It is hard not to look at the destruction that the COVID19 pandemic is causing globally and not think of the grief that so many people from every tongue and tribe is experiencing. Although we might have very different cultures, our human emotions are the same. Grief is one of those negative emotions that not a lot of people talk about and when you have to deal with grief you find yourself ill-equipped to navigate your way through this. Dealing with grief is really important though because your body keeps the score and unresolved grief can manifest physically. Underlying grief that has never been dealt with will impact your relationships.
What is grief?
I used to think that grief is just when you lose a loved one or a pet but grief isn’t just associated with bereavement. My family has moved continents twice and every time I went through a grieving period without knowing it, trying to navigate my way around a new continent, a new country and a new culture. I grieved the familiar. My family and friends that grew on me.
So in today’s climate with so many countries trying their best to minimize the spread of Coronavirus a lot of us experienced a lot of change suddenly. People have lost their jobs and are not only experiencing financial stress but grieving this sudden loss and grieving their identity that they have lost.
Grieving your failed relationships is another constant one,especially if it is a family member or a child. The relationship is just not what you would like it to be and sometimes grieving the relationship that you had and lost or the fact that the relationship is just strained can cause a lot of added stress. Especially now that we are in lock down and spending a lot of time at home together it can be quite a stressful time filled with grief for many of us, without even knowing it.
The hardest grief to deal with during this pandemic is losing a loved one. The grief of not being able to say goodbye. Not being able to be with your loved one during a tremendously difficult time either due to travel restrictions or restrictions to go into the hospital ward. My heart goes out to all of you who had to deal with that. What do you do with all this sadness and grief in such an isolated time in history?
Your grief is as unique as you are and everyone deals different with their grief. Experts have identified five stages of the grieving process. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. They don’t necessarily happen it this order and they are meant to give you some tools to help you understand your grieving process.
To understand the different stages of grief, there is an excellent explanation from David Keppler himself on www.grief.com
David Keppler and Elisabeth Kubler-Ross co-authored the book On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief through the Five Stages of Loss.
David Keppler also wrote another book Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief which is a very helpful guide to help you come to terms with your grief and honor those you lost and how to move forward.
Feel the grief
Allowing yourself to experience this grief is already a starting point. Dealing with your grief takes time and the journey might last a long time. The journey is easier if you share your load. I encourage you to get professional help. Help might be a bit easier during this lock down period because I know many of us like to get help but have huge anxieties around making an appointment with a mental health professional. Well the online world is kind to people like you and me because you can find help online with the click of a button. I came across the site whatsyourgrief.com which is run by two mental health professionals that has lots of resources and ecourses as well to aid you in your journey.
Can essential oils help with grief?
Yes and no.
Yes it helps with the physical as well as emotional component due to the following:
1) Essential oils can calm the nervous system down.
2) It can improve sleep. Sleepless nights are the hardest thing when your mind just won’t settle down and you toss and turn.
3) Ease anxieties and stress. You may have to apply the oils throughout the day to deal with this.
4) Improves digestion and increase your appetite. Grief can make you feel like you have a knot in your stomach.
5) Uplift your spirits and help your body to get out of the slump of depression.
6) Help you concentrate and focus a bit more. Often grief can cause a brain fog and interfere with your ability to concentrate.
Even though essential oils are a useful tool in the grieving process it can not help with the following:
1) Eliminate the need to go through a grieving process.
2) Alter your mindset or your unhelpful thinking pattern
3) Undo an unhealthy diet and lifestyle.
4) Replace medication for depression if your body needs that.
5) Provide social connection and emotional support that is only found in relationships.
6) Guide you through the process like a trained professional therapist would be able to do.
7) Essential oils can not take away the pain.
Essential oils that can help to deal with grief
Even though I have listed quite a number of oils here, you will not need all of them. One or two will do. Most of the time the chemical constituents of the oils work better in synergy, so when you mix 2 or 3 different oils together that works better. I have grouped them together as families below. It is easy to see how their purpose in nature can be beneficial in understanding how essential oils work in the body as well. I personally always try and buy an organic oil and when dealing with intense pain and grief you want to support your body as best as you can. Therapeutic grade is a marketing term and those oils are not the same quality as organic oils.
Flowers brighten a room with their color and their smell. The primary constituent in the flower oils is linalool which helps to calm us down due to their sedative properties. If you are skeptic about how essential oils actually work you can check it out here. Emily is a former medical lab scientist and have done a thorough breakdown of how the chemistry of the essential oils work.
So the flower oils help us to calm down, sleep better, help with our anxiety and depression. Flowers are also very vulnerable in nature and that is how I compare that to our emotional state. The flower oils can be really helpful when we feel quite vulnerable ourselves. We feel grief on a physical level in our hearts and the pain can be quite overwhelming. Applying Rose oil ( diluted of course) over your heart area can be really helpful. You can read a bit more about Rose oil and the benefits on sadness here.
Lavender is my number one to go to oil for many reasons and a great starter oil. You can read more about this helpful oil here.
