Reiki there — spending several minutes loving and being with the grief. Tears flowed. Then she took a deep breath.
I moved my hands to her abdomen and her heart, allowing the Reiki to flow freely. She said, “Now, I’m in the woods; breathing the mountain air, climbing up the trail.” And she sighed.
We stayed like this for several more minutes. A few more hand positions after that and then a return to her desire for freedom (and hiking!) and we gently ended her session. She indicated that the pain in her ankle had eased. 

Moving Forward

She returned for several more sessions, or as some of my clients like to call them, “Greiki” sessions, and experienced a decrease of pain in her back and ankled. She resumed her walking and yoga practices and was eventually able to hike again.
This is one of the possible approaches to exploring embodied grief. Another way is through a body scan meditation or by using the Creative Grief Studio’s body mapping technique. Regardless of the tool you use, the process can be powerful for our clients by helping them to journey with, and gently release, emotions uncomfortably residing in the body. Also, approaching this exploration with a loving kindness toward our bodies helps to open the possibility of transformation.

About the author

Janice Lodato’s Master’s Degree is in Philosophy from Bowling Green State University and she became a Reiki Master of Masters in 2010. She graduated in 2015 from the Creative Grief Studio. She currently resides in Oak Park Illinois with her husband, daughter, and two canine Reiki Masters.


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