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Guided Imagery a Powerful Tool for Heartbreak & Loss

14 Nov

We were pointed to a really nice shout-out and discussion about the value of guided imagery for heartbreak in Brenda’s Blog, a heartfelt, movingly honest blog by a courageous cancer survivor and grieving widow – talk about a nasty, double-whammy slam up side the head! There are great pages by her kids in there, too – an altogether impressive and inspiring family.
She writes that the Heartbreak, Abandonment and Betrayal imagery seemed to be a big help to her with her grief, although she didn’t think much of our all time, bestselling, uber-popular Healthful Sleep audio. Go figure. Maybe she should try KRS Edstrom’s Sleep through Insomnia.  Or Gael Chiarella’s PM Yoga Meditations might be a better fit.

That Heartbreak/Abandonment imagery incorporates a lot of images and ideas from good old fashioned attachment theory and the psychodynamic idea of “incorporating the lost object”.  I don’t often talk overtly in Freud-Speak, but the better ideas are not lost on me.  And the notion that grief can only be resolved by taking in the image of the person (or animal or thing) you’ve lost, and making him/her/it a steady, reliable, dependable part of one’s innards, is a deliberately huge element in the imagery on that CD.  It incorporates a whole army of invisible support. Something similar is essential to the Ease Grief imagery, too, but in a different way.
Ask anyone who’s recovered from a horrible loss how often they see, hear, smell, feel and otherwise converse with the person who is gone, or with other people who were important sources of nourishment and strength in their lives, and you’ll get an earful.

Brenda specifically refers to those imagery elements in her blog – the idea that there are images of sources of love and support, that can move in and hold the space for you and love you and keep you full, while you gnash your teeth and cry and howl and do whatever it is you need to do to get through the profound sadness and pain of loss.
She writes,

Most of us know what it's like to grieve the loss of a job, the loss of a loved one, or the loss of our healthy selves to a disease like breast cancer. Sometimes, however, our grief runs so deep that it’s difficult for us to heal and move on. An external force has made it nearly impossible for me to heal after James’ death [Ed. Note: her husband] and regain my footing. Guided Imagery, however, is helping me turn my darkness into light. For the first time since our family dissolved, I think I’m finally able to let go of my hurt and my anger.

I’ve been using one of Belleruth Naparstek’s Guided Imagery audios,
Heartbreak, Abandonment & Betrayal, that I downloaded from her website as an MP3 file onto my computer. Her voice is soft, yet strong and steady, as she evokes images of generations of my family that have gone before me; ancestors and loved ones who form a deep circle of protection around me. James is there as is his father and my grandmother, Mamie, her brother and even my father who I don’t think much about. They are my tribe, invested in my well-being because parts of them reside in me.

We will stay with you as long as you want. You can come and go, but we will be here. We will hold you in our hearts while your heart heals, for as long as it takes.

Some people report, as Brenda does, that these are very helpful, powerful images, in the best psychological sense. Others have sworn that the imagery actually invokes the presence of invisible helpers, and that they can physically feel them around them.  I don’t care which it is, as long as it helps – I subscribe to both possibilities.

But I was really gratified to see the way Brenda pointed to the parts of that imagery that reflect those critical, psychodynamic, spiritual and familial seeds of healing that are layered in there. So thank you, Brenda, for noticing, and my best wishes to you! 

Take care and be well, everyone.


Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award