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Natural Remedies for Grief

Posted Sep 19 2011 11:07pm

I had never lost anyone close to me until I lost my BFF, Christine.

Actually, I take that back – I lost my grandfather in November 2004, but that felt different because a) he had been ill for quite some time; b) he was 90 years old and had lived a long and full life; and c) I had a chance to say goodbye. Yes, I did mourn him, but his death did not throw me into a state of shock and grief the way Christine’s did. Christine was healthy, 38 years old, and left suddenly and unexpectedly. There was no chance to say goodbye. In fact, the last thing I said to her was, “Is 8:04am too early to come and pick us up at the airport on 9/8?” (She, of course, said “No!”)

So I have been plumbing the depths of my grief for several days now. Of course, there are natural remedies for grief, shock, and depression (there seems to be a natural remedy for everything), and I have been using them (even abusing them) in the hope of some “miracle cure.” Well, let me tell you: there is no miracle cure for grief. Grief is a process, and it cannot be magically skipped or cured. But what the remedies DO seem to do – at least for me, anyway – is “take the edge off,” allowing me to rise up out of the fog and focus on doing what I still need to do, despite being so so sad. I thought that I’d share with you the natural remedies from the worlds of Flower Essences, Homeopathy, and Herbs/Aromatherapy in this post, just in case you or anyone you love are also experiencing grief, shock, or depression. They’re very inexpensive, and they’re worth a try.

Flower essences: Perhaps I should say a word about flower essences and what the heck they are. Flower essences are a form of vibrational or energetic medicine first researched by Dr. Edward Bach, who discovered that wildflowers suspended in water and preserved in alcohol contained healing energies, especially for emotional disorders. And Dr. Bach believed that emotional disorders were the root of all physical illnesses. The most famous flower essence is probably Bach’s Rescue Remedy , which is a combination of 5 different flower essences. Rescue Remedy is particularly good for calming and grounding in stressful situations, i.e., when you’ve just learned of the death of a beloved friend. You are supposed to take just 3-4 drops under the tongue, but I would have to admit that I was practically drinking it through a straw in the first few days after Christine’s death. It helps us relieve tension, get focused, and relax. You can even use it for a child’s tantrums! Note: it does contain 27% brandy, so what I do is take 3-4 drops of it and put it in my daughter’s water bottle (5 ounces). That way, she is getting a VERY diluted dose of alcohol. Alternatively, they do make an alchohol-free version of Rescue Remedy for Kids, if you want to consider that.

Other single Bach flower essences that may be helpful in an acute grief situation are the following (take 3-4 drops under the tongue, 3x a day or as directed by a Flower Essence Practitioner):

  • Clematis: Good for those who might want to fully withdraw from life after a traumatic event.
  • Star of Bethlehem: Good for shock, sudden sad news, or even physical shock. Also good for healing past wounds.
  • Sweet Chestnut: Good for intense despair during the anguish of bereavement or loss, when the person feels the future looks black and empty.

Homeopathy: Homeopathy is the use of micro-doses of a substance to stimulate the body’s own healing processes. The process of creating homeopathic medicine dilutes the active substance to a point where its ratio in the final product can be less than 1 in a billion parts. How, then, does it work? It’s a mystery! I like to think of it as energetic or vibrational medicine (just like Flower Essences), but truthfully, no one really knows. Ignatia amara 30C is the remedy I’ve most often seen recommended for acute grief (i.e., when the person is in the throes of grief, versus chronic grief or depression). The dosage is to take 3 pellets underneath the tongue, 3 times daily, or as directed by your homeopathic practitioner.

Herbs/Aromatherapy: Remember that Aromatherapy is really just one form of herbs: you can take herbs as a tea, infusion, decoction, extract, capsule, etc. etc., and you can also use them in their most HIGHLY  concentrated form, the essential oil. This is where nervine and antispasmodic herbs and essential oils can be helpful; they can help “gentle” or ease the acute grief that a person might be experiencing by providing nervous system support during times of heartbreak and loss. The herb I have most often seen recommended for these situations is Lemon balm, or Melissa officinalis. You can take it as a tisane or infusion, or even as a glycerite ( see my favorite, made by Bridget Owen of Sweet Herb Medicinals, called “Grief Relief” ). If you want to try an essential oil, Neroli (Citrus aurantium var. amara) is an excellent one for times of sorrow (it is an antidepressant and sedative). You can diffuse this beautiful oil to lift the mood, or wear a drop on your chest. If pure Neroli is too expensive, you can also get the hydrosol, often called “Orange Flower Water,” and use it as a spray.

While I certainly don’t wish grief on anyone, every one of us will almost certainly lose someone dear to us in this lifetime, or need to help support someone who is going through a state of shock and grief due to the loss of anyone or anything important. It is good to know that Nature’s medicine chest can provide us a toolbox to help us get through not only physical, but also emotional, ailments.


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