Monday, July 17, 2017

Hypnotherapy and Grief

(This blog was originally posted on March 16, 2016)

Photo by Rick Hustead

There are many kinds of loss, and it is normal to experience grief (sadness) and mourn for the life or even experience when we no longer have it. In addition to the death of a loved one (spouse/partner, child, relative, friend), we can mourn for the passing of a colleague or mentor, pet, home or job, etc. It is common to grieve when a role model passes away, as I described in a previous blog titled, Mourning the Ones We Lost…But Never Knew.

Grief: The affective (emotional) response to the loss/death. There are four recognized stages of grief:
  1.        Acute: shock, numbness and disbelief that the person has died, followed by pining, yearning, protest or a sense of prevailing numbness. 
  2.         Protest: anxiety, panic, searching behaviors, social withdrawal, acute somatic distress.
  3.       Depression: The person acknowledges that the loved one can’t/won’t come back and depression symptoms may be experienced (simultaneously with/preceding the protest phase.) 
  4.        Adaptation/restitution: The survivor creates a new identity that is independent of the deceased loved one, establishes new emotional bonds and embarks on a new life.

Mourning: Specific emotional and social behaviors a person manifests during grief. There is no limit to the depth or the amount of time a person may grieve for or mourn a significant loss. For example, Great Britain’s Queen Victoria mourned for her husband, Prince Albert, every day from the day he died until her own death forty years later. Hers is an extreme example of grief and mourning that would require a referral from a licensed medical doctor and/or a licensed mental-health worker to address in hypnotherapy (Business & Professions Code 2908). However, in most situations, hypnotherapy is a powerful forum in which to work through the sadness and practical challenges of bereavement by accessing the person’s subconscious fortitude and resources, thus enabling the person to manage emotional and social deficits of the loss.

Bereavement: The objective state of having lost a loved one.  There are three components, or stages, of bereavement. These include:
·                     Loss-Orientation: The process of “working through” bereavement by focusing on/thinking about the deceased and aspects of the person’s death. Behaviors may include: rumination, yearning for the deceased, confronting/crying over the loss.
·                     Restoration-Orientation: The process of adjustment to the changes that are consequences of the loss: i.e., attending to tasks previously fulfilled by the deceased and simply carrying on with other “normal” aspects of day-to-day life.
·                     Oscillation: The process of alternating between Loss-Orientation and Restoration-Orientation processes of grief resolution. This is important because it mediates the potentially severe consequences of bereavement on physical and mental well-being that may result from constantly confronting or avoiding grief.

Following is a summary of some of the ways hypnotherapy can help a person work through and manage his or her grief and bereavement:
·                     Hypnotherapy provides a “safe” environment (no shame/no blame) in which the person can express his or her feelings about and process the loss.
·                     Therapeutic guided-imagery journeys and hypnotic scripts are specifically catered to the needs of each client, based on how the person is dealing with the loss/stage of grief, to help the person experience and/or work through the bereavement.
·                     Hypnotherapy, Imagery, Neuro-Linguistic Programming techniques to help the bereaved person “chunk down” various tasks or responsibilities that the person finds overwhelming at that time into smaller, more manageable tasks.
·                     Provides techniques to ameliorate symptoms/behaviors of panic, fear, confusion, anxiety, etc. after the loss and encourage the person to live a healthy lifestyle (nutrition, good sleeping and exercise habits, seek medical advice, etc. when necessary).
·                     Dream therapy to help the person vent out any emotions, unresolved issues in order to make room for
·                     Helps the person realize/identify that he or she has options available re: how to process the loss, return to social interactions/seek social, practical or emotional assistance if necessary. Also, increases motivation, self-esteem, and self-confidence about the ability to accomplish tasks that the person may have never had to do outside of the relationship.

Sara R. Fogan, C.Ht. is a certified hypnotherapist based in Southern California. She graduated with honors from the Hypnosis Motivation Institute in 2005. For more information about Calminsense Hypnotherapy® and to set up an appointment, please visit
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