Grief moves at its own pace, in its own time. It’s different each time we encounter it, and sometimes the experience lingers for far longer than we thought it would. A decade after my grandfather had passed, my grandmother told me that she still missed him deeply. At times, the sorrow was nearly as intense as it was in the weeks following his passing, she said. And, I’ve known other women who have lost their partner of 30 years or more and eventually remarried and were as deeply in love with their second husband as they’d been with their first. With each loss, with each change, with each letting go the experience of Grief is new.
Grief Over the Loss of Our Anchor
It’s not just the loss of a loved one that can trigger the experience of Grief, either. Losing your job or your business or your home can elicit as tangible and intense a Grief as the loss of a loved one for some. Perhaps that’s because we humans attribute deeper meaning to many of the individuals, places, and connections we make. That deeper meaning is what gives our lives purpose, so losing the anchor for that purpose is as deep a wound as losing our beloved other. I have felt the deep and abiding sorrow of Grief at times in my life when my idea of how life is or ought to be has been shattered. The death of an idea, too, is a Death.
Plants Have Adapted to Loss
Of the many beings who inhabit this world, Plants are perhaps the most well-adapted to handling Grief with Grace and Compassion. They have learned how to endure personal loss, such as the deep pruning we give our roses each spring or the sheering of Pine’s limbs by a late Winter ice storm. They’ve learned to let go of territory to let others overtake it, giving up the home they’d known as a forest of Birch makes way for an Oak Savanna or the cattail-filled wetlands eventually become prairie-grass plains. Even as they give up territory here, they are busy making a new home there. Plants have adapted to the cycles of life and death; they know Grief as a valued friend.
For human animals, Grief is less a welcome friend and more an unexpected and undesired imposing relative, like that cousin who shows up on your doorstep with plans to overtake the next month, spreading her stuff through out your space and leaving you feeling like a stranger in your own home. We often feel powerless when faced with Grief. And Angry. And Betrayed, Depressed, Nervous, Sorrowful, Depressed, Exhausted, and a host of other challenging emotional states.
The Plants understand, and they can help.
Flowers of Grief
Flowers like Chrysanthemum, Marigold, and Viola have graced funerals, graveyards, and memorials for centuries in part because they carry with them the knowledge of how to let go of what was. Chrysanthemum in particular is connected with those moments when the pain of Grief is right there at the surface, so sharp and strong it seems that’s all there is. A cup of Chrysanthemum tea can help soothe that pain and encourage the flow of energy needed to move past it and begin the healing and recovery process. It doesn’t matter if the loss was of a loved one, or a place, or even an idea. It’s the nature of the pain, as if it will crowd out the rest of your world, that calls for Chrysanthemum.
Marigold, both Calendula officianalis or the Tagetes species, brings light into the darkness of Grief and Depression or Sorrow. Tess Whitehurst describes Tagetes Marigold in particular as having a complex and powerfully transformative energy. Both varieties aid digestion and reduce inflammation in general. Calendula has been connected in modern herbalism strongly with protection against bacterial infection. Tagetes has been more connected in medicinal use to pain relief. In either case, Marigold teaches the lesson of protecting against lingering in pain and finding one’s way back into the light.
Viola helps to clear stagnant, old energies. Kathi Keville describes heirloom violas as having a sweet fragrance that just as soon as you smell it it seems to vanish…then a moment later it’s back. Our ability to register viola’s scent fades quickly then returns when our nasal passages have reset themselves. As we move through Grief, Viola asks us to recognize the fleeting nature of life. That, alone, is a profound lesson. As an herbal remedy, viola is connected with dissolving cysts and similar lesions or pockets of stagnant, putrid or festering waste. At the same time, Viola is quite demulcent, helping keep tissues moist and nourished. In the context of Grieving, Viola helps us keep the process moving so we don’t get bogged down in what we’ve lost. Rather than pushing us to keep moving, viola eases us along.
A Cuppa Tea to Ease the Painful Stab of Grief
A cup of tea made with one part each of Calendula or Tagetes flowers, Chrysanthemum flowers, and Viola tops is a beautiful blend when Grief is strong or lingering. This blend is a handy one to have around in the wake of a crisis or sudden death. It’s soothing, helping to take the painful edge off like a warm hug.
Herbs for Cranky, Tired Grief
When Grief seems to go on and on and on it can drain away your energy, leaving you depressed and potentially a trifle or more cranky. Chamomile, Rose, and Tulsi are all warming herbs that know how help you gather your strength together again. Chamomile can help you digest whatever is still weighing you down. A cup of straight up chamomile is perfect when you’re just plain down and cranky and you really need to catch a break. It’s even better when Grief is the cause to pair it with heart healers like Rose and Tulsi.
