Healing Through Loss: A Functional Medicine Perspective
by Andrea Cogley
As the office manager and health coach of Dr. Cole’s office I’ve introduced myself and shared my health journey with you in the past. This post though, is different and deeply personal.
As the health coach and manager of a clinic that deals with healing in all aspects I think it’s important to acknowledge how stress, life, and emotional pain can also play a role in your health. My husband and I recently suffered a miscarriage and we felt a deep pressing on our hearts to share what this journey has led us to in our understanding.
I want to speak life over a situation that began with a loss and share my journey and what has helped me manage the emotional pain and heal.
This is my journey and by no means do I mean to tell anyone how to grieve. Everyone processes things differently, has different faiths and takes the appropriate amount of time for them. What I wanted to share was how I have dealt with my own grief and how I am using this time to heal my mind, body and spirit.
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Human suffering is throughout history. I know that I am not alone. I am aware and conscious of those that have gone before me and lost. There is something familiar in loss to all of us; loss of love, loss of a family member, loss of an opportunity, loss of a friendship, loss of a dream not realized. And while I have experienced many of these, nothing is quite like the loss of a child. Whether the loss is in the womb or out, the pain is immense to have to say goodbye to your baby (and make no mistake I am sure the pain is there at any age).
This pain, if not addressed, can wreak havoc on you emotionally and physically. I am fortunate to have the support and have the strength to share our journey. So I’d like to break down the process we have taken up until this point (we know this will be a lifelong journey). These points may be somewhat specific to the loss we are going through, but with emotional distress in general, reaching out to those in need, and figuring out how to cope with emotional/spiritual pain while healing is important as well.
1. It’s not your fault
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists 10-25% of all clinically recognized pregnancies will end in miscarriage. In their Practice Bulletin they state approximately 50 percent of all cases of early pregnancy loss (up until 20 weeks) are due to fetal chromosomal abnormalities. Meaning the baby just didn’t get the right things to grow. It was nothing I did or could have done to prevent this. There was nothing my husband could have done and do to prevent this. I repeat, this is not your fault.
I can’t tell you how many times at appointments and at the hospital I was told by doctors and nurses “I did nothing wrong” I heard it over and over again. At the time I just stared blankly at most people saying this to me or slightly nodding my head yes in agreement, not fully absorbing and still trying to find a way to blame myself. “How dare they say this, it HAS to be SOMEONE’S fault” I kept thinking. After spending a few days in a stupor I realized it wasn’t my fault and this need to “blame” someone was just misplaced grief. To truly heal I needed to accept what was and find a place in my process where I could grieve, but move forward.
So my point is in healing (no matter what emotional hurt you are going through) we must acknowledge what is, recognize the hurt, and find a means and motivation to move forward.
We live in a “why me” world. We pity ourselves, we have tantrums, we need a reason, or someone to blame. My faith tells me differently. 2 Timothy 1:7 says, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” So no matter your struggle, healing only comes when you are ready to stop blaming yourself or someone else and start doing the things you need to do to heal.
2. Love your body/forgive your body
Dr. Cole often says, and I agree, “You can’t heal a body you hate.” Wow. What a powerful statement. While you might be angry you have a genetic disorder, or you don’t look the way you want, or you have lost a child or maybe all of those or none of those. Each journey is different, but the resounding fact is – you have to love yourself and forgive your body and life for not being perfect. The actual physical and emotional relief this can give you is priceless.
3. Take action
Now to take action there are some things you can do to help better yourself through the grieving process. We’ve already covered the “it’s not your fault” part, but if you are like me, having a plan, having a purpose really helps keep me focused on what’s important. I still need to be a wife, a step mom, a friend, an employee. So I wanted a plan, something to help make me better while I’m healing emotionally. Sometimes it’s just good to reflect on what you have done and what you can do better for the future.
Another thing that can be done to be proactive is getting testing done. While I have had testing done in the past for my autoimmune condition I wanted to see where I was at now. The tests I decided to run were:
Saliva: Hormones/Adrenal Function
Checking hormones like DHEA, Cortisol for adrenal function and other hormones like Estrone, Estrodiol, Progesterone, and Testosterone are things that I personally had done. Knowing which hormones were imbalanced gave me the ability to focus on the issues and symptoms I was experiencing.
Hair: Heavy metal load and essential elements
I wanted to make sure that this was not an issue and potentially stressing my liver and perpetuating the inflammation cycle. Heavy metals can come from work exposure, home exposure, tattoos, etc. This can potentially put strain on the liver and you want to make sure your body is detoxing properly.
Also making sure that essential elements are not too low is important in finding a healthy balance for your body!
