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Suzanne Bovenizer cmt, cst

Grief and Essential Oils

Grieving is a natural part of life. At some point in time, we all will lose someone close to us and begin the mourning process. Even a year after 9/11, on a global level, we still all have a sense of grief for the victims of that tragedy. Grieving allows the body to express the pain and deep sense of loss associated with bereavement. It helps to cleanse the acidic toxins that build up when muscles constrict with intense sadness and sorrow. And grief is not only attributed to loss of a loved one; it can also come from loss of a job, a friend moving away, even a mastectomy. We can grieve at very deep levels for purely sentimental reasons, not only physical loss.

Grief surpasses sadness and sorrow. It goes deep into the pit of the stomach, on a cellular level, into every ounce of our being, reaches our very Soul. It can last years…a lifetime…an eternity…

There are many drugs on the market that can dull this sense of loss, and many herbs that can help alleviate the intense pain. And yes, there are essential oils that can also play a part in releasing the tension and stress of intense sorrow.

One part of the natural grieving process is anger and/or guilt. When there is a loss, the person left behind can experience emotions of rage – “why me?!?” or “why wasn’t it me?!?” depending on the situation. Oils that can assist in easing the anger are lavender, marjoram, chamomile, frankincense, sandalwood and valerian. They can either be burned in an aroma lamp to create less tension in a room, or can be added to a bath and soaked in for deeper, more penetrating release.

In Chinese Five Element theory, the lungs are associated with grief. It is common for a person who has experienced a deep loss to contract the flu or other lung ailment within 6 months to a year of the trauma. This seems to be the body’s way of energetically clearing out the effects of the emotional contraction in that organ. Oils that help expel phlegm and congestion are tea tree, eucalyptus, cajuput, sandalwood, peppermint and rosemary. Steam inhalation (head over a bowl full of oil impregnated hot water) works wonders to clear mucus and inflammation of the pleural cavity. Rubbing the chest with essential oils in a carrier oil also assists in breaking up stagnation in the lungs as does immersing in a warm bath of oils.

Emotional instability is often associated with the grief state; a sense of depression, worthlessness, failure, or despondency can accompany the deep pain of loss. Although essential oils can lessen the effects of the sorrow, they are not necessarily used to take away the pain. Rather they are more effective in assisting and encouraging the person to work through the pain and move on in their lives, thus alleviating the ongoing toxicity of the grief. Oils that help in this movement forward are Sudanese black rose, neroli, rose otto, melissa, frankincense, rose Maroc, and geranium. Dotting a hankie or a tissue with these oils either singularly or in combination and then sniffing them can ease the burden of the emotion and lighten the spirits. And of course, these essential oils can be used in the bath, in an aroma lamp, in massage oil or added to a face/body cream for support in any of the stages of grieving.

There is no way to avoid the pain of loss. As I stated before, it is a natural part of the grieving process. But essential oils can be a valuable stabilizer and detoxifier whilst working through the different challenges of the grief state. So invite them in as friends to help and support you in your time of need.