Essential Oils for Grief

This article is written as part of our commitment to Bereaved Parents Day. Death is always painful, but potentially the death of a child may be the worst kind of horror. And while we would not want to be flippant and say that aromatherapy is the answer to your prayers, scent can be an extremely powerful ally in the darkest times. Hopefully, this article about essential oils for grief can help support anyone mourning the passing of a loved one.

We should perhaps acknowledge that grief does not only accompany death. These essential oils for grief may be helpful after a relationship breakdown, financial loss, or even if a child leaves home for some reason. Grief has no master and dances to his drum.

We are sorry for your loss, and hopefully, we can help bring a little solace in this sad time. 

The Stages of Grief

Traditionally, people talk of the stages of grieving: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Stages are a silly word choice to me. It implies that one stage automatically moves from one to another. Layers might be better or stew, as often they all co-exist.

Unfortunately, there is no set chronological timeline for this stage following that stage at around six weeks. It would be so much easier if one stage automatically passed through to the next level and if there was a deadline for each stage to elapse, but life is not that kind. Instead, it's not uncommon to fluctuate back and forth through the stages.

I encounter many people who describe feeling as if they have become stuck in a particular stage of healing. They seem not to be able to get past what has happened. Knowing the natural transitions our emotions go through when we are grieving for someone or something we have lost can be helpful.

The important thing is that, overall, you sense yourself progressing.

As we go through each of the stages (in this article), I'll describe oils that may be helpful to act as a catalyst.

Importantly though, go with what works best for you. What other people think or feel about "where" you should be in the process is of no consequence...


You can never be ready for the moment when it comes, but for some people, there will have been no opportunity to prepare.

Bang. A loved one is dead, and now your life is smashed to smithereens. 

These first few essential oils for grief are designed to numb and distance from reality. 


Valerian is a spectacular oil for shock and trauma. Containing constituents that work on the benzodiazepine receptors, this is numbness in a bottle. It is profoundly sedating, sending you to sleep and rest.

In these early days, all you have to do is keep breathing. Everything else can wait.

Note that this oil smells horrible, so blend it with rose or lavender for the best effect.


    • Not suitable for use during the first 16 weeks of pregnancy. 
    • The maximum dilution for this oil is 3%.


Frankincense slows the breath and brings about a sense of God being close.


    • Not suitable for use during the first 16 weeks of pregnancy. 
    • The maximum dilution for this oil is 3%.


If you feel lonely or sad, vetiver is like a huge comfort blanket.

Incredibly tranquilizing, and again, it just says rest.


    • Not suitable for use during the first 16 weeks of pregnancy. 
    • The maximum dilution for this oil is 3%.


This is an essential oil for terror. If you feel overwhelmed or fearful, this is one of the most amazing essential oils for grief.


    • Not suitable for use during the first 16 weeks of pregnancy. 
    • The maximum dilution for this oil is 3%.


The first few weeks after someone has died can often feel very surreal. Many people describe feeling numb, which may be helpful to insulate you from the enormity of what's happened. It's not uncommon to feel someone's presence to hear their voice. Many people seem to carry on as if nothing has happened. It's easier than acknowledging that an irreversible change has taken place.

This is such a confusing time. Your brain can't take in reality. When my dad died, it took years to retrain my brain, and I couldn't ring him. I had told him about exciting stuff every day of my life, and I'd find myself picking up the phone and then realizing he wasn't there. Six months after he died, my son secured a place to study math at Oxford. It should have been a day of massive celebration, but the short circuit he wasn't there to tell was overwhelming. 

My brain could not compute.

People must have thought I was nuts sobbing on the bus back home. If someone had asked me if I was OK, and I'd told them about my son, they would have assumed they were tears of happiness. But if I'd said about my dad, their conclusion that it was grief would have been wrong too. 

