Grief and love always seemed to live at opposite ends of the emotional spectrum until I began to look at them through the lens of the BodyMind. It was then that I began to appreciate how in the body these emotions can reside quite close to each other and in many ways appear to support each other.
BodyMind is a term coined by Dr. Candace Pert, a neuropharmacologist who pioneered scientific research into the field of Mind-Body Medicine. What we might in lay terms call a "gut feeling" is scientifically explained as messenger molecules, or neuropeptides, carrying information from the mind to the body and back again through body fluids.
Dr. Pert once commented:
I think unexpressed emotions are literally lodged in the body. The real true emotions that need to be expressed are in the body, trying to move up and be expressed and thereby integrated, made whole, and healed.
Like pieces of a puzzle I began to take this western medicine understanding of the BodyMind and place it next to the eastern medicine approach of assigning certain emotions to organs in the body.
Chinese medicine assigns grief to a yin and a yang organ, the lungs and the large intestine. The heart and the small intestine are assigned to the emotion of joy, which I consider another name for love.
Looking at a diagram of the thoracic cavity was the last piece of my puzzle, allowing me to see the full picture of a concept I've been exploring for years. I observed that the heart is nestled within the left lung. To me it appears as if the lungs are embracing the heart, holding it up. Likewise, the small intestine is cradled within the large intestine.
Grief and love, holding each other.
I now appreciate that while everybody and every body holds grief and love differently, these two emotions that on their face seem to be polar opposites can and do live side by side. In our bodies, in our minds, in our lives our grief and our love do not have to be isolated, separated or elevated one above the other.
They belong together.
Monique Minahan writes about grief, loss and being human. She teaches yoga as a form of movement medicine. She believes in standing up to live before sitting down to write and listens to her heart before writing to keep her words alive and authentic. Connect with her at moniqueminahan.com and on social media here and here.
Photo credit: Digitalstormcinema