Stressor Spotlight: Grief

Closeup shot of a couple holding hands in comfort

The death of a loved one is routinely identified as the most stressful event we experience in life. If you’ve ever lost someone close to you, you know how difficult the grieving process can be. Loneliness, anger, and depression often accompany grief and may go on for months and even years after a loved one’s death.


The aftermath of a family member, close friend, or beloved pet’s death, however, isn’t the only thing that can cause us to feel grief. Any kind of loss, such as the loss of the job, the ending of a relationship, or a loss of physical or mental capacity can cause us to grieve. Thus, grief is something we experience frequently, and not just when a significant person in our life passes away.


The models of grief

Chances are that you are familiar with the 5 stages of grief and loss. They are:

  1. Denial and isolation
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance


What’s important to understand with these stages is that they don’t necessarily occur in order. Also, just because you’ve reached some form of acceptance doesn’t mean you won’t revisit the earlier stages in the future. In other words, these 5 stages are very fluid and are different for everyone.


The anticipation of a loved one dying can also cause feelings of grief. You may begin to worry about what you will do when your spouse passes on, leading to feelings of loss and depression while they are still alive, for example. And you will likely experience these stages on a deeper level if you know you are going to die soon. In fact, the 5 stages of grief were based on observing people who were actually dying, not their loved ones.1


The 5 Stages of Grief model was later expanded to 7 stages, adding shock as a precursor to denial and testing (seeking solutions) before finally accepting the loss.2 But the original and refined versions are not the only models of grief, and may not be the most helpful or accurate. Other research from psychologist George Bonanno suggests that there are 4 trajectories of grief:

  • Resilience
  • Recovery
  • Chronic dysfunction
  • Delayed grief or trauma


This model is certainly more flexible and sheds some light on why people experience the 5 stages of grief differently. Resilience is perhaps the most interesting trajectory, as the research suggests that the absence of grief is healthy and doesn’t necessarily mean that you are burying or ignoring your feelings, nor does it suggest that you didn’t really care about the person.3 Furthermore, sadness and anger aren’t the only ways we express grief. Indeed, grieving may include laughter, celebration, and other emotions as well.


Along with the 4 trajectories of grief, another interesting model to consider is Berger’s 5 identities of grievers:

  • Nomads
  • Memorialists
  • Normalizers
  • Activists
  • Seekers


These 5 paths to healing give us further insight into why people grieve the way they do and perhaps what the best way is to help them overcome grief. From this research, we can see that people may deal with grief by preserving a loved one’s memory, taking up a cause, or becoming more religious or spiritual, among other things.4


Physiology and function

grieving woman with hands covering face

Not surprisingly, grief can cause significant stress to the body. If left unmanaged, this stress can lead to serious physical and mental problems. Symptoms of grief may include insomnia, shortness of breath, headaches, changes in appetite, digestive issues, a weakened immune system, and heart palpitations. Traumatic grief also increases the risk of diseases such as cancer and heart disease.5


There is a scientific debate regarding whether grief has a function. One theory is that it allows us to adapt and cope with the life-altering change we just experienced. Grieving behaviors have also been observed in animals, leading some to believe that it is a beneficial biological trait.6


Relationships are critical for our health and wellness, so it’s no wonder that the loss of a connection will cause us to respond in a stressful way. But as we adapt, the memory of a loved one can serve to strengthen us rather than be a source of pain. We can look back and remember the good times and how the person continues to influence our lives. As J.M. Barrie said, “God gave us memory so that we might have roses in December.”


Energetic relationships

Certain organs, teeth, vertebrae, and TCM meridians are energetically connected with the emotion of grief. Perhaps more significantly, grief is also very closely connected to the lungs. In traditional Chinese medicine, grief is known as “the emotion of the lung.” This explains why grief can cause many symptoms associated with respiration, including shortness of breath and tightness in the chest.


In addition to the lung, grief also has an energetic relationship with the small intestine, large intestine, pituitary gland, skin, and heart. Thus, it’s also connected to these TCM meridians as well as the Pericardium and Triple Warmer Meridians.


Furthermore, grief is connected with several teeth and vertebrae:

  • T1, T16, T17, and T32 (wisdom teeth)
  • T4, T5 T12, T13 (molars next to the front teeth in top of mouth)
  • T18, T19, T30, T31 (molars next to wisdom teeth in bottom of mouth)
  • C1, C2, C5, C7 (cervical vertebrae)
  • TH1, TH2, TH3, TH4, TH5, TH7, TH10, TH11, TH12 (thoracic vertebrae)
  • L1, L2, L3, L4, L5 (lumbar vertebrae)
  • Coccyx


In short, grief is energetically connected with a multitude of organs, teeth, and vertebrae and can significantly affect these parts of the body. Conversely, a problem in any of these areas can also stimulate the grief emotion.


Getting support for grief

mature man in therapy explains to therapist

Now that you know more about grief, the important question remains: what can you do about it? First, you need to realize that grief, specifically the loss of a loved one, is not something you eventually get over. This is because emotional memories are always with you. Understand that grief isn’t about closure, but about effectively dealing with the emotional memories of a loved one whenever they’re triggered.7


That being said, one of the most effective ways to deal with grief is to talk about it. Not expressing your grief can lead to isolation and depression. Acknowledging your feelings is the first step to dealing with them. Having a strong support group of family and friends is extremely important during the grieving process.


