Ruby and Jack (not their real names) had been married for 63 years. They were high school sweethearts, married, raised a family, and weathered all the storms of their lives together.
Ruby was now alone. Jack had passed away in his sleep almost a year before her nephew, Bob, brought her to my office at the funeral home.
Bob was a funeral home employee working in the sales department. He had seen me work many times with patrons of our establishment in helping them past the grief that was paralyzing their lives. He had seen me direct others through “that tapping therapy you do” and wondered if I could help his aunt who – almost a year after losing her beloved husband – still cried at the mention of his name.
Ruby was a plump little woman whose face was kind and care-worn. But just talking about her deceased mate brought up a level of emotional discomfort that was impossible to miss.
Bob was concerned that her grief was so significant that it was beginning to impact her health and functioning.
After talking with her for a very short time, I took her HRV. Her SDNN was only 23. Not a very good score. Then, we started the treatment. I asked her to rate the level of her emotional discomfort. Even if she had not said so, the look on her face when I moved her into that thought field showed she was a 10. The tears welled in her eyes and her face contorted in an attempt to stifle her impulse to cry.
I applied the TFT treatment. In just seconds there was an improvement – a dramatic improvement. The tears dried up, her face relaxed and both her nephew and I noticed a new countenance settle over her. Even she looked surprised.
“What did you just do?” she asked me. I didn’t answer her question.
Rather, I asked, “How is the feeling now when you think of Jack? Is it better, worse, or the same?”
A slight smile crept across her face and she said, “I’m almost afraid to say this, but I actually feel sort of happy and lighter somehow.” Her nephew looked at me out of the corner of his eye with a disbelieving look. He was still skeptical.
When I asked her to rate the level of her emotional discomfort again, she told me it had gone down to a 2. We worked a bit more on her SUD. It wouldn’t come down further leading me to suspect that we really had eliminated the problem but she was resistant to the idea of losing all feelings of grief. (Often, the bereaved will not report getting to a 1 or zero because they somehow equate a lack of negative emotion with a lack of love or respect for the deceased.)
I took her HRV again and it had improved significantly to an SDNN of over 60. A whopping improvement in just minutes!
Of all the possible stressers a person can encounter in life, losing a mate is one of the most significant and impacts an individual on all levels. My experience with Ruby was not anomalous. It was characteristic of many (if not most) of the cases I have seen.
I have learned that the HRV of a grieving person can often be improved through the application of TFT treatment.
Almost anyone who has worked in the death-care industry (as I did for over fifteen years as a counselor) has known of cases where one elderly partner will pass. Then, strangely enough, one month – six months – one year later (sometimes to the day), the other will pass.
Although I cannot account for or explain the often peculiar timing of the death of the second partner, my experience with the HRVs of the bereaved suggests to me that extended grief is stressful to the degree that it suppresses the HRV of these individuals to a degree that their own death is the result. Literally, they die of a broken heart. And, I believe that TFT is not only enriching the lives of these individuals, but is also extending it and improving their overall health.