At some point in our lives we will have to face the loss of a loved one, sometimes it is sudden and at other times it is expected - in either circumstance the grief and sense of loss can be just as raw and all consuming. This grief not only affects us in the moment but may carry over for years affecting a person both psychologically and physically.
No doubt there is a natural period of mourning and although homeopathy cannot "cure" grief, homeopathy can help with coming to terms with grief and loss. It can provide support in the immediate time surrounding the event or can be used to address long standing emotions where the person never really seems to have come to terms with the loss.
For the immediate shock of hearing the bad news a homeopathic remedy such as Aconite may help, also don’t forget the First Aid effects of things like Rescue Remedy. Another Bach flower remedy which might help is Star of Bethlehem; this is indicated for shock and hearing bad news.
For the deeper or longer term effects of grief we need to consider the deeper more constitutional forms of homeopathic treatment. The following remedies might be relevant in a case of unresolved grief.
Aurum The grief that an Aurum patient experiences will plunge them into a marked depression even to a point of feeling suicidal, which might or might not be acted upon. They have a strong feeling of being forsaken by the person they have lost and will become oversensitive to many things. This remedy has a strong sense of doing one’s duty and grief can cause them to think that they have neglected their duty to the person who has died; they will carry guilt and self reproach for this. They take their responsibilities very seriously.
Away from the grief Aurum people tend to be high achievers and workaholics, they do not cope with failure or contradiction very well. They push themselves very hard and cannot settle for second best.
Physically they have a lot of heart and blood vessel pathology, after a death in the family this could be represented by the development of high blood pressure or angina. Sleep can be fitful with the person crying out in their sleep. There might be bone problems or bone pain.
Causticum This remedy has ‘ailments from injustice’ as one of its characteristics, in grief this is represented by a depression or anger where the person repeatedly claims the death of the person to be unfair. Before the event the Causticum patient might have a great sense of foreboding and fear that something terrible is going to happen. Sleep is greatly disturbed and the person cannot get comfortable in bed, tossing and turning or they wake with a start. They can be intensely sympathetic to those around them who are also bereaved.
They feel that they have no energy and that their arms and legs are heavy and difficult to move, there might also be sensations of numbness or tingling in the arms and legs, especially on the right side. Any symptom, either physical or emotional, can be more aggravated during the evening or early hours of the morning.
Ignatia This is one of the most important grief remedies in the homeopathic materia medica. Its main indication is when the person cannot motivate themselves; they tend to sit in a chair looking into the middle distance and sighing. In fact ‘sits and sighs’ is one of the main keynote indications of Ignatia. They tend to hold onto their grief rather than let it all out. Ever since the grief event they might suffer from headaches describing the pain as if a nail has been driven into the side of the head. They might show a shift in their character becoming oversensitive and nervous. They could have mood swings changing at the flick of a switch from joking and laughing to crying and sadness. In fact a contradictory mood or contradictory physical symptoms e.g. leg pains that are better for walking about is another key feature of this remedy.
Natrum muriaticum This is also a very big grief remedy. A typical Nat. mur. patient bottles everything up inside, they have the stereotypical ‘stiff upper lip’ attitude to problems and worries. They are refined and reserved, they will bear their suffering stoically and might only open up to a very close friend or family member, otherwise they hold their feelings in. They do not want consolation and any grieving will only be done in private and on their own. With regard to crying the Nat. mur. patient can go one of two ways, the more typical is that they cannot cry, the grief rises in them but stops at their throat and they can have a strong sensation of a lump in their throats. The less typical response is that they will weep freely, but still reject consolation when it is offered.
In their grief they might be so run down that they develop cold sores. Any ailment they present with is made worse in the sun. They have a morning aggravation where things are worse between 9 and 11am, this could include their mood. They can have problems with skin rashes and eruptions of various types - eczema being the most typical. A person requiring Nat. mur. could also present with a patchy looking tongue.
Pulsatilla If Nat. mur. is the epitome of the ‘stiff upper lip’ then Pulsatilla is the exact opposite. People requiring this remedy are not closed, they do not bottle up their emotions and want to off load to anybody who will listen. They are very tearful and want a lot of consolation. They do not want to be left alone and will try very hard to get people to stay with them, even to the point of putting themselves out in order to keep a person’s attention. They are very much people pleasers in every way. If they fail they can have a nasty flip side and can be quite spiteful to/about people they have failed to win over or feel have not made enough of a fuss of them. Physically people requiring this remedy will feel much better for open air; having the windows open or long walks. They tend not to have a thirst and are averse to rich or fatty foods. A feature of this remedy is changeability - aches and pains are never the same or in the same place, they seem to wander round the body.
Staphisagria This remedy might be linked to grief via its keynote of resentment, there might be resentment and anger towards the person who has died leaving the patient on their own or to others around who are trying to help and console. The person requiring this remedy will be moody and depressed preferring to be on their own rather than have people fussing round them. They may be particularly sad, irritable or depressed after a fit of anger. They are easily offended and can become very indignant over things people say or do. They are snappy, but equally they might hold their anger and irritability inside which makes them even worse in the end.
The above are just a few of the many remedies that might be applicable to a case of grief. The effects of the remedy on the patient will be variable, for example the tightly buttoned down Nat. mur. might vent their grief and open the gates of their silent suffering, the effusive Pulsatilla will start to become more independent and begin to build their lives again. Thus homeopathy has a great deal to offer those who are suffering bereavement or feel that they have never quite got over a previous death. It can be a very gentle way of enabling a person to move on.