At some point in our lives we will have to face the loss of a loved one, sometimes it is sudden while at other times it is expected – in either case the grief and sense of loss can be just as raw and all consuming. Loss in one’s ability to do things that they once enjoyed due to medical conditions may be applicable to some people as well. If you are told you have x, y, and z wrong with you and you are not offered solutions by medical professionals, this can send anyone into a feeling of loss and hopelessness. A loss of job or relationship can be as devastating as a loss of a child or pet.
Grief not only affects us in the moment but can carry over for years affecting a person both psychologically and physically.
There are natural remedies for grief, shock, and depression (there seems to be a natural remedy for everything), and I have tried some in the hope of some “miracle cure”. There is no miracle cure for grief. You have to get through the stages and more forward. Grief is a process, which cannot be magically erased or cured.
When you have suffered a loss, you are most likely to go through several phases in your grief work. If someone, be it a human being or a pet, has meant something to you on an emotional level, it will take time to process their loss. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross spent years researching the grief cycle and believed that there were five different stages that people go through in order to process a loss.
Denial stage: When someone hears the news of a loved one’s death, they frequently say “no, that can’t be true”. This is denial and its function is to soften the shock of death. After a while the truth gradually sinks in.
Anger stage: This is a common part of grief. We can feel angry with the person for dying (however illogical that may seem); we can feel angry with ourselves or their caregivers (for not doing more). Some people feed their anger because it gives them energy and a feeling of power, but it is not a real power and must be surrendered in order to move on. Feeling angry at God is not uncommon during this stage or questioning why this had to happen.
Bargaining stage: Once a person has expressed their anger, they get into the stage of bargaining. Just give me a little more time. If the person has been diagnosed with a terminal illness, then this stage is more apparent. In fact we are bargaining with God, or whoever we believe to be in charge of the Universe. “Just let me see my children grow up, graduate, etc. and then I’ll die.” It is another form of denial but there is more awareness to it.
Depression stage: When a person comes to realize that the loved one is not coming back, or that they really are going to die, they frequently fall into depression. Nothing seems worth bothering with in the face of this catastrophic loss. People become apathetic and seemingly without feeling at this stage. Some begin to question their own mortality and feel more depressed. Many people shut down and shut off preferring to hide away from people and the world which creates more isolation. The world appears particularly harsh and dark for some people and not wanting to become too emotionally vested in relationships with people that require a certain level of intimacy. A lack of appetite, sleep disturbances, or using alcohol or drugs as a way of coping can also occur in this stage.
Acceptance stage: When the depression has been expressed, acceptance can come. We know that the loved one has passed and we have made our peace with it. We are free to love and form deep bonds again. This can take weeks, months and even years for some people to achieve.
Understanding the grief cycle holistically can help you if you are going through a loss yourself or if you are supporting a friend or a family member through a loss. The real danger is to get stuck at one stage of the process, for example in denial or anger.
It has been shown in various studies that grief can lower the immune system. It can cause a major decrease in the body’s ability to fight infection and other major illnesses, such as cancer and heart disease. Grieving individuals are also more prone to colds and contracting minor illnesses. It is thought that this comes about as a result of stress, it’s really important for the benefit of your health to reduce your stress as much as possible. We tend to neglect our needs and our health when we are processing loss, this may contribute to the weakening of one’s immune system.
Whatever you choose that helps you cope during this trying period of you life is an individual choice. Once the process of grieving is over I hope you found something from this blog that you may not have experienced before.
Coping strategies that can help one deal with loss:
Consulting a herbalist or naturopath regarding the safe use of herbs is one such possibility.
Homeopathy can be used to balance emotional energy. Using the correct homeopathic remedy to liberate the psyche of the patient and facilitate a quicker cure. Homoeopathy is concerned with treating the person as a whole. This includes the spiritual, mental and physical aspects of the person. Labels such as anxiety, depression, hysteria, mania, are not so important for a homeopath to form a diagnosis. It is only when the stresses of life begin to weigh too heavily for that person to cope that these signs of instability begin to show. This is because each person is an individual and the symptoms are the patient’s natural way of expressing their problem.
Some herbs that have been useful in treating grief and loss include:
1.Lavender is used to treat common stress symptoms, such as insomnia, depression and headaches. It’s often used in aromatherapy, but can also be in the form of tea or liquid extract for consumption.
2.Kava relieves anxiety and induces sleep.
3.Ginseng improves concentration, increases stamina and provides a sense of well-being.
4.Catnip tea has a calming effect.
5.Valerian is an effective sleep aid that is considered safe for short term or occasional use. Valerian is not recommended for pregnant or nursing women.
6.Peppermint provides relief for three common stress symptoms – heartburn, upset stomach, and headache.
