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Emotional Considerations During Detoxification: Grief and Sadness

Friday, February 18th 2022 10:00am 7 min read
Dr. Jessica Renfer drjessica.nd

Licensed naturopathic doctor with expertise in lifestyle transformation, healing from chronic disease and natural fertility & preconception.

A common experience throughout the healing process, and particularly during deep cleansing protocols, is heightened emotional states. In this article we will discuss some of the reasons this can happen, and how to support yourself through these processes.

Why do emotions become so loud during cleansing processes?

There are several reasons why this can often be the case. Each person is different, every process different, however I have noticed some patterns in what tends to come up throughout the process of healing or cleansing.

  • First of all, cleansing can be physically and therefore emotionally uncomfortable. Being in pain, feeling nauseated or extremely fatigued shifts affects our neurotransmitter balance, and therefore mood. It often brings up emotions and worries around our health and such, which we will go into specific emotional processes a bit later in this post.
  • If your cleanse involves fasting or major dietary restrictions, we can be faced with our fears around starvation or scarcity. Sometimes we are withdrawing off of substances, such as caffeine or sugar. This can be particularly loud if we have any history of disordered eating, or if food has been a source of comfort or escape at any point in our lives.
  • Following through with intensive and involved treatment plans or protocols can be hard, it can seem like a lot of pills, or that it is all consuming, which can bring up judgements around how we spend our time and money. It can be challenging to stay consistent with, which can then bring up questions or doubts such as “what if I’m not doing this correctly?”. Thoughts like “I don’t have the time, energy, space, resources to keep up with this protocol” are also very common.
  • The process of healing inevitably has hiccups, moments where we start to feel so much better, then can sink back into old symptoms, or simply feeling less well again. This can bring up feelings of hopelessness or discouragement, or worries that we will never again be well.
  • When we are experiencing what’s referred to as die-off of pathogens: parasites, yeast, etc, it can honestly feel like we are dying, because in a sense, this being that was a part of our makeup is dying. During the water fasting retreats, I would see this all the time, where someone would feel like they were dying (I exacerage somewhat, but this is the phrase people often use, while aware that they aren’t actually dying), and then the next hour, or next day, they would expel a parasite, biofilm or have a deep emotional revelatory moment, or spiritual awakening process.


In Traditional Chinese Medicine, Grief is associated with the Large Intestine and Lungs, so often we can feel waves of grief when these organs are tended to. Breath work, Enemas and Colonics, can bring up emotions related to these organs, which is often within that category of grief/depression/sadness. At the same time, when processing deep grief, tending to these meridians can help the energy move.

Change Can Be Hard

In order to move into a new phase, in order to heal, there are certain things we must let go of. There is often stored away trauma, hurt, disappointments, that have become an integral part of how we define ourselves. It may have not been safe to process our pain in the past, and there are layers of our experience intrinsically tied to our current state of wellbeing, physically, mentally and emotionally.
What we often find as we seek healing, is anything that is unresolved, those parts that still feel wounded, will rise up to be seen, loved and integrated. We also face the parts of ourselves or our story that we are attached to that may no longer serve our desired state of wellbeing. It can be humbling to consider, and yet it is often true, that there is some pay off to being unwell, or very ingrained patterns that up until this point, have given us a container or way of relating to and understanding the world. Dr. Gabor Mate wrote a book which says it perfectly in the title “When the Body Says No”, where if we have issues with boundaries, self care, standing up for ourselves, our bodies can end up saying it for us through physical disease. As we let these old programs go, we can end up feeling empty, or hollow, which is uncomfortable to most, to not have a clear sense of self, path and purpose.
Ultimately letting go of what was is necessary, and still, much like children experience growing pains as the physically grow, we too as adults have growing pains within our process of evolution.

Considerations when Working with Grief and Sadness

When grief is experienced from the loss of someone close to us, I like the idea that rather than making our grief smaller, we expand our life around it. Often our grief is related to our love and attachment, and thus that love does not diminish with time. Rather, our capacity to return to joy and appreciation of life grows, all the while that space of love we hold for that person we have lost can also remain.

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