Grief is, sadly, the price we pay for loving someone. It’s not enough they leave a gaping hole in your existence when they leave, but your body also starts to fight against you too. Enduring the death of a loved one often presents very physical challenges. Sleep becomes a tiresome activity, anxiety and depression can take hold and appetite is often very disturbed.
Alternative medicine describes how grief affects the heart chakra. In everyday life it's almost impossible to perceive these energy centers and yet, when someone dies there is often an all too visceral sense of this discomfort in your chest. It can feel like a weight, dragging you down and inflicting very real and physical pain.
The body secretes massive amounts of the stress hormone, cortisol during the six months following the death of a loved one. This can lead to feelings of stress, as well as self sabotaging and harming behaviors (Mason, 2019) Prolonged, elevated levels of cortisol can raise your chances of heart disease, high blood pressure and the risk of blood clots. (Pattisapu 2021)
Indeed, Broken Heart Syndrome, also known as acute cardiomyopathy, happens when someone experiences a terrible shock. Fear, trauma, anxiety or surprise can suddenly weaken their heart muscle. Although relatively rare, it is believed that the condition may be on the rise and interestingly, its likelihood is rising six times faster in women over the age of fifty than any other group. (Pattisapu 2021)
Perhaps you’re experiencing more pain than you previously were too? Grief increases inflammation, exacerbating existing conditions and causing new ones. Grief causes the body to put out inflammatory markers such as interleukin 1β. (O’Connor, 2009) putting enormous pressure on the immune system, depleting both your energy reserves and immunity, leaving you wide open to infection.
Essential oils have an enormous part to play then, in taking care of people who are grieving at a time when they are most vulnerable.
Top of the list of essential oils for grief is rose.
My favorite quotation about roses is from the 17th Century Indian Mughal emperor Jahanghir. He wrote:
It restores hearts that have gone, and brings back withered souls.
I think this is true on so many levels.
Physically, it has a tonic effect on cardiac muscles and a relaxing effect on stress. It uplifts the mind and somehow makes your heart feel lighter, although I have no idea how.
In particular, I like to use rose for anger, whether that be in the context of one of the seven stages of grief, or any fury that sits upon you. It’s useful because, energetically, it is passive and watery. Tears flow and leave, rather than shoving them down. Somehow it seems to make grief more fluid and mobile, as if it wants to eventually depart leaving nothing but sweet memories behind.
The essential oil of tranquility. Such a grounding and stabilizing energy. I love this when the world feels like it is moving too fast around me. For a long time, I used to feel like I needed to try to catch up. Now, I just stop and let the idiots carry on in the rat race, while I just sit, take time and take stock.
Vetiver slows. It drags the energy down from the head, through the body and into our roots, connecting us to both the Earth, but also in a sense, to our ancestors.
You can almost feel the passage of time when you use vetiver. Long, strong and very peaceful. Super for helping you sleep too, especially if you also use some Valerian.
This oil is so good if you feel nervous, anxious or depressed. I think it must be because it is a blossom that feels like it holds the hope of spring. It’s powdery softness makes everything feel so much lighter. Although I don’t actually use it very often, Neroli is one of my very favorite oils.
Not necessarily an oil for grief, but more for reminding yourself how far you’ve come. We all have times where we feel overwhelmed and as if life is beating us. Cardamom asks you to sit and take stock of just how much you have achieved. Even if it was just getting out of bed one morning, you did it. And you can do it again.
And whilst, as a therapist, I always say to my clients, try not to suppress all of the grief, there will be times when you just want to shake it off. There is a much more rounded description of essential oils for uplifting mood here.
Everyone takes different times to heal. Be gentle with yourself. It’s your timeline and no-one else’s. I hope you feel better soon.