7.Evening primrose is an effective treatment for eczema, a common symptom of stress.
8.Willow bark provides fast relief for a headache.
9.Chamomile tea has a calming effect, soothes stomach problems, and is an effective sleep aid. While safe for most people, some do have serious allergic reactions to chamomile.
10.Sage is effective at clearing the mind, improving both memory and concentration.
11.Ginger tea provides fast relief for an upset stomach.
12.Tea tree oil is an effective treatment for acne, eczema, and other skin conditions, commonly brought on by stress.
13.St. John’s Wort has been found to break down the excess quantities of norepinephrine, a stress hormone. St. John’s Wort also is used to treat depression. St. John’s wort has been found to interact with a variety of medications, so talk to your health care provider before using St. John’s wort if you are currently taking medication.
14.Dill is effective for soothing an upset stomach.
15.Feverfew is an effective treatment for tension and migraine headaches, which are common symptoms of stress.
16.Tarragon relieves pain and promotes calmness.
17.Licorice root is used to treat stomach ulcers, which can result from long-term stress. Licorice root is available in tablets, capsules and liquid extracts.
Other suggestions would include:
Exercise – Before embarking on any new exercise regime ensure you consult your doctor and get an examination.
Regular exercise is essential for health. It’s a particularly important natural cure for grief. It can be as simple as a brisk walk for half an hour every day.
Choose something you enjoy.
If you had a dog, and recently lost your pet, you may have relied, as so many of us do, on the dog’s need for exercise to motivate you to go for a walk. You may have to make a special effort to go out in the fresh air without canine companionship. Try new walks if you can, or walk a dog for a friend.
If you have had to care for a spouse or family member during a long, terminal illness, you may find you have neglected your own health in order to look after them. Getting started with an exercise program is an essential part of self-care. It honors the person who you have loved and lost to be as healthy and positive as you can be.
Meditation can be an important part of holistic grief healing. If you are already a meditator, you will know its power. But if you are not, don’t give up.
Just a quick note on prayer, for some praying can help us deal with a loss. We may pray for strength and guidance or we might want to alleviate our feelings of sadness and sometimes feelings of guilt. For me I felt as if I did not do enough for my pet or deceased relative and praying allowed me to put those thoughts to rest. The benefits of prayer have been widely researched and proven very helpful when dealing with a loss.
There are many forms of yoga – in fact yoga is one of the most widely practiced forms of exercise in the world. Yoga combines two important natural cures for grief such as exercise and breathing.
Many people become sedentary, especially when they are grieving. Alice Christensen, founder of the American Yoga Association recommends a couple yoga positions especially because they increase blood circulation, making it easier to overcome the physical effects of grief.
The Standing Sun
Stand straight, feet parallel, and breathe out to a count of three and then raise your arms to the sides in a semicircle and then overhead. Stretch and look up. Hold for a count of three, then breathe out to a count of three as you bend forward from the hips, keeping your head between your outstretched arms. Try to grasp your legs firmly with both hands. Relax.
The Knee Squeeze
Lying flat on your back with your arms at your sides, breathe in to a count of three as you raise your right knee to your chest. Make sure your lungs are full, wrap your arms around your knee, and hold your breath in for a count of three as you squeeze your knee to your chest. Repeat with your left leg. Then rest a moment, breathing gently. You can repeat this three times. It’s also wonderful for an aching back.
Creativity is one of the best natural cures for grief. Not only does it help us by encouraging us to focus on something outside of ourselves, there is usually a good result as well. Many beautiful gardens and fine houses, as well as all kinds of works of art, have been created as part of grief work. I would highly recommend writing in a journal about your feelings and progress to a poem or short stories.
Some ideas for creative projects include:
•Painting a picture
•Writing – poems, short stories – anything!
•Learning or playing a musical instrument
•Restoring a piece of broken furniture
•Decorating a room
•Making a tapestry cushion
•Creating a piece of pottery
Breathing is one of simplest ways we can relieve stress, and create a feeling of relaxation in our bodies. Research has shown that many depressed people breathe shallowly and therefore don’t get enough oxygen into their lungs to give vitality and energy. Breathing techniques increase oxygen saturation and also link the heart (feelings) and the brain (thoughts).
There are many techniques for breathing. Here is a simple one, which is taken from David Servan-Schreiber’s book, “Healing without Freud or Prozac.” It’s called the Heart Breath and it brings about a coherent heartbeat pattern. If our thoughts are focused on negative emotions, e.g. worries and anxieties, our heartbeat tends to have a chaotic rhythm, going up and down, without any pattern or balance. If we focus on positive emotions, such as love, kindness and gratitude, our hearts will tend to move towards a coherent, balanced rhythm. Being in coherence is something that leads to improved health. Breathing correctly will create a relaxed state of being.