Grief can take many forms, and processing it may take years, as it comes and goes in waves. What causes grief is also broader than most people realize. While a wide range of supports can comfort a person through the grieving process, this article will introduce a lesser-known method: Reiki for grief relief and release. I will also introduce a useful grief metaphor to help understand how it moves through the body, and hopefully provide some hope for a future path.
My name is Lillie, and I’m a Reiki Master from Boston who specializes in supporting clients through emotional transitions — grief, for one — using this Japanese form of relaxation: gentle hand placements to help energy flow. (Curious how to pronounce Reiki? Say: “RAY-key.”)
Since 2018, I’ve worked with hundreds of people who are seeking help to release stuck sadness (or other feelings associated with grief), in order to finally find balance and relief from dejection, anxiety, and confusion. But how does Reiki work to achieve this? Let’s back up to first understand what grief actually is, which will then allow us to see why energy work can help.
What is Grief?
Grief is the intense series of emotions felt when processing a major loss. Though grief is often associated with a reaction to someone passing away, it can also be evoked by a marked change in one’s life situation such as major shifts in relationships, career, family, life trajectory, property, or location.
For example, a romantic breakup or divorce can cause intense feelings of grief, even if the relationship dissolution was amicable and desired, because it’s is such a shock to the system to lose a way of life one has gotten used to, and to disrupt the future path that was expected.
The loss of a job — especially one that has been tied to a person’s identity — can also cause grief. So can moving to a new place, changes in parenting or friend structures, loss of money, property, or status, and more.
The quote, “Grief is love with nowhere to go” (paraphrased from the writer, Jamie Anderson) is useful in that it highlights that this emotion is an overwhelming “glitch in the system” of a person’s body. With grief, the usual flow of energy is utterly disrupted and short-circuited — causing sometimes surprising mental and physical ramifications.
For example, when I was going through the divorce process, myself, I would have bizarre brain fogs and glitches where my mind simply didn’t work. I’d also have wild bursts of energy, then total exhaustion. Though our divorce was amicable, the usual energy flow was severed, and my body was having trouble integrating the change.
Why Does Grief Relief Take So Long?
This brings us to the question: Why does processing grief take so long? Why do most people have to go through so many stages of grief — denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance — before emerging out the other side so they can begin feeling better again? Why can there sometimes be periods of emotional numbness? Here are two ways to envision the grief process: an analogy, and a metaphor.
A Grief Analogy
Imagine the body as a railroad network, with the chugging trains symbolizing the energy and productive functioning of your physical system. If we return to the quote, “Grief is love with nowhere to go,” we see that the loss that spurs grief is akin to a major train station and the tracks around it suddenly being destroyed by an earthquake.
The trains screech to a halt, scrambling for a safe place to pull in, and the entire system is disrupted. A massive amount of time and care will be needed to rebuild the station and tracks. The viability of the result will hinge on this.
However, because it was an earthquake that caused the destruction, the landscape itself has changed, creating new mountains and canyons. Thus, when the system is repaired, it will need to look quite different from the old one that felt comfortable. Not only is time needed to do the reconstruction, but time is also essential to get used to the new system.
A Useful Grief Metaphor
Here’s another instructive grief metaphor. Think of processing grief in terms of metabolizing a meal. If you have a small setback in life which causes a teensy bit of sadness, that’s the equivalent of digesting a tiny cracker; it doesn’t take long until you don’t feel it in your body anymore.
However, what about experiencing a loss that’s so big that it causes profound grief? An experience of that size is akin to eating a 15-course meal; it takes a loooong time for all of that to move through the body and be fully processed. It must be given time and supports to be metabolized.
What Helps Grief Release?
Just as there are certain supports that help food be digested in your body, there are energetic and emotional supports that assist in grief relief. If you’re digesting that 15-course meal, a support that will help metabolize all that food is to avoid jostling your stomach or eating more. Something else that helps (it’s coarse, but true) is being able to use the bathroom to release the food that has been digested.
