My dear cat Felix died last month. On the blog which I created in his memory there is a post about ways of coping with the loss of a pet, which includes a brief mention of the Bach flower remedies. The remedies are equally relevant to human bereavement, and I thought I would expand on the subject here.
The process of grief does not conform to a particular timescale or sequence of stages, but is different for each individual, depending on many factors: the circumstances of the death, the bereaved person’s attitudes and emotions, the quality of their relationship with the deceased, and whether they believe in an afterlife. There can be a complex and apparently conflicting mixture of feelings, for example sadness over the death might be combined with relief that the strain of a long illness is over, which in turn might be a source of self-reproach.
As always with Bach flower treatment, it is best to choose flowers according to the emotions which are uppermost at the present time, without trying to analyse them too deeply. But one flower which might almost always be suitable is Star of Bethlehem. In the words of Dr Bach:
For those in great distress under conditions which for a time produce great unhappiness. The shock of serious news, the loss of someone dear, the fright following an accident, and suchlike. For those who for a time refuse to be consoled, this remedy brings comfort.
Many other flowers might also be relevant. Here are some examples, which are listed alphabetically because they do not belong in any particular sequence.
Agrimony: when grief is denied or suppressed, perhaps with the aid of drugs or alcohol
Gorse: when everything seems hopeless
Holly: for negative feelings towards others
Honeysuckle: for holding on to memories from the past
Olive: for mental or physical exhaustion
Pine: for feelings of guilt or self-blame
Sweet Chestnut: for unbearable anguish and despair
Some of these remedies are also relevant in cases of “anticipatory grief” when a loved one has a terminal illness but has not yet died. Other flowers to consider in this situation could include Red Chestnut for anxiety on behalf of the sick person, and Mimulus for fear about how the survivor is going to cope with the death when it does occur. Lastly, there is Rescue Remedy for use in acute situations such as news of a sudden death.
Nothing can take away the pain of losing a beloved person or pet, but the Bach flowers are among the remedies which can bring some comfort, especially when grief seems unduly severe, complicated or prolonged.