The Stages of Grief and Trauma

by | Jan 23, 2018 | Home Practice, Yoga Therapy, Yoga Therapy Training

Healing Through PTSD

Healing through PTSD can feel challenging, even impossible at times. Grief and PTSD go hand in hand, and many times compound grief can cause PTSD. The stages of grief include shock, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, testing, and acceptance. In our experience, we tend to feel these feelings in different places in the body, and sometimes we can move between stages of grief in ways that reinforce destructive patterns in our conscious life. I’ve been working with trauma-informed recovery part-time for the past six months. I’ve learned some amazing things about the way our bodies heal themselves through the kosha system, and I’ve even gotten to experience some of these phenomena myself. Today, let’s look at trauma and take apart the misperceptions so that we can look at the source of the trauma–unresolved grief.

Trauma can take on many forms. When grief is repeatedly activated due to disconnection this compound grief can cause PTSD. Unresolved grief is the trigger that causes the trauma, but it can be as minor as not being acknowledged by one’s parent or parents. Over time, it perpetuates patterns and grooves in our personality. We find ways to protect and support ourselves in our experience, and sometimes those adaptations are serving, but sometimes we outgrow our need for old behaviors. Part of living a life on the Soul Line is by being willing to take a good look at yourself and do the internal work to move into a place of neutrality with the grief. Healing through PTSD requires that we evaluate our material and work through it towards integration.

Over the last few months, I’ve really been hit with the way we process grief and how humans are so inherently compassionate, almost to a fault. Many of our clients come to us having experienced extreme trauma, abuse, and harm, but rather than being upset with the situation the natural response for a human is to either fight, flight, or freeze. Regardless of the story, most reactions are similar, and what I started noticing is that the missing link is often in our ability to connect to one or more of the stages of grief.

For example, I’ve noted several cases where parents are emotionally unavailable and regardless of mortality, this causes extreme anxiety and depression in children and ultimately precipitates self-harm, judgment, shame, and overall disconnect from the experience. After some initial intake, I find that many times there is a resistance to blame or be angry at someone or something else, and rather there is a sense of self-blame that “I” allowed something to affect me. In our misperception of control, we assume that we could have changed an event that left trauma. The reality is we could not have done anything to prevent the trauma. When we tell ourselves it was our fault, we perpetuate the misunderstanding that we had control of the situation, and we prevent ourselves from healing through PTSD.

I also noted when Clients are encouraged to express anger and denial they are able to move to acceptance more smoothly. This prompted me to look at my own interpersonal journey through a new lens. I decided to meditate on the stages of grief with regards to the dis-ease I had been experiencing in my daily life. What I found was really amazing; for me, I was never able to really truly process the disbelief and anger that I had held onto from my trauma. By acknowledging it, naming, and being with it, I was able to include disbelief and anger in my wholeness.

This entire system works through the kosha bodies and can be a tremendous tool for healing when paired with intention and purpose. The kosha bodies are our energetic sheaths, and they contain our experience in the phenomenal world. When trauma occurs it enters either through the manamaya kosha or the anamaya kosha. If trauma occurs in the anamaya kosha, the physical body, there is more connection in the somatic tissue to the event, memories, and body’s autonomic reaction to the event. When trauma enters through the manamaya kosha it will eventually precipitate out into the body, but currently, we do not know the mechanisms for how memory is stored in somatic tissue when there is not physical trauma.

When students can move through their grief through the Kosha bodies we see lightness and for some even an access point for a deeper awareness of emotion. Always begin working with the koshas through the lens of loving-kindness. Be willing and open to love all of you, the whole of your being is your experience. Select a yoga nidra that can guide you through a simple meditation. Before you begin, consider the stage of grief you are working with and set an intention to let go and move beyond it. Reflect on your experience and journal following a practice. Utilize appropriate self-care strategies to help facilitate the process of letting go. Practice daily with support from you partner, therapist, or teacher.

Working through the stages of grief will help you to move beyond old wounds that are ready to be healed. Trust that the Universe only brings you what you need when you need it, and have faith that you are supported in this experience of life. By acknowledging your feelings you will complete the cycle of loving compassion that your heart is longing for.

~Michelle

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