by Amy Cavanaugh (The Green Forum)
Grief affects the entire being—body, mind, and spirit. Grief also opens up old wounds and traumas. By understanding what emotions are housed in each chakra, we can better understand how grief is manifesting itself. From there we can take proper precautions and explore alternative treatment modalities, be it exercise, diet, or prayer. Also, since each chakra is associated with certain parts of the body, we can evaluate physical illnesses that may have been or could be brought about by the grief.
I prefer this approach to looking at grief as a single emotion. I think it is easier to work through certain emotions once we look at their specific impact on the individual. This makes the grieving process more manageable. By healing systematically as opposed to dealing with whatever emotion bubbles to the surface, the bereaved will likely feel more of a sense of progression and accomplishment.
If we can derail hopelessness, anyone who is grieving, regardless of the circumstances, can experience closure with respect to certain aspects of their grief. By using this methodical and modular approach, the bereaved is able to assemble a tool chest of coping mechanisms that will assist in the grieving process as well as future life challenges.
What follows is a general overview of the 7 chakras and how each is impacted by loss:
The 1st Chakra
The 1st chakra is the “root” or “tribal” chakra. It houses our survival instinct. The death of someone we love is a major disruption to our family unit or tribe and literally threatens our survival. Historically, death and funeral rites or rituals would provide comfort to the bereaved, however, cultural changes have eroded many of these traditional sources of support, leaving us very vulnerable in times of loss.
The energy of the 1st chakra can be strengthened through a renewal of traditions and exploration of our ancestors. This could mean reflecting on family traditions or religious beliefs, even if they are no longer a part of your belief system. Also, recognizing death as a universal experience is a powerful tool in shoring up the 1st chakra and making the grief experience less isolating.
The 2nd Chakra
The 2nd chakra is the “sacral” or “partnership” chakra. This is the chakra where we process our relationships. Death represents a change in a relationship, not the end of a relationship. It is through the energy of the 2nd chakra that grief can become an unhealthy bond to the deceased. Since blame and guilt are housed in this chakra, it is very important for the bereaved to process the emotions related to their relationship with the deceased and redefine their relationship.
When someone dies, there is generally unfinished business between the bereaved and the deceased that requires healing. Whether healing takes place via prayer, journaling, or by consulting a medium depends on the individual, but it is essential that the relationship with the deceased be clarified and redefined early in the grief process.
The 3rd Chakra
The 3rd chakra is the “self” or “solar plexus” chakra. It is the chakra where each of us defines our core self. Many of us define ourselves in terms of our relationships. This means we are not just mourning the loss of a person, we are also mourning our lost role in our relationship with the deceased.
The words mother, father, child, husband, and wife are each associated with powerful archetypes. Contrast that to a word like “widow.” While it is natural in the very early stages of loss to define one’s self in terms of the loss, if it is clung onto for too long, the bereaved’s sense of self can become one of a useless victim or a failure. After a loss, it is important to take inventory with respect to one’s purpose and goals. This may be as simple as remembering what one likes to eat or watch on TV.
The 4th Chakra
The 4th chakra is the “heart” or “love” chakra. The 4th chakra’s energy can become blocked by anger and resentments. Unless these emotions are processed honestly, the result is bitterness and an inability to experience or give love. The key to opening one’s 4th chakra is forgiveness.
Forgiveness is different than pardoning someone, overlooking something, or repenting. It is a change of heart that sets the stage for healing. Grief is caused by love and is healed by love. However, in order to experience love, the bereaved must be able to separate their pain associated with their love of the deceased from their more basic survival fears and emotions.
The 5th Chakra
The 5th chakra is the “throat” or “communication” chakra and is the chakra of self-expression. After a loss, the 5th chakra’s energy can be compromised by not expressing our feelings and desires. The grieving often don’t know what their personal truth is and expect others to anticipate their mood and desires.
Expressing gratitude for the departed and others in our lives removes us from the trap of becoming a victim of our loss. Reacting to the loss in terms of being a victim does not come from a place of truth, and while it may garner sympathy or attention, it will not foster healing. Gratitude does not mean you are glad the person is dead, but rather that you are grateful for the person’s influence on your life and for the opportunities for growth and grace presented by their loss. The wellness of the 5th chakra can be measured by the honesty of a person’s verbal, written, and emotional expressions. Each expression is an affirmation and either an opportunity to commit to change or to stay stuck in grief. This does not mean that the bereaved should not express sadness. Sadness is a real and appropriate emotion in the face of loss.
