A natural reaction to the loss of a person, animal, or object in whom or in which one has invested much love and affection; not a reaction to be underestimated or bottled up. Grieving is a process which has several fairly distinct stages. First, there may be a sense of unreality, numbness, a refusal to believe that the loved one is dead; then there may be a mixture of complex emotions such as guilt (at not having been close enough to the person or done enough for them, for example) and anger (that the hospital or doctor did not do enough, that the person had no right to die, etc.). Then Depression may set in. Finally, life becomes bearable again, even enjoyable. The whole process may take from one to two years, and even then there may be a painful anniversary reaction when the anniversary of the person's death comes round.
How well we cope with grief depends partly on our relationship with the dead person; if there were elements in the relationship that gave rise to strong feelings of guilt or anger, grief may be blocked. A lonely, isolated person may also find grief difficult to cope with; he or she has no one to express grief to. There is also a theory that in grieving we relive the experience of being separated from the nipple, if our infantile reaction was rage and desolation, our adult reaction to the loss of love may be the same, making it very difficult to progress through the various stages of grief to full recovery. If grief lasts for longer than about 18 months, professional help may be necessary to prevent depression becoming chronic.
Most people receive a lot of attention and kindness in the weeks immediately after bereavement, but it is often four or five months later that they need most support; that is often the worst time, when they finally accept that the person is dead. Give as much practical help as you can, and allow the person to talk about his or her loss even if it is painful if he or she so much as hints at suicide, seek professional help. And continue your support for as long as you can.
Orthodox treatment of grief is based on antidepressants and Psychotherapy, or both. Homeopathy offers specific remedies during the various stages of grief, and also constitutional help if there is a failure to progress from one stage to the next.
Early stages specific remedies to be taken 4 times daily for up to 14 days, or every 2 hours for up to 10 doses if feelings of grief are overpowering
- Person wants to be left alone, insists that he or she feels all right, doesn't want to be touched, reactions are those of someone in shock Arnica 30c
- Person fearful, on verge of collapse Aconite 30c
- Person very frightened by death of loved one, numb with grief Opium 6c
Later stages > specific remedies to be taken 3 times daily for up to 14 days, or every 2 hours for up to 10 doses if feelings are disrupting normal life
- Person extremely angry and critical of others Nux 6c
- Person very depressed and apathetic Phosphoric ac. 6c
- Sleeplessness, helpless, weeping, catarrh Pulsatilla 6c
- Person rejects consolation and sympathy because it makes him or her cry, prefers to hide feelings Natrum mur. 6c
- Person finds emotions difficult to control, and laughs, sighs, or cries at inappropriate moments Ignatia 6c
Final stages See remedies listed under Depression
Self-help: Talk, say how you feel, ask for help. A stiff upper lip may look dignified, but the cost may be chronic depression and lowered resistance to illness. Organisations such as Cruse offer counselling and support to the bereaved. Your homeopath or medical doctor may be able to recommend a psychotherapist who can help you to get over the worst. Some people seek comfort in spiritualism, but it takes an experienced spiritualist, and one who has some knowledge of basic psychotherapy, to assist a person through the mourning process; satisfying a desire to communicate with the dead may prolong grief rather than assuage it and make it difficult to move on. Above all, be patient with yourself.