Moving Through the Cycles of Grief

September 29, 2021

Grief. Let’s talk about it for a minute. In the past few weeks, I’ve been aware that most of my patients are struggling with some form of it or another. It may be acute and severe, such as with the loss of a loved one. It may be a little more soft and anticipated, such as with a child leaving for school. It may be vague and harder to name, such as with the collective grief related to the loss of normalcy and fun alongside the relentless list of daily stressors. Whatever it is for you, my heart goes out to you.

According to Chinese Medicine theory, grief is held in the lungs and it is associated with the element of metal. Fall is thought to be the season of grief or letting go. Nature shows us how to grieve: the trees let go of their leaves, releasing the fullness and the abundance that comes with summer. The letting go allows trees to send their energy deep into the roots to nourish themselves, before the rebirth of new buds that happens in spring.

Fall is a time to slow down, to reflect on what needs to be released. To gather our energy and nurture ourselves for the winter ahead when we can let our proverbial roots sink deeper into the earth and nourish ourselves. It is, quite naturally, a time to grieve. This does not have to be a terrible thing… in fact, it’s quite natural. I find that grief only becomes problematic when we suppress it, avoid it, or it’s too overwhelming to process, at which point it’s important to ask for help.

The earth moves in cycles. The seasons, the days, the moon move in cycles. Our lives move in cycles. Are you honoring your cycle? Are you giving yourself space to grieve, to let go? Do you admit to the feeling of grief and allow yourself space to cry if you need to? Let’s not overly pathologize grief - It’s normal, even necessary to an extent, as long as we don’t get stuck in it.

Some questions to reflect on: What needs to be released at this time? What am I grieving? How can I create space for self-nourishment? How does letting go serve me?

And then….Follow your grief inquiry with: What brings joy into my life? How can I experience more joy, fun, lightness?

One simple thing I like to do is to light a candle, then I envision a small flickering glowing flame in my heart in the center of my chest. I connect to the feeling of warmth and joy, then I envision radiating light and joy out from my chest, my heart, my eyes. According to Chinese Medicine theory: Joy, which is related to the element of fire, melts or softens grief, which is the element of metal. So, to help yourself move through this time where grief is more prominent, acknowledge that it’s there, honor it, and light a candle for it - literally and metaphorically. It will soften. We will get through this, joy is still accessible, and our roots will be a little deeper as we move through our cycles.


Dr. Laura Chan is a Naturopathic Doctor and Licensed Acupuncturist with a passion for helping people lead healthier, happier lives.  Her practice is located at the NH Health & Wellness Center at 60 Main St, Nashua NH.  To read more about Dr. Chan and her services, visit  

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