Chinese medicine has a holistic view of the body, especially how the body is affected by the cycles of nature. Earthly cycles influence our health, our moods, our motivation. In Winter, we sleep more, eat heartier foods, feel quieter. Spring brings about restlessness and desire for newness, for love. Summer helps us be social, eat lighter and exercise more. And Fall is the harvest time. We catch our breath after a busy summer and prepare for the winter ahead. In Chinese medicine, each season has its dominant emotion and an aspect of our body that more susceptible to illness. In Fall, we’re more attuned to grief and the respiratory system, especially the lungs, can suffer.

The lungs are constantly interacting with our environment. Every time we inhale, we inhale where we are. Every time we exhale, we release where we are. Inhale crisp, clear air from outside of us. Exhale warmed transformed air from inside us. Breath is essential to life. Without this interplay of taking in, transforming, and releasing, our bodies would collapse. Breath is one of the ways that we generate our Qi (energy or life force). It feels good to take it a deep, full breath–we are building our Qi. And exhaling fully is deeply relaxing—it helps our Qi flow.

So what does this have to do with grief?

Grief has cycles much like the lungs. Emotions can get “stuck” in the body, and grief tends to affect the respiratory system more than other systems. Chronic bronchitis, Fall allergies, recurrent pneumonia, one upper respiratory infection after another all might be manifestations of grief not being properly released.

How does Chinese Medicine help with grief?

First of all, grief is a normal emotion because loss is part of the human condition. All that lives, eventually dies, which means we all experience the loss of someone. Aspects of our life also change (relationships, jobs, homes, etc) and sometimes we experience this change as grief. It is normal to want good things and beloved people to remain forever, but that is not how nature and time work. When we compare the memories of what we had to the present moment, sometimes the present moment comes up short and this creates feelings of sadness. Sadness can get lodged in our lungs and disrupt our health.

Acupuncture can help boost and regulate lung Qi, which may help release sadness. Self massage along the lung channel can also help. The lung channel begins in the hollow triangle below your collarbone near your deltoid. It goes between your bicep and humerus, over the inside of your elbow, over your wrist to the heel of your thumb and to the inner corner of your thumb nail. Rub the channel gently. If you feel any sore spots, you can press on them lightly to help open up the channel.

lung channel