Photo by Paul Kirtley of http://paulkirtley.co.uk
Everyone talks about grieving in terms of a science of stages. There is also a period of dark magic. Of being connected to the cycles of the earth, to our own mortality, and to our life’s path. This is one of the many reasons herbal medicine can be so helpful during a time of loss. The plants nurture, in part, because they are connecting to the part of you that is connected to the whole.
Pick up a violet (Viola spp). Notice the heart shape of the leaf. Is it broken, torn, bruised? Does it still maintain it’s wholeness within that state? Place it into your mouth and chew. Visualize the fleshy stem sliding down your throat, past your tonsils, and stopping at your heart. In what ways is it speaking to you? Access the part of yourself that understands what it feels to be grounded. Feel your feet on the floor and then alternate between the sensation in your heart. Picture the leaf regaining it’s original form and healing your cells and your hurt. Let it travel farther down now into your stomach. If there is unease, notice how Violet has a mucilaginous texture. It coats the digestive tract and soothes cell walls. Take in all the Violet has to offer. Thank the plant for offering it’s gift of healing and continue to come back to this healing place as needed.
When I first moved to Asheville, I was living in a community house with 9 people in it. It was that time of year where heartbreak and lust were both very catching. All at once we had three heartbroken friends living under the same roof. At any given time you could hear the sounds of the riffs that were being made and repaired in their hearts. Tears staining cheeks. The downfall of romance was like our puppy being crate-trained. I quickly left, for a walk in the woods.
As I trailed, I thought about my friends. I collected every Violet heart leaf I could find. I made sure it was the ones that were ripped, torn, abused heart shapes of all sizes. The ones I normally would overlook for medicine. I took them home and made this syrup. The molasses providing vitamins, minerals and nourishment to those whose appetite was lost. The sweet and the bitter of this syrup matching that of the complexity of love. We can only hope to take in all that love has to offer, knowing that it won’t always leave us whole. And that, in truth, it usually will leave us. I served it up with almond milk and hugs that last a little too long.
Broken Hearts Violet Syrup
Broken Violet Leaves
Almond Milk (Or milk of your choice)
For instructions on how to make a medicinal syrup preparation go here:
With heartbreak, there is a loss accompanied with a lack of hope. That you won’t find the fleeting feelings again. Cherishing those attributes you never noticed while they were in the present. Like gifts we open too quickly.
photo found in the “la tres sainte trinosophie”
Grief also opens up the can of worms we know as boundaries. There is a formula of David Winston’s my health collective likes to use. It is a perfect example of synergy in a formula. Mimosa is for understanding your boundaries clearly, the Hawthorn is good for putting up those boundaries, and the Rose is for keeping yourself open while those boundaries are being tested and navigated. When passed around my Advanced Herbalism class at NAIMH, one very attuned student said that it made her feel like her heart was being held for her, so that she could let go of the holding and just feel safe. I have seen it work specifically during times where heartbreak,grief or emotions were taking over. It has also proven itself useful when working with unresolved PTSD and trauma.
The Heart of the Matter
Hawthorn (berry and flower) (1 part)
Mimosa (dried bark) (1 part)
Rose (preferably percolation of petals) (1/2 part)
1-3 Dropper-fulls 3 times per day or as needed (do not exceed 11 dropper-fulls per day)
*NOTE: a Dropper-full is when you squeeze the dropper of a tincture bottle one time. (Approx 30 drops) You do not have to make sure the entire dropper is full; one squeeze is the measured amount.
Death is a different kind of grief. There is an emptiness that tragedy digs as it’s special kind of hole. Our town, community, and world lost a dear friend recently to suicide. It has me thinking a lot about grief as a process. Hearing the many complexities of my friends words, all wishing with every part of them that their will was able to enact magic. Go back in time, extend the love that they feel, and ultimately, get her back. I don’t think herbs are meant to be used during a necessary process of healing such as this. However, they can help us handle it better. Navigate the hurt like the sailors in the dark storm that we are. Like a prayer in saddest of times we ask the plants. Give me courage of Osha roots, cleanse me with Sweet birch bark, Help me handle this harsh world with Milky Oats, and quiet my nerves with Lavender. Give me hope that we can learn to be good to each other. Better then good, to hold each other during times of grief no matter what emotions show up.
The discussion for herbalists and grief is ongoing. When I asked friends about their use of plants in this way, I got some wonderful suggestions including these two below.
1. Black Birch Ritual Bath: Cleanses the smell of death off of you. Add lavender for cleansing, quieting the rushing of tears and relaxing the nervous system.
2. Traditionally, Thyme was used for grief. Place around your house, drink in a tea, cook in food, or diffuse the essential oil (small amounts and use as directed!)
This article is also being posted in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. While this storm devastated a town I consider a part of my home, I have seen the healing that is stirring from the bay to the ocean. In all that we loose, we gain gratitude. Humbled, we proceed in a parade of solemn horns and a debris cacophony. On the other side, is strength.
Do you have any ideas or experience using the suggestions above? Post in the comments and let’s continue the conversation.