I'd had half a year to process, yet…for some reason, it was as if my dad died again that day, and I've never really understood why. I had been in no man's land, somewhere between the two. Somewhere that probably doesn't even have a name, maybe, but it was a confusing and hellish place. Perhaps, I think, this may have been the moment that my brain finally acknowledged what had happened.


This is the most important of all the essential oils for grief. It is profoundly healing for the heart. There is a romance to rose oil that allows you to stay in love and to dream they are still with you. It's dreamy and ethereal.

It's useful to remember that there are no rules about always living in reality. Sometimes softness and compassion come from stepping out of it for a while.

Physiologically, Rose is very good for switching down stress hormones and is cardioprotective.

This is the oil for the brokenhearted.

Additionally, rose and lavender essential oils are proven to have anti-conflict abilities, which we'll think about more when we focus on oils for anger.


    • Not suitable for use during the first 37 weeks of pregnancy.
    • The maximum dilution for this oil is 3%.


Be gentle with yourself.

Lavender is soothing and relaxing. It feels like a gentle arm on your arm when it looks like you wobble.

Scientifically, lavender has several actions on the nervous system, but importantly, it works on the H3 receptor in the case of grief. (Nagai, 2014) (Shen, 2005)

This is found in many types of brain tissue and sends out inflammatory histamines that disturb our minds.

Histamines encourage wakefulness. They disturb and reduce appetite. They make it difficult for us to think clearly and make us anxious.

Additionally, constituents in lavender engage with the GABAa receptor, which is responsible for calming the whole nervous system down.

In aromatic terms, inhale lavender, and it's a bit like interacting with the CEO of the nervous system. Shut this noise down, please, now. And it's done.

Done underestimate this oil.


    • Not suitable for use during the first 16 weeks of pregnancy.
    • The maximum dilution for this oil is 3%.


It's not accidental that myrrh is the plant mentioned most times in the Bible. This resin is one of the most profound healers of the natural world.

Early church authorities explained it as a salve for bitterness.

Like the rose, it has a healing, feminine nature, but myrrh is much more complex.

It was the most sacred of the oils in Egypt and played a vital part in their funerary rites. It was used to embalm the body, but it was used as the personification of Hathor, a very ancient and complex goddess.

Hathor, The Mistress of Myrrh, escorted the dead to Am Duat, the place of the dead. But she was also the goddess of joy, music, and drunkenness. That, in the midst of grief, other things can coalesce. They merge and become part of the beauty of the tragedy.

Perhaps the most benign and supportive of all the essential oils for grief, especially if you are open to feeling the flow of the emotions but feel ready to be part of life again.

Myrrh is very clever at inhabiting the in-between spaces—liminal spaces of not being quite one thing or another.


    • Not suitable for use during the first 37 weeks of pregnancy.
    • The maximum dilution for this oil is 3%.


I think it makes much sense to be angry when someone dies. Death is cruel and unfair, particularly if someone has died young or you had planned together that you feel has been stolen from you. Being angry at your loved one for leaving, at the doctors for saving them, or for relatives who did not visit or support you as you hoped.

Likewise, it's common to feel angry and ruminate on things you wish you had done and time you might have wasted.

Rose and lavender are brilliant oils for calming that need to fight. (Mileva, 2021), (Malloggi, 2022)


Grief, of course, does not always wait till someone dies. Terminal illnesses are harsh and change people. It would be only natural to rail at God to plead and make promises in the hope of a different outcome.

I'm not sure there are specific oils that would help here, except that so-called "Sacred OIls" like Frankincense, Myrrh, Palo Santo, and Peru Balsam oils make you feel more like you are being listened to and less alone.


Sadness and longing are the predominant states most people associate with grief. Difficulty can ebb and flow, engulfing you when you least expect it. These waves can be excruciatingly painful. Life seems to lose its color, and life can often feel completely pointless and devoid of meaning.

For people who have been in couples for a long time, life without them can feel terrifying too…

Again, it's boring to restate it, but Rose will be wonderful here, but also…

Choose top notes. Citruses, in particular, are very good for lifting mood.


