Despite grief and bereavement being a natural part of life, navigating grief isn’t an easy journey—whether it is because of a death, chronic illness, losing a job, divorce, moving, or any other loss.
The world continues to grapple with the pandemic and our collective grief will take a while to heal. The bereavement of loved ones dying may be harder because we can’t comfort them in person or have proper funeral rituals and physical social support systems. People are also grieving the loss of their way of life, loss of livelihood, illness, or caretaking of the sick. The stages of grief have been documented but grief is not a linear process and affects everyone differently. It is not considered an illness per se, but prolonged grief can trigger depression, anxiety, trauma, and impact physical health and immunity.
The Ayurvedic View of Grief
Ayurveda mentions grief in the context of several mental, physical, and psychosomatic disorders. According to the root text Ashtanga Hridayam, those afflicted by grief are one of the populations that should be helped to the utmost extent.
Here are some of the principles of grief management.
- Grief mainly vitiates vata dosha, but any dosha imbalance needs addressing
- Grief causes an imbalance in Gunas (qualities of the mind); it could lead to lethargy or restlessness and healing is achieved through enhancing the natural, clear quality of the mind, Sattva
- Ayurveda treats mental health in a holistic way (read more in this article).
- Grief impacts Agni (digestive and metabolic fire); another root text, Charaka Samhita mentions that even wholesome food in proper quantity may not be digested well when we are grieving.
- Unresolved grief is psychological Ama (toxins) that can be the cause other diseases.
- Symptoms of grief include exhaustion, restlessness, anxiety, sleep issues, appetite loss or comfort eating, diarrhea, and aches and pains.
- The lungs, cardiovascular system, and throat chakra (impacting pituitary and thyroid gland) are particularly vulnerable.
- Grief can deplete Ojas (the vital life force) and reduce immunity.
5 Tips for Self-care While Grieving
1. Take time and be gentle with yourself.
- Mourning rituals (through your belief system) help process grief and are highly encouraged. The Ayurvedic view is that the journey of the soul continues; have faith in whatever resonates with you.
- Do continue with Dinacharya practices to retain a soothing structure.
- Have nourishing food and spices like ginger, cumin, or coriander. You may reach for comfort food and caffeine, but that could clog channels. Try golden milk and herbal teas instead.
- Journaling, writing poetry, gardening, and creative ventures can help with honoring and expressing grief.
- Heal the senses with chanting, color therapy, and aromatherapy; gemstones are also used to alleviate chronic grief.
- Stay connected with your community, friends or join a support group.
2. Seek nourishment and grounding.
- Have wholesome, warm food with the sweet, sour and salty tastes and hydrate enough.
- Eat at regular meal times, favor soups and stews and keep meals simple to avoid overwhelm,
- Be regular with your sleep cycle.
- Don’t suppress natural urges like tears which can vitiate vata and reduce Agni.
- Follow a routine and try nature walks.
Read more: Calming a Vata Imbalance
3. Pamper yourself with a daily self-massage.
- Abhyanga is a self-massage that is a calming, nurturing, and vata-balancing. Use sesame or herbal oils like Ksheerbala or Dhanwantaram. Massage your scalp with Brahmi or Amalaki oil.
- Massage your feet before sleeping (don socks to prevent slipping).
- Try a daily Nasya; the application of a couple of drops of oil in the nostrils (sesame, ghee, or Anu Taila).
- Cleansing and therapies like Panchakarma help heal unresolved grief.
- Shirodhara, Shiroabhyanga (head massage with warm oil), Marma, and Nasya are especially helpful; also consider a Hridaya Basti (a heart Basti).
4. Replenish with rasayana herbs and practices.
- Rejuvenating herbs and formulations include Amruth, Amalaki, Tulsi, Brahmi, Manasamitra Vatakam, and Chayavanprash. Consult an Ayurvedic practitioner before trying herbs and therapies.
- Follow Achara Rasayana (uplifting lifestyle practices) like good company, service, and meditation. This is similar to psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) in modern medicine or the concept of how the mind impacts health and immunity.
5. Increase sattva.
- Eat freshly cooked, easy to digest, light, unctuous food.
- Slow down and reduce stress.
- Read inspirational books or spiritual texts.
- Sadvrutta practices like truth, self-control, following a routine, and having fresh food raises Sattva.
- Meditation, restorative yoga, and breathwork are ideal for healing and increasing emotional resilience.
- Don’t hesitate to seek professional help if needed.
Read more: 5 Ways Plus Breathwork to Get You Over the Hard Times
I hope what I have shared here helps your heart feel lighter.