If you have experienced a loss in your life recently — whether it’s the death of a family member, a divorce, or even a breakup — you know how deeply it can impact every aspect of your physical and emotional well-being. I have been traveling a bit of a rough road myself lately, and I have found these five natural remedies for grief very healing.
1. Get Sufficient Quality Sleep
This one comes first for a reason: When you don’t get enough quality sleep, everything else becomes exponentially harder. Emotions are more raw and ride closer to the surface, physical health suffers, and your mind obsessively ruminates. Unfortunately, during times of loss it’s very common to struggle with sleep. You may find yourself sleeping too much, having trouble falling asleep, or not sleeping at all.
To help combat these issues, take some steps to address what experts refer to as your sleep hygiene. This means paying attention to the rituals around, and circumstances of, your bedtime routine. Dim the lights and limit exposure to electronics for an hour or two before bedtime, and make sure you use your bed only for sleeping, and other, erm, bedroom activities. This means no dragging the laptop between the sheets to catch up on work.
Try drinking calming tea blends with chamomile, valerian root, or skullcap to help you wind down before bed. A warm bath and self-massage with coconut or sesame oil can also promote physical relaxation.
If the problem persists, there is absolutely no shame in visiting a family doctor and discussing other options to help you get through the worst of it. The goal here is survival, by any means necessary, but these natural approaches offer a great place to begin tackling the sleep issue.
2. Eat Nourishing Food
You will need as much energy as you can to face the weeks and months ahead, and what you eat will be the most important source of this fuel. But, when you find yourself in the depths of deep grief, appetite changes can wreak havoc with your physical well-being.
You may find yourself overindulging in unhealthy comfort foods, or feeling like you are unable to eat at all. Don’t heap more guilt on yourself for not cooking organically-sourced three-course meals every day, but do try to take a conscious attitude toward the food that you put into your body. You need healthy food to feel physically strong so you can get emotionally strong.
If you have loved ones helping you through your grief, ask them to temporarily take over cooking duties — they will be grateful to have such a tangible way to help you through this loss. Stock your pantry with foods that are nourishing and easy to prepare. Try organic soups and chilies, raw veggie wraps, trail mix blends filled with nuts and seeds, and pre-made smoothie drinks brimming with fruits, vegetables, and protein. (Sometimes, drinks you can sip on throughout the day are easier to get down.)
3. Go for a Walk
I know, I know. You’re wearing the same sweatpants you’ve worn for three days straight, you’re curled up in the fetal position on your bed, and you never, ever, want to leave. Your grief and sadness need to be acknowledged, and letting yourself lie with it for a while is completely reasonable. Lie with that feeling and stay in bed in your sweat-panted fetal-positioned glory for 23 hours a day if you like. But for that other hour, try to get outside.
You don’t even need to change — now is not the time to worry about appearances. Just grab your keys and head out the door. Try to aim yourself in a direction with some nature to it — forests, rivers, even an outdoor fountain will do in a pinch. The idea is to get your body moving, your blood circulating, and stimulate the feeling of forward momentum. Just for an hour, OK? I promise it will help.
4. Water, in Any Form — Lots of It
The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears, or the sea. —Isak Dinesen
Dinesen speaks the truth, my friends. Working up a bit of a glow on a walk, sitting with a friend and crying so hard you think you’ll never stop, and steeping yourself in a scalding hot bath — for ages these have been indisputable remedies to help you forge forward when you feel you’ve been broken. Not everyone has access to the sea, of course, but a hot bath is just as good. Add a heaping cup or two of Epsom salt to your bath to help relive muscular tension — and extend the healing benefits of a soak far beyond mental relaxation.
5. Experience Physical Touch
Research has demonstrated an indisputable link between the presence of non-sexual physical touch and our physical and emotional well-being. According to Matthew Hertenstein, PhD, director of the Touch and Emotion Lab at DePauw University, “Stimulating touch receptors under the skin can lower blood pressure and cortisol levels, effectively reducing stress.”
So go in for that hug, cuddle your kids, schedule a massage, or call your pet close — touching and being touched are essential human needs that go ignored too often in our politely reserved Western culture. Especially if you have lost a partner, replacing physical touch will be essential as you begin your journey to feeling healed and whole.
Feature image courtesy of Renatvs88
Editor’s note: Originally published on February 13, 2015, this article was updated in November 2018.