By testing inflammatory markers, viral loads, autoimmune antibodies you can better judge if the body is properly methylating and detoxing. Looking at overall thyroid health, inflammatory markers like CRP and homocysteine and looking at liver function is a basic assessment I’ve done before. There are a plethora more of tests one can run, but when it comes to Functional Medicine we want to make sure it is case specific.
One thing I wanted to address further was inflammation. As I had mentioned in my previous blogs I already do as much as I can to reduce inflammation because I do have an autoimmune condition. Inflammation can also be triggered by emotional stress. Knowing this I think it’s a good time to practice certain techniques:
Mindfulness to de-stress
Take a couple minutes in the morning, afternoon and evening to refocus and relax. I do this by taking 5-15 minutes to stretch and breathe and be present. Sometimes we get so caught up in our day we don’t recognize the signs our body is telling us to take a break and re-energize. Tense shoulders, sore neck, achy body. Your stress is contributing to this. Taking a few minutes every day to practice this technique can greatly reduce the tension you’re unintentionally putting your body through.
Taking Epsom salt/sea salt baths is great for detoxing and de-stressing your body. Carrying all that tension around whether it be from emotional pain or physical pain can take its toll. By taking baths are you not only relaxing your muscles in the warm water, but the Epsom salts and sea salts are going to help detox you as well!
Diffusing essential oils
While there are many people far more educated than me in the realm of essential oils, for most in the health world and out, it is common knowledge that the lavender oil is a very calming scent. Putting this in a diffuser and breathing it in throughout the day or before bed can be very relaxing and help reduce inflammation the more calm you are. The company DoTerra makes a special blend “serenity” and the company Young Living has a great blend called “stress relief”. Both of these are nice blends to diffuse or smell directly out of the bottle!
Yoga or Tai Chi
Moving the body and sweating and stretching is great for de-stressing the body and reducing inflammation. Yoga and tai chi both offer a low impact exercise that gets the body moving, but can also be very calming and relaxing.
I am beyond grateful for the life giving love and support I have received from those around me. I have received cards, texts, phone calls, flowers, visits that have left the broken pieces of my heart full of more love than I even knew was possible through grief. I know it’s not easy to reach out to someone when you aren’t sure what to say, but I can tell you the thought most certainly is what counts.
I’ve had hugs that lingered longer than normal that spoke volumes without a single word. I have had gifts given to me in memory of what was lost that have brought new levels of healing from the gesture itself to the thoughtful nature and healing of what was given.
On a personal note, if you are reading this; thank you. Thank you for your love, your support, your prayers, your encouragement, and your personal stories. Thank you for sharing the burden of my pain and being the most gracious and loving people I have the utmost pleasure of knowing.
It’s probably appropriate to say that there are no “right” words for loss when you are talking with someone who is grieving, but there is healing in love and support. So my suggestion is if you are the one hurting: Reach out to those that love you; let them in and let them support you.
- Find a counselor that specializes in dealing with the hurt you are going through and how to start that healing process.
- There are many support groups (Facebook, blogs, etc.) where others can go to lift each other up.
- Surround yourself with positive people. Let those that know love show you that love.
- Let your spouse/significant other love you through your loss.
- Start journaling and writing about your own grief process.
Find a healthy outlet to talk about your grief and don’t be afraid to say you need help. We all need help sometimes!
If you are not the one personally experiencing the grief my suggestion to you would be to reach out. There’s nothing wrong with letting someone know you care. It may mean more than you even know. Obviously you don’t want to press too hard or cross boundaries so utilize your best judgment. You can:
- Send flowers
- Mail or give a card
- Make a CD of encouraging songs or sermons
- Send a text
- Give them a call
- Write an email
You know this person and you can make the judgment on how best to lift them up in their time of need.
Overall, having direction when going through loss can be very healing and I was happy to find out the things that need to be worked on and have focus again.
So to those who have lost, love yourself enough to start the sacred healing journey.
If you want to learn more about your own health case please check out our free health evaluation. We offer in person as well as phone and webcam consultations for people across the country and around the world.
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WRITTEN BY GUEST AUTHOR ANDREA COGLEY
REVIEWED BY DR. WILL COLE | COLE NATURAL HEALTH CENTERS
Dr. Will Cole, IFMCP, DNM, DC, leading functional medicine expert, consults people around the world via webcam and locally in Pittsburgh. He received his doctorate from Southern California University of Health Sciences and post doctorate education and training in functional medicine and clinical nutrition. He specializes in clinically researching underlying factors of chronic disease and customizing a functional medicine approach for thyroid issues, autoimmune conditions, hormonal imbalances, digestive disorders, and brain problems. Dr. Cole was named one of the top 50 functional medicine and integrative doctors in the nation and is the best selling author of Ketotarian and The Inflammation Spectrum.
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