Such a light, hopeful oi. You can smell the sunshine in it. There are trials upon trials about how bergamot eases anxiety and depression. (Chen, 2022), (Yang, 2021), (Mojtehedi, 2022)


    • Just be careful with putting citrus oils on the skin, as they can be phototoxic.
    • Use bergamot in dilution of less than 0.4% to be safe.


One of the loveliest things about lemongrass is that it is very clever if your mind keeps putting up obstacles.

It's a compassionate oil, making you feel much more hopeful.

If it's hard to think about the future because every version of the future has your loved one in it, then this would be top of the list of essential oils for grief for you...

It says, "Yes, I know about that, but what if…"


    • Just be careful with putting lemongrass on the skin, as they can be phototoxic.
    • Use bergamot in dilution of less than 0.7% to be safe.


Someone once warned me not to believe people when they feel the same time heals because the word heals implied sameness. But things will never be the same, which can be terrifying. 

Their advice was to try to plant as many new seeds around the hole that had been left to allow new things to grow.

I found this acknowledgment of the hole that was left incredibly helpful.


Sweet Basil is a great choice if you want to get out of your head for a while. She is great energy if you fancy kicking out or doing something outrageous or brave.

No one expects you to be sad all the time. If you'd love to have fun but don't think you'll quite manage it…I bet my mate Basil will get you laughing if you let her, especially if you invite Grapefruit.

Safety: Not suitable for use in the first 16 weeks of pregnancy.


Be warned that Grapefruit will dance in the bar, and when she does the can-can, she will have no knickers!

Grapefruit Energy is an absolute ball.

She'll lift you into dazzling lights and disco balls from the dark space.

I'm not convinced she is a very good oil to hang out with all the time, but on odd occasion, you'll remember how to be a little bit naughty and have fun.

(Just mind that you don't get yourself arrested! 😉)


    • Not suitable for use in the first 16 weeks of pregnancy.
    • Also, avoid topical use of this oil for 12 hours before entering direct sunlight. It is phototoxic.
    • Likewise, grapefruit essential oil should not be used if you are also taking some blood thinning medication, have a platelet disorder, or have planned surgery in the next 48 hours. This includes dental work.

How To Use Essential Oils For Grief

Making a lotion or massage oil blend in a rollerball is wonderful because you can keep discretely applying your essential oils for grief throughout the day. Remember to underestimate the power of little and often.

The bath is an excellent way to use essential oils for grief because they absorb through your skin and into the bloodstream, as well as being inhaled. This means that effectively, you are opening every possible door in your skin as the pores open and getting the essential oils for grief directly to your brain.

Inhaling essential oils tends to start working on the brain after about 5 minutes. It will take around 20 minutes for your essential oils for grief to get into the bloodstream if they are applied topically or you are in the bath.

While there aren't specific trials about essential oils for grief, there are many studies into how essential oils affect pain, insomnia, anxiety, or depression. These all point to their effects getting stronger over time. Trust the process. Even if you don't feel better immediately, persevere with the aromatherapy. This particularly applies when you are using inhalation.

Over and above anything else, I recommend inhaling the oils.

Make an inhaler stick, put them in a diffuser, and wear them in an aroma pendant. 

Inhaling Essential Oils for Grief

A trial was done a while back where they monitored how inhaling essential oils affected levels of various neurotransmitters.

Oxytocin is known as the love molecule. It does many things in our bodies, from bringing breast milk to making us feel loved.

The trial looked at 20 different oils, and the effects were the same for all…inhaling essential oils lowered levels of the stress hormone cortisol and increased oxytocin levels.

Sit with your oil bottle for five minutes daily and breathe in the fumes. Do this twice a day. Most trials show remarkable effects by four weeks.

Final Word

You may find blending essential oils for grief into formulae useful, but it can be a fiddle, and the last thing you need when you are mourning is more to think about. Work with one oil at a time, based on "How does this make me feel today?" Here's to happier times ahead, we hope.

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