Holding on to our sadness, being strong for appearance sake or, as I like to call it, “the Jackie Kennedy syndrome,” is not truthful and, therefore, does not support the health of the 5th chakra. Sometimes the bereaved do not even check to see how they feel, they just react like they did the day before. Healing is subtle; it is important for the bereaved to check and express their progress no matter how small. In the words of noted author and spiritual teacher, Iyanla Vanzant:
“When you stand and share your story in an empowering way your story will heal you and your story will heal someone else.”
The 6th Chakra
The 6th chakra is the 3rd eye. It is the chakra of “intuition.” It is with the 3rd eye that one can begin to experience a sense of peace even if their grieving is not complete. The 6th chakra is the center of wisdom, the place where knowledge and experience accumulate. Wisdom is not emotional. Emotions related to experience are processed in lower chakras.
It is within the 6th chakra where we can tune the intuitive skills required to process messages and signs from the deceased. But in order to do so, we must first examine our belief systems and, at times, challenge some of our existing beliefs, or at least be willing to expand our understanding beyond our personal experiences. This does not mean to discard existing beliefs, rather it requires self-examination and recognition of old habits and fear-based thought systems that are no longer serving you. This type of introspection does not require the bereaved to convert to an eastern religion or to change their diet. It merely requires an honest assessment of what one believes and why.
The 7th Chakra
The 7th chakra is the “crown” chakra; it is where we receive universal energy. Death can have a profound effect on our spirituality. Many feel that the death of a loved one is an indication that God doesn’t care. The key to this chakra is prayer and meditation. It is within the 7th chakra that we are able to live grace-filled lives. We walk through difficult chapters, not by denying the sadness or pain, but in spite of it. It is not so much that the 7th chakra energy is damaged by grief, but rather that, in the face of grief, we become acutely aware of meaning and purpose in life and the superficial relationship we may have with our faith.
Many struggle with God and their spirituality after a loss, and those emotions should be processed, not shunned. However, for many who face extreme grief, if they can experience each associated emotion in a mindful manner, they will find that their grief transforms them and that they have a greater understanding of their life’s purpose. Their post-grief relationship with the divine becomes more authentic after processing the emotions. They are able to find meaning and greater compassion through their suffering and can actually express gratitude for the experience.
Recognition of the chakra system and grief’s impact on these energy centers can raise the awareness of the bereaved. The result is that they are able break down the powerful emotion of grief. It enables the bereaved to exam their emotions and properly attribute them to 1) sadness associated with the loss of a loved one, which is to be expected, 2) fears with respect to the future, which can be processed, and 3) old wounds triggered by the loss, which need to be separated from the loss.
Not all emotions experienced by a person who is grieving are directly related to loss. However, unless we dissect these emotions, we cannot separate the emotions related to our love of the deceased from our fears, so we tend to hold on to all of our grief.
The function of grief is not to salvage what is left of someone but rather that the bereaved be enriched and blessed by the experience, thereby allowing a meaningful and appropriate relationship with the deceased.
By examining grief’s impact on the chakras, we also create the opportunity for the bereaved to develop specific coping mechanisms with respect to the flood of emotions that bereavement creates. As anyone who has experienced loss will attest, the emotions are complex and ever changing. It is rare for an emotion to be experienced only once. Chakra work also lends itself to exercises such as yoga, prayer and meditation, and even diet and affirmations. It presents an unlimited matrix of alternatives for healing which allows the bereaved to customize grief work in a way that resonates to his or her personal belief system and long and short term goals.
1. Amy Cavanaugh. The Medicalization of Grief
2. Larry Malerba, DO, DHt. Could grief be causing your chronic illness?
3. Larry Malerba, DO, DHt. Is Depression Caused by a Chemical Imbalance or Not?
Amy Cavanaugh is an old soul, Reiki practitioner, and mermaid living in Jacksonville Beach, Florida. Her Facebook page is called Awakening Claire. Much of her work surrounds assuring that death is a dignified, peaceful, and sacred experience. She teaches that survivors can heal and develop meaningful ongoing relations with the departed through training intended to focus and sharpen the intuition.