There are many different approaches to resolving acute, complicated or traumatic grief. I have found Ericksonian hypnosis helpful for grief therapy. I enjoy using Ericksonian hypnosis for a variety of issues, including grief, because of its permissive language and creativity, as well as its respect for your abilities to heal yourself. In addition, it utilizes what is going on for you and your unique interests and strengths, so it feels more personal and closer to your lived experience than scripted, directive hypnosis sessions. This post talks about the unique benefits of using clinical hypnosis, also known as hypnotherapy, for treatment of grief. My hope is that reading it will help you decide whether hypnosis would help you for your grief.
Ericksonian hypnosis can be used differently for various types of grief. When you know that a person has a terminal illness or is dying soon, you have a chance to prepare for it. It's still painful but you can at least anticipate feeling awful, and plan to be kind to yourself accordingly. This is similar to acute grief, or what some call "normal grief." When you've had lots of losses that haven't been processed or you lose someone/something suddenly, you might have a harder time accepting it and eventually letting it go. That situation can complicate grief. I will explain the benefits of hypnosis for grief for each of these different subtypes of grief.
Ericksonian hypnosis for acute grief
Acute grief, what some people also call "normal" grief, is a normal response to losing someone or something important to you. You might initially be in shock but as that wears off, you become more upset and possibly confused or foggy-headed about the loss and life in general. However, in a matter of 6-12 months you usually start to accept the loss and in time, the pain is less intense. You can then think about pleasant aspects of the person or thing you lost and you eventually move on with life, meaning that you start to interact more with others who are living and your usual routine of daily living.
If your loved one is dying, you can use hypnosis for preparing yourself for the day when they are no longer living. Grief can also be from leaving a job, home, or losing a relationship. In all these instances, hypnosis can help with emotional regulation (meaning handling your feelings effectively) as well as putting the loss in perspective. Your loss doesn't have to define you or your life. Hypnosis does not invalidate how painful it is to lose someone or something important to you, but it also helps you see the loss more broadly.
Hypnosis can also be useful if you're facing a life-threatening illness or terminal sickness that will likely result in an untimely death. You can use hypnosis as a way to explore what death might be like, and take some of the fear and dread out of it. I also wrote about how hypnosis can help with anxiety (especially about death), pain, and other aspects of cancer. You can also use hypnosis as a way to explore your feelings about the people you'll be leaving behind, and resolve unfinished business with them.
Using Ericksonian hypnosis for complicated grief therapy
Complicated grief is a broad term for grief that is more severe and lengthier because of factors that prolong the misery of grief. If your grief is still very painful after a year or more, you might be suffering from complicated or traumatic grief. Things that can slow grief down or complicate it include current or previous mental illness (like depression, PTSD, or anxiety); having an unusually close or dependent relationship on the deceased; having a backlog of multiple losses that are too overwhelming to cope with at once; or caretaking the deceased.
Hypnosis can help you cope with your other mental health conditions, like reducing anxiety, depression, or resolving past trauma. You can learn healthier coping strategies that make grieving less onerous. You can also unpack the various losses at a more reasonable rate and clear out the unresolved grief from before. Hypnosis allows you to do things that rationally, you wouldn't think possible, like interacting with the deceased. This makes it possible to take care of unfinished business and clear up inappropriate guilt or anger, for example.
People with traumatic grief also benefit from Ericksonian hypnosis
Traumatic grief is not a diagnosis per se, but it explains the traumatic shock and PTSD-like symptoms you get when you lose someone or something suddenly or unexpectedly. Your mind hasn't had a chance to prepare, and you might feel stuck in reliving the loss repeatedly, through dreams, nightmares, intrusive thoughts, or flashbacks. You might not be able to concentrate and it feels like the loss is the only thing going on in your life. Death is the usual cause but it could also be a divorce, being abandoned, a sudden separation (like foster care, imprisonment, or deportation), or losing your ability to do something (like a sudden disability or loss of a limb).
Hypnosis can help you with your powerful feelings, and may assist in reducing anxiety, sadness, and even guilt. This allows you to better process and cope with your emotions. In addition, you can process the traumatic shock of the loss. You can also tap into your subconscious mind, where you may have buried emotions or memories related to your loss. This can be especially useful for addressing any repressed feelings that are hindering the grieving process.
If you didn't get a chance to say goodbye or resolve relationship difficulties with whomever you lost, hypnosis can facilitate exploration and resolution of these emotions, enabling individuals to find closure.
If you're struggling with stress and being able to sleep, hypnosis can help with those issues. Grief can be physically and emotionally exhausting. Hypnosis techniques often involve deep relaxation, which can help you reduce stress, and enhance your overall well-being during a difficult time. In general, hypnotherapy can promote positive coping strategies and beliefs and help you build resilience and develop a more constructive outlook on your grief journey.
Finally, Ericksonian hypnosis can help all grievers explore spirituality and existential issues. Grief may have shaken your faith in your personal understanding of God or Source, or it may have caused you to question the point of existence. Hypnosis can provide a safe space to explore these concerns and seek answers that offer comfort and understanding.
Are you interested in exploring Ericksonian hypnosis for your grief journey?
Ericksonian hypnosis can be used with various other techniques to help you process the reality of your loss. It can be a complementary approach that can be integrated into a broader grief therapy plan tailored to your unique needs.
Grief is a highly personal experience, and what works for one person may not work for another, so therapy will be customized for your situation and needs. I have seen hypnosis help people become calmer, less trapped in ruminating about their losses, and help to restore normal functioning. I'd love to help you with your grief using hypnosis and other techniques. Please call if you're interested in learning more: 661-233-6771.