Digesting the Difficult Things in Life

Estimated read time... 3 minutes

I’ve recently been going through the most difficult thing in my life to date. And, I’ve developed a slew of digestive issues, and a return of migraines, to boot.

My dear cat, Norton, was diagnosed with intestinal cancer a week before Christmas.  I honestly, naively, thought my 17yo cat had worms and that’s why his belly was so bloated and he was losing weight so fast.  (Oh the things we tell ourselves!)  The vet, in a moment deeply lacking in compassion, told me that I’d have two good months with my cat left, and that I’d have to euthanize him after that. (I have not gone back to this vet!)  I am still fairly certain that I, for one microsecond, disassociated from my body because I remember feeling like the room got really big and I saw things from a different angle while she told me this.

It was a completely and utterly heartbreaking vet visit.

I have cried so much since then my eyes have felt like there were particles of sand in them.

After the news I spent a couple of weeks sleeping on the couch with Norton, compromising my well-being to be by his side as much as possible.  Trying to capture every moment.

I now also have a recurrence of migraines the likes of which I have not seen in years and years.
What’s interesting about this last bit is that I have been avoiding all my migraine triggers for foods, I’m moving every day, I’m meditating, I’m playing/practicing my violin, I’m talking with friends and family about what’s going on, and now I’m writing about my situation.

As always, I hope that in sharing what is going on with me, that it strikes a chord with you and you find solace in not being alone in what you are going through.

So now I have developed, in addition to these migraines, regular digestive issues. Everything that I eat sits like a lump in my stomach. I still feel like my lunch from yesterday is still being digested. It’s gross. I’ve taken my herbs (Bao He Wan is a great formula for that kind of stomach upset, and stomach upset in general), I’ve had teas, I’ve eaten as simply as possible, you name it I’ve tried it.

Then I had a thought: what if it’s not about the food that I’m eating (or not eating), or the exercise and creative outlets and emotional expression, but about this most difficult and heartbreaking situation?

From a Chinese Medicine perspective, as I’m wont to investigate, this would be akin to my Spleen/Stomach (or Earth element) being unable to digest my current situation. I cannot break it down, I cannot assimilate it, I cannot transform it – not yet.

I’ve been asking myself:

What would it mean to transform this experience?
What would it mean to assimilate this heartbreak into my being?
What would it mean to really be in this grief?


Grief is the emotion of the Metal element, it’s the holding onto and letting go of experiences.
What would it mean to let go of what I’m feeling about this situation?
What else am I holding on to, and how can I work on letting that go?

I’ve had glimpses of these moments, and some answers to these questions, but then the grief and heartbreak come pouring back in.


I think, like digesting an overly indulgent meal, it is going to take time and some discomfort and lots of my herbal helpers: ginger, cardamom, bitters blends, artichokes, orange peels, Bao He Wan, hawthorn berry, rose and albizzia for my heart, ocotillo to move what is stuck…

2 replies
  1. Terry
    Terry says:

    Thank you, very powerful and well spoken. Daily we are reminded that we are more than 3 dimensional beings.
    TCM is beautiful in its ability to ‘see’ and ‘treat’ the whole person, the tangible and intangible.

  2. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    It’s amazing how connected our minds and guts are. I’m so glad that western culture is finally starting to recognize this connection. Treating the mind and body together is so crucial. Thank you for sharing your experience, and I hope your mind, body, and soul find healing.

Comments are closed.