There is no life without loss and no more natural emotion than grief. People we love die, relationships end, children grow up, life changes. We may find ourselves grieving, not just for people but also for pets, homes, jobs, our health, our youth, lost opportunities and unfulfilled dreams. “Grieving isn’t a matter of “if” but of “when”,” says Richard Carlson, author of What About the Big Stuff? (Hodder), “We live in a world of constant change where nothing stays the same. Grieving is a natural process that extends far beyond the topic of death.”
Sadly doctors have few resources for soothing the pain of grief. Commonly they will prescribe anti-depressants and sleeping pills, which may numb the pain but can’t transform it. This is where holistic therapies come into their own – aromatherapy, homeopathy and flower remedies can be gentle friends at dark times. Psychotherapy also has an important part to play in healing – and an enlightened doctor will send anyone caught in grief to a psychotherapist or counsellor and might also encourage you to join a support group. Talking is a vital part of the grief process.
Whether your grief is recent or hails from way back in the past; whether your grief is over the loss of a person, an animal (yes we grieve terribly over the loss of a beloved animal companion) a relationship or a situation, it’s vital you honour that grief and give yourself the time and space to heal. “Do it in your own way, in your own time,” advises psychotherapist Miriam Greenspan, author of Healing through the Dark Emotions (Shambhala). She makes the point that grief is a spiritual process that offers a profound opportunity, if we’re prepared to work with it, rather than against it. “One doesn’t “do” grief and then get to the other side,” she says, “Grief is an opportunity for transformation, a wholly new awareness of reality, self, beloved, and world.”
Easing Grief with Natural Remedies
“Essential oils can’t prevent the grieving process,” says our founder, clinical aromatherapist Zena Hallam, “but they can hold your hand through it, helping you express your grief so it doesn’t turn inwards. Aromatherapy can support the mind and soothe the heart during these tough times of transition.” She suggests the following oils (dilute a total of 20 drops in 30ml of a base oil such as sweet almond. Use in the bath or in diffusers. For diffusers, just put a few drops of the stock blend without the carrier oil. You can also use it for self-massage, or ask a friend to give you a massage – never underestimate the power of loving touch.
- To help express grief: rose, neroli, melissa, benzoin, mimosa, vetiver
- To help dissipate grief: cypress, chamomile, rose, frankincense, bergamot.
- For grief-induced numbness, shock and disbelief: blend 5 drops cypress, 10 drops frankincense and 5 drops bergamot in 30ml sweet almond oil.
- Tazeka blends can help too. Balance would be our first choice, gently soothing heart and soul. Optimism can take the edge off a heavy mood. If your grief is preventing sleep, we’d recommend Peaceful Slumber and very probably Non-Stop Thoughts as well.
Homeopath Dr Andrew Lockie suggests remedies for both the early and later stages of grief:
Early stages (take 4 times daily for up to two weeks)
- Arnica 30x: when you want to be left alone, insisting you feel alright. When you don’t want to be touched; as if in shock.
- Aconite 30x: When you’re fearful, on the verge of collapse.
- Opium 6x: When you’re very frightened, almost numb with grief.
Later stages (take 3 times daily for up to two weeks)
- Nux vomica 6x: When you’re angry and critical of others.
- Phos Ac 6x: When you’re depressed and apathetic.
- Pulsatilla 6x: When you’re sleepless, have bouts of helpless weeping, suffer from catarrh.
- Nat mur 6x: When you prefer to hide your feeling, turning down sympathy because it makes you cry.
- Ignatia 6x: When you can’t control your emotions; laughing, sighing or crying at inappropriate moments
Bach flower remedies make gentle healers, and can have profound effects on our emotional well-being. These are the two prime remedies for grief:
- Star of Bethlehem: Dr Bach called this remedy “the comforter and soother of pains and sorrows” and prescribed it for “paralysing sorrow following disappointments, bad news, accidents and other shocking events.” It’s not only useful for current grief but for any past shock or trauma.
- Honeysuckle: this is the prime remedy for someone who finds it impossible to “move on” after a death, the end of a relationship, the loss of a career, the move to a new house or town. The classic picture is of someone who lives in the past, who is caught in regret, nostalgia and memories.