We eat oranges to keep us healthy and strengthen our immune system because they are packed with vit C. Who doesn’t love the smell when you peel an orange or a mandarin? It smells so fresh and it is quite uplifting. The same way citrus essential oils can lift us out of the slump of a dark place. If you struggle with dread and despair then essential oils from the citrus family would be a good choice.
We use lemons to clean and the same way the citrus essential oils can help us with respiratory issues due to the expectorant properties. Grief goes and sit in you lungs and often people will develop a lung issue, either a constant little cough or flu soon after the grief period started. Essential oils that has expectorant properties are very helpful to remove the phlegm.
The chemical constituent of citrus oils is d-Limonene which is anti-inflammatory and have anti-oxidant properties you can compare that with the benefit of citrus fruit. Although citrus essential oils are made from the peel of the fruit and not the fruit itself.
The wood family
Just like wood is strong and can withstand great winds and harsh weather, the essential oils from the wood family can do the same for us. Dealing with grief it is hard to hold it together sometimes. When you need to stay strong and grounded during a funeral or for the sake of your children in a dysfunctional home, the wood family essential oils would be the one to go for.
Cypress essential oil is great for stimulation so a great oil for either self massage or by a massage therapist to get the blood flowing through those tight muscles. Often the emotional pain will manifest itself in physical pain with muscle tightness and pain.
The Root family
Just like the roots of the plant anchor the plant those essential oils can help us to feel grounded. Vetiver is probably one of the best oils for that. It does have a peculiar smell though, although that might just be me. I have a highly sensitive olfactory system. Ginger oil is super beneficial for digestive health and a great expectorant as well to remove phlegm.
The Leaf family
These oils are made of the leaves of the plants. The leaves of the plant are basically their respiratory system. Which is why all these essential oils are of great benefit for our own respiratory health. Like I mentioned grief goes and sit in your lungs. These oils will help us to let go of those emotions. Eucalyptus oil for instance is a wonderful expectorant. Anti-spasmodic properties help to open up the bronchial airways and help us to breathe better.
The resin family
Frankincense and Myrrh were both gifts that the wise men brought to worship Jesus when the finally found the promised Savior after his birth. These were of great value back then and it is still two of the most valuable oils today. Resins contain antiseptic and anti inflammatory properties, so great for wounds that need healing. Dealing with grief there is a lot of healing required. Emotional wounds that need healing, sometimes physical wounds as well. Both these oils were used in ancient times in worship and rituals in the temple. Many cultures used these oils for religious ceremonies. For meditation Frankincense and Myrrh are two of the best oils to use. These oils help with clarity of thought which is necessary often when we are dealing with bereavement and grief. Decisions need to be made but it might feel as if you just don’t have the cognitive ability to do that.
How do I use essential oils in dealing with grief
Pour boiling hot water in a bowl . You can either do that in your basin or put the bowl in the basin. Add maximum 5 drops of essential oils in the water. Lean forward over the bowl and cover your head with a towel so that the vapor is trapped under the towel. Be careful not to go too close to the bowl of boiling water. The idea is to breathe in the steam, so if it burns you are too close or you used too many drops. Take deep breaths but if you feel dizzy then stop.
Add 2 drops of essential oils to your bathwater. You can combine that with some Epsom salts for the added magnesium as well. I would not recommend that you use any of the citrus oils in the bath as it can make the skin too sensitive.
Topical application via massage is a very effective way to use essential oils when dealing with grief. Touch is very therapeutic in itself and can be a great treatment to assist you on your road to recovery. Always dilute essential oils with a carrier oil such as almond oil, grape seed oil, coconut oil. Never use the essential oil straight from the bottle. You can however open the bottle and inhale the fragrance straight from the bottle. I often do that actually. Just be careful that the bottle doesn’t touch your nose.
Robert Tisserand has a dilution chart that you can access here.
Diffuse the oil
A diffuser is a great way to use essential oils. Always make sure you use 100 % oil for that and not blends that are already diluted with a carrier oil. Essential oils are volatile but carrier oils are not and you may damage your diffuser that way. Diffusing essential oils may benefit many that share a space but it is always good to check with the people that are sharing your space if they are okay with you diffusing your essential oils. Also be very aware that some essential oils are toxic to pets when diffusing that. If you would like to use an essential oil that either your pet can’t tolerate or your colleagues then you can get a personal inhaler rather.
I do not recommend taking essential oils internally and definitely not adding a few drops to a glass of water. First off oil and water doesn't mix so you are bound to get a straight drop of oil going down your throat. Secondly essential oils are very concentrated and should be treated with care.
Art therapy is a wonderful way to deal with grief. Just being creative can channel your energy and distract you from the pain. I created a family tree photo wall after my mom passed away and I still look at that and remember my time of grief. It doesn't pain me to look at it today but it is something that touch my heart when I walk pass it.
Art therapists can really help you with getting more out of your artwork.
Journalling is another helpful tool to use in dealing with grief. Giving words to your pain on paper is very therapeutic and years later when you read it again you might recognize your growth as you look back on this painful season.
Be kind to yourself and remember it is your story and it is unique and so are your grief. Feel free to leave a comment below or share your story.
Take care of you.