Rose has long been connected with heart health, helping to tone the arteries while relaxing surrounding musculature. According to Kathi Keville, the scent of rose alone helps reduce long-held tensions while at the same time calming the body and bringing relief to the adrenal gland system. Grief that comes after a long battle, like the death of a loved one after a long bout of illness or the return to “normal” after a global pandemic, is particularly well suited to the attentions of Rose.
Tulsi opens the Heart Chakra, allowing energy to flow through the heart center and making space for the lungs to release any stored Grief contained therein. If that sounds a trifle too esoteric for practical use, consider this. Tulsi acts as an adaptogen in the body, helping to balance and regulate the adrenal system. it gives energy to boost circulation and release excess tension in general. It tends to help folks feel up-lifted, increasing overall energy without making on feel jittery or caffeinated. When you pair Tulsi with Rose and Chamomile, you get a powerful team who know how to keep the Grief process flowing so that you can get to the new growth bit on the other side.
A Cuppa Tea to Ease Cranky, Tired Grief
A cup of tea made with one part each of Chamomile, Rose petals, and Tulsi offers the energy and balance needed to finish digesting whatever caused Grief in the first place and to keep moving toward the next phase of new growth. This blend is a good one to keep on-hand for a few months after the worst is over. On those days when it seems everyone’s touchy and still smarting even if the rest of the world has moved on, this blend is the perfect friend.
Herbs for Linger Grief
When Grief has become an old friend reminding you of what you’ve lost and not quite letting you forget it, you can end up feeling angry and hopeless, as if the only thoughts you can summon are of what is gone and you’ll never again see the joy in life. Then, it’s time to reach for the healers who are expert in the deeper wounds we mostly try to ignore. Yarrow or Helichrysum are quite good at driving out the lingering Grief and drawing the ripped open pieces of yourself back together. According to Gabriel Mojay, the essential oils of both of these flowers are able to help move deeply repressed or embedded anger or pain. The herbs are used for clearing stagnant blockages, like clotting and debris, from the deepest of wounds. They move blood and chi, making them strong movers of energy on both an emotional and physical plane.
Coupled with a little Juniper, Pine, and Bergamot or Orange, Yarrow can help you kick that old friend Grief out your door and clean up the mess that’s been left behind. Juniper and Pine are energy-movers. Both are used to help keep the body’s energies moving. Juniper’s affinity is for the circulatory system while Pine favors the lungs and respiratory system. Both, however, get the blood moving and help one marshal one’s energies once again.
Bergamot or Orange have long been linked with uplifting the spirit or helping one find joy in the simple pleasures of life. When Grief has lingered so long you’ve forgotten what it was to live without it, a cup of Earl Grey laced with plenty of Bergamot can help you find that memory. Orange peel makes a pleasant bitter that moves liver energy, aiding in digestion, and helping your body make better use of the nutrients available. When you apply that kind of energy to Grief, you get a much-appreciated partner in the integration process when it’s time to finish Grieving and make the lessons learned a part of your being you can look on with acceptance and maybe even gratitude.
A Cuppa Tea to Kick Grief Out and Integrate Life’s Lessons
A cup of tea made with one part each Yarrow, Pine, or Juniper, Orange peel can help you redirect your energy into the integration phase of Grieving. When the process gets stuck, leaving you feeling angry and hopeless, this blend helps to expunge whatever last bits of debris from the trauma that triggered this Grief and find the energy to get moving on integrating the experience. It can help you find that ray of hope you need to keep moving forward.
A Little Aromatherapy Blend for Grief
Just like a cup of tea made from Yarrow, Pine or Juniper, and Orange can help you find that ray of light in the dark, an essential oil blend can help you find that ray wherever you are, even in a pinch. Blend ten drops each of Yarrow, Pine or Juniper, and Orange of Bergamot in a small vial to carry with you wherever you go. Or, add them to a base of almost 2 ounces 70 percent alcohol or isopropyl alcohol in a spritzer to make a spritzer you can use to shift your mood instantly. When you feel yourself stalling out or slipping into thoughts of what you’ve lost, inhale the scent of this blend and give yourself a moment to be still with it. Let the light shine again knowing you do, indeed, have the strength you need to carry on.
Please Seek Help
If Grief is overwhelming you or you feel unsupported, please seek professional help. Therapists, counselors, and religious advisers are all trained to help us through the Grieving process. You are not alone. We all will experience Grief, and none of us were ever meant to be lost in it. We need your particular presence in this world, too.