If you don’t have a strong support group or expressing yourself to your group doesn’t seem to be helping, consider joining a support group or seeing a therapist. A grief counselor or therapist can help if you’re experiencing depression, repetitive thoughts of blame, or have difficulty keeping up your normal routine.


Breathing and treatments

As mentioned, grief is closely connected with your lungs. Deep breathing techniques such as 5-count breathing can help you better handle the grieving process. The steps of this breathing technique are as follows:

  • Breathe in through your nose all the way down to your belly, taking in as much air as possible
  • Hold the air in your lungs for a count of 5
  • Exhale from the mouth until your lungs are completely empty
  • Repeat 3 times for 3 times a day8


Along with this and other breathing techniques, consider treatments such as acupuncture and massage, as well as activities like Yoga and qigong.


Food for grief

Making good diet decisions can have a huge impact on your ability to handle grief. First and foremost, remember that alcohol is not the answer when you’re grieving. While it may help you ease or forget your grief momentarily, frequent alcohol consumption worsens symptoms of grief in the long run.


Similarly, try to avoid “eating your feelings” as much as possible. Instead, try to recognize and experience the emotions that are making you overeat or eat unhealthy foods. Then find a way to express those emotions through another outlet.


In addition to deep breathing, certain foods help support lung health, thus helping you handle grief more effectively. Some of the best foods to support this chief emotion of the lung include:

  • Nuts
  • Beans
  • Broccoli
  • Garlic
  • Apples
  • Oranges
  • Kale
  • Cabbage
  • Eggs
  • Bananas


Essential oils for grief


roses with essential oil bottles

If you work with essential oils, you know that they are great for supporting emotional health. Oils that may help you better cope with the emotion of grief include:

  • Melissa
  • Neroli
  • Cypress
  • Petitgrain
  • Spikenard
  • Rose


There is research showing that rose oil in particular has a relaxing effect that can help with grief.9

Grief is also associated with the heart chakra. Thus, oils that support this chakra such as melissa, neroli, rose, orange, and lavender can have a balancing effect on grief.


The grief stressor Virtual Item

With ZYTO technology, you can see how the body responds to the digital signature of grief. You are able to see if you’re response to this particular emotion is out of range, as well as the degree to which it deviates from the normal baseline reading. This information can help you determine if grief is something for which you may need more support.


In terms of ZYTO software, grief can be scanned for with the ZYTO Select and Elite, and is automatically scanned in the ZYTO Balance biosurvey along with other key emotions. Other emotions associated with grief are also scanned, including anger and sadness.


Grief balancer Virtual Items

A balancer scan in the ZYTO software can show you products, wellness services, and lifestyle changes that can help you bring the grief Virtual Item back into range if it had an out-of-range response. Grief/loss affirmation statements can also be scanned in the Select, Elite, and EVOX software. A few of these affirmation statements are:

  • “Although I grieve for what was lost, I know a greater good will follow.”
  • “I have faith that I am being guided to my next step.”
  • “The death of a person or relationship is a natural part of the cycle of life.”


In addition to grief, the balancing products identified can assist in bringing other out-of-range stressors back into range.


The perception reframing technology available in the ZYTO EVOX offers an opportunity to work through issues with grief as well. The perception index zones of sadness, repetitive thinking, anger, and fearful and overwhelmed feelings may all relate to problems stemming from grief. After mapping these emotions based on the tone of your voice, ZYTO EVOX systematically helps you shift your way of thinking, offering more options for dealing with your emotions and a new, improved reality.


Dr. Vaughn Cook ZYTOAbout Dr. Vaughn Cook
Dr. Vaughn R Cook is the Founder & CEO of ZYTO. An Oriental Medical Doctor (OMD) and licensed acupuncturist, he has worked in the complementary and alternative medical field for more than 30 years, specializing in applications that integrate Western and Eastern medicine.



1. Kubler-Ross, Elisabeth. On Death and Dying. (New York, NY: Scribner, 1969).

2. “7 Stages of Grief.”

3. Bonanno, George A. “Loss, Trauma, and Human Resilience: Have We Underestimated the Human Capacity to Thrive After Extremely Aversive Events?” American Psychologist 59, no. 1 (2004): 20-28.

4. Berger, Susan A. The Five Ways We Grieve. (Boulder, Colorado: Shambhala Publications, 2011).

5. Gleeson, Liz. “How Grief Manifests in the Body & Why Body-Based Approaches to Bereavement Support Improved Outcome.”

6. Foley, Catherine Ellen. “Is there a reason for grief?” New York University.

7. Lamia, Mary C. “Grief Isn’t Something to Get Over.” Psychology Today.

8. Suttie, Emma. “Grief and The Lungs.” Chinese Medicine Living.

9. Hongratanaworakit, Tapanee. “Relaxing Effect of Rose Oil on Humans.” Natural Product Communications 4, No. 2 (2009): 291-296.


The information provided in this article is intended to improve, not replace, the direct relationship between the client (or site visitor) and healthcare professionals.

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