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The Role of Homeopathy in Grief

by Dr Neil Slade(more info)

listed in homeopathy, originally published in issue 114 - August 2005

At some point in our lives we will all have to face the loss of a loved one, sometimes sudden and at other times expected – in either circumstance, the grief and sense of loss can be just as raw and all consuming. This grief not only affects us in the moment but may carry over for years, affecting a person both psychologically and physically.

I was inspired to write this case study after seeing a patient recently who was grieving very acutely for a much loved elderly pet dog. It is easy to sound flippant about such things, taking the "it's only a dog" line, but we must always remember that to some people a pet's death can engender just as much grief as that of a family member.

Hilary had been a patient of mine over a number of years receiving treatment for various ills. She had always struck me as a very strong willed woman; she certainly knew her own mind. However, the Hilary who walked through my consulting room door at the start of 2005 was a very different woman. She was ashen-faced and her eyes were puffy from crying; her voice was almost a whisper. It transpired that her 17 year old dog had been put down. Hilary's dog had been a tower of strength to her throughout a very difficult teenage time; the dog represented the one constant that didn't let her down as she coped with a difficult family set up. As Hilary told me about the dog's last illness and death she cried – something she had never shown an inkling of doing before, even when relating traumatic family events.. This was very out of character for her and showed just how much she was hurting.

She described her life as now being incomplete and she could not settle to anything. She was desolate and the attentions of her husband and pet cats could not distract her. She had recently set up a new business, and as with all ventures of this type needed to put in a lot of energy and time to develop it, but could just not motivate herself. She described how she spent her days sitting in a chair just staring into space or weeping gently. In fact, this behaviour was shown in the consulting room; thankfully I did not have a patient after Hilary and so was able to give her a lot of space in the consultation. She spent time in between telling me how she felt just sitting and staring… and sighing heavily. It was this latter point that led me to the remedy.

Ignatia is one of our biggest grief remedies and its major indicating factor is that the person 'sits and sighs', and Hilary was doing this in abundance. Normally in homeopathy we look for a range of good prescribing symptoms and then see which remedy is common to them all. However, in this case I decided to prescribe Ignatia just on this one indication as it was so strong. I gave Hilary Ignatia 200c.

Patients requiring Ignatia tend to hold onto their grief rather than let it all out. They might show a shift in their character, becoming oversensitive and nervous. They could have mood swings changing at the flick of a switch from joking and laughing to crying and sadness. In fact a contradictory mood or contradictory physical symptoms e.g. leg pains that are better for walking about is another key feature of this remedy.

I spoke with Hilary a few weeks later and she was feeling much brighter, she had been going through photos of her dog and could look at them with out getting too upset. However, she had only reached this point after going through a huge release of grief, where she was inconsolable. She had literally cried for several days, but said that oddly enough as she cried she felt that she was letting go and, although a traumatic experience, she was feeling better. I re-prescribed the Ignatia and left Hilary alone for a time, hoping that the remedy would deal with anymore held in grief and just help to ease her along.

A month later Hilary turned up in the clinic. She was almost back to her forthright self. Of course she still missed her dog greatly, but she was taking more interest in things in her life now. She was doing things around the house, paying attention to her husband and the cats and had started to refocus on her business venture. Life was back in her control again.

Homeopathy can greatly help with coming to terms with grief and loss. It can provide support in the immediate time surrounding the event or can be used to address long standing emotions where the person never really seems to have come to terms with the loss. Sometimes the grief is so deeply entrenched that specialist bereavement counselling is required alongside the homeopathic treatment. If the grief is left walled up and unresolved it may lead to problems later on.


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About Dr Neil Slade

Dr Neil Slade  PhD LCH RSHom. Neil is a senior lecturer at two leading complementary therapy colleges and has two busy homeopathic practices. He is the Deputy Director of Pure Medicine in London's Harley Street. He regularly contributes articles to the national press, radio and television. Neil can be contacted on Tel: 01372 361669;

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