Helping Others Means Deeply Listening to the Words

I often hear grieving individuals express profound feelings and significant emotions using uniquely distinct phrases found in English.

The stories of loss can live in our bodies. When we receive information of loss, our ears hear the news, our minds process the data, our brain reacts by sending information to our bodies in the form of chemicals.  Our bodies, the barometers of our feelings, register the emotional impact of the losses held in our soma (our physical self).

Fresh grief re-stimulates the grief we are somatically carrying from prior losses;  and when losses combine the effect that occurs is exponential.

We glean a tremendous amount of information by deeply hearing the communications of the bereaved. By being with and holding space for those who suffer, we increase our capacity for empathy by listening with our whole beings; body, mind and spirit. (The words ear and hear are imbedded in the word Heart).

Degriefing calls the following phrases “Somatic Colloquialisms” because they are used when people talk and reference the way they are feeling physically (somatically) about loss of any kind. This valuable disclosure, whether intentional on the part of the client or simply casual, gives us not just how they are feeling, it tells us where in the body their pain may be located.  This helps us identify what integrative therapies we might suggest they consider participating in to fuel their healing process.

The common usage of such phrases can be identified as gender based, generational, regional, cultural, national, etc. The quirky combinations of the words that make up these phrases, explains why they don’t translate easily. This always has to be taken into account during cross cultural counseling.  

Some examples of “Somatic Colloquialisms” are:   · all thumbs  · bite your tongue · breathing down my neck · broadsided · butterflies in my stomach · by a nose · by the short hairs · can’t get a grip · can’t see straight · can’t stomach it · can’t swallow it · cross eyed · dug his heels in · earful · eat your heart out · elephant on my chest · eye opening · feet of clay · frowned upon….just to name a few.

See what other ones you can add to my  list of Somatic Colloquialisms.

Lyn Prachant 2010

Lyn Prashant

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Lyn Prashant, PhD., FT., IGT., IGC, is the Founder and Training Director of the process called Degriefing®. Lyn is an internationally recognized professional grief counselor, engaging lecturer, published author, and therapeutic massage therapist/teacher specializing in transforming grief by using grief as “the most available untapped, emotional resource for personal transformation”. She teaches at the Mayo Clinic, U.C. Berkeley, California Pacific Medical Center; training health care professionals, hospice workers, hospital staffs, community leaders and it’s members. Lyn, fluent in Spanish, has offices in the San Francisco Bay Area. She can be reached at and 415.457.2272 Lyn presents this work internationally in honor of her late sister Donna and her late husband Mark. Lyn’s parents, Harriet and Nathan Smith, live in Boynton Beach, Florida, and a younger sibling, Karen Miro, and her two children live in South Salem, New York. To Listen to Lyn on Open to Hope Lyn was featured on the Open to Hope Foundation radio show program “Healing the Grieving Heart” on October 22, 2009. You can listen to her in the archives of this program at .


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  • Kim Go says:

    I think you have good points here… and I suspect that I am someone who has really somaticized my grief quite a bit. I have been trying to work with my body a bit more in the last few months in relation to this. I have used the words: flattened ; porous ; floating…