Similarly, if you’re metabolizing grief, a support that helps it move through the body is to be in a calm space where you’re surrounded by care, with no further stresses or sadnesses placed upon you — at least for a time. To continue the eating metaphor, the emotional equivalent of using the bathroom is being allowed to cry, talk, scream, or shake to release pent-up feelings. This grief release is healthy and necessary!
Reiki for Grief Relief
There are many strategies that can help provide these grief relief supports: time with loved ones, journaling, art, therapy, exercise, massage, support groups (online or in person), acupuncture, walks in nature, cuddles with pets, and more. However, if you are dealing with grief and haven’t yet tried Reiki as an option, I highly recommend checking out energy work for release.
If you’re worried, “Is Reiki real?” be assured that there’s nothing you need to believe in order to enjoy energy balancing’s benefits — it is not religious or supernatural. At its simplest, Reiki is just a caring person putting gentle hands lightly on (or above) your body to provide a calming assisted meditation.
So how does Reiki provide grief relief and release? Picture a time you were comforted by someone you trusted. Perhaps they put their hand on your shoulder or back. Perhaps you had a heartfelt talk, and felt their attention and soothing care. Maybe you had a good, cathartic cry.
The beauty of Reiki is that encompasses some of these best parts of human connection: focused, caring attention and listening in a safe space. One of the 5 Reiki Principles states, “Just for today, I will be kind to all living beings,” and Reiki practitioners specialize in kindness.
The “listening” during energy work may take the form of talking aloud with the Reiki practitioner while they do the hand placements (or after the session has concluded). Alternately, it may be a more silent form of physical “listening,” in which the practitioner is noticing where your body is holding energy and where blockages are, and is helping release them through the warmth of their hands and through breath-work.
How many Reiki sessions are needed to process grief? I would recommend at least three over the course of one month to gain momentum in moving energy — though one is better than none, and more could have great benefit. See my article on the cost of Reiki sessions for tips on how to save money on bulk packages, and my article on how to avoid getting a headache after Reiki to stay hydrated.
Chakra Blockage and Grief
Chakras are the energy centers of the body, and each is associated with a different aspect of life that can help understand and process grief. Focusing breath and hand placements on these specific energy centers and their connected chakra colors can help clear them of emotional blockage. Let’s analyze several.
At the chest is the 4th Chakra or Heart Chakra which is associated with a green aura. The green aura meaning is about a strong presence of compassionate love. When I was grieving my divorce, I went to a Reiki practitioner, myself, and found the 4th Chakra hand placements that she did were particularly soothing, as they provided a surge of love and care towards my hungry and tired heart.
At the Solar Plexus in the middle of the body is the 3rd Chakra, which is associated with a yellow aura. The yellow aura meaning is about self-love and confidence. I find this is a particularly helpful energy center to focus on with grieving clients, as that self-care and self-love are central in the healing journey to process loss.
At the hips is the Sacral or 2nd Chakra, which is associated with an orange aura. The orange aura meaning is about creativity and sensuality. I have been surprised by how often I see this chakra activated in clients who are dealing with grief, but upon reflection it makes sense. Why? Letting yourself get immersed in the joyful flow of creative or sensual exploration is one of nature’s best remedies for sadness.
Grief Relief and Release, in Sum
I hope this article on Reiki and other methods for grief relief and release has been useful. If you’ve experienced any aspect of this, I invite you to share in the comments section below. Thank you, and be well!
For further reading on the benefits of Reiki, consider reading: “Tired But Can’t Sleep? Try Reiki for Insomnia.”
The creator of this site, Lillie Marshall, is a Reiki practitioner who is certified in three different kind of energy work, including Usui and Kundalini Reiki. She began her formal training in 2018, and now runs Healing Touch “L” Reiki in Boston, where she has become one of the top-rated practitioners in Massachusetts, conducting hundreds of sessions with clients. Having been a public school teacher for many years, Lillie is passionate about writing articles to educate people far and wide about the wonderful, natural benefits of Reiki for wellbeing and balance. Find her on social media at @HealingTouchL.