As many of you know, I was first introduced to plant medicine through my own intuition. In 2012, I was navigating through a period of extreme anxiety as a single mom with very young children and was far too overwhelmed to properly research why the oils in my blends seemed to help myself and so many others. I was purely driven by my own intuition and experiences of personal success. When I started to feel better and was able to properly read several essential oil books, I was surprised to discover that many of the attributes ascribed to certain plants were inconsistent with my personal experience of the plant. For example, nutmeg was often touted for balancing the adrenal glands, but this oil never tested for me or any of the clients I was working with as helpful adrenal support.
A dear and knowledgeable mentor noted that someone made up these descriptions long ago and no one ever bothered to test or update them over time. I experienced the same thing when learning about crystals and other earth medicine – that my personal experience was often inconsistent with what I read in books.
After the tragic death of my 12-year-old son Max, I was given many handouts and books on Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s 5 stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. I quickly realized that once again, what had been written and commonly accepted as an unchallengeable truth was completely inconsistent with my own personal experience. These were not the stages I seemed to be processing through and quite honestly, when I attempted to travel through 3 of these “stages” – anger, bargaining, depression – I always felt worse.
Instead of focusing on these 5 prescribed “stages”, 3 of which were super negative and not helpful for healing, I instead decided to focus on what seemed to actually work for me and help me navigate through an unbearable loss in a way that helped me feel better. Once I identified the tactics that worked, I researched to understand why these techniques seem to help me feel better and found that almost every strategy I was employing was grounded in extensive research.
Below, I am sharing the 9 coping strategies I have experienced that seem to help me the most and why they seem to work:
1. Avoid Dead End Thinking
As I mentioned above, many well-meaning friends and grief professionals believe that you have to travel through phases of grief that include anger and bargaining. Whenever I left myself travel down the rabbit whole of anger and blame or bargaining, I consistently 100% of the time felt worse. It was a sure fire path to yuck. And, it never changed the outcome. Blaming the driver, myself or anyone in anyway associated with the car accident or the events of that day NEVER made me feel better. On the contrary, that slippery slope of the anger/bargaining thought pattern ALWAYS made me feel awful. And it did nothing to shift the situation. Blame others was not going to bring my son back to life. It just disempowered me and keep me stuck in an unhealthy mental state.
Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results” I kept equating it to walking through a maze. When you hit a dead end, you learn to avoid that path in the future. For me, anger and bargaining were dead ends to be avoided or managed with nutritional supplements and essential oils to help support the release of those unhealthy emotions.
For example, the emotion of anger is commonly associated with the liver. Liver Support™ was designed to help release anger in the liver, and allow you to avoid that dead end. Read More about Releasing Emotions with Essential Oils HERE.
Our thoughts are incredibly important to our health as they trigger biological and chemical responses in our bodies. What we think and safety-related emotions like fear, anger and worry, trigger the brain into a survival response, also known as the “fight, flight or flee” response of the sympathetic nervous system. If we get stuck in negative thought patterns, we can also physically get stuck in this fear based response, triggering a vicious cycle of declining mental and physical health. It is important to break that cycle and avoiding dead end thinking is the first step.
Grounding, or mentally and physically connecting to the healing energy of nature and the Earth, can help supports your clarity and perspective so you can better recognize and move through challenging emotional and thought patterns.
Grounding allows us to release much of the burden of our grief into the earth. You can literally think of it as garbage dump for any physical or mental baggage you no longer wish to carry. Grounding brings us into a state of balance, both mentally and physically. It is in this balanced state that our body can rest, repair, and heal on the physical, emotional and spiritual level.
When we physically ground and connect to Earth, it reduces inflammation, promotes restful sleep, helps optimize organ function and improves detoxification, by allowing toxins to flow out of us and into the Earth On the emotional level, grounding allows our thoughts and emotions to move through us more easily. On a spiritual level, grounding enhances our connection to our intuition and spiritual guidance. Read More about Grounding HERE.
To ground, I imagine a tail extending down from my spine and connecting the core of the Earth. Once I feel connected, I then imagine a big garbage shoot opening up and intentionally instruct mental and physical toxins to drain from me into the Earth. My colleague, Amy Stark, takes it a step further, visualizing a shower of rose petals washing over you and pulling anything that does not serve into the Earth.
Essential oils, especially those derived from grounded plants like trees which are intrinsically grounded through their root structure into the Earth, help you pull your energy centers down into the Earth. Plants that grow under earth entrain with earth’s energies, matching the frequency of the Earth and therefore supporting our ability to connect to the Earth and ground. Blends like Attention™ and Parasympathetic™ can help with grounding. You can also stand barefoot on grass, beach, or a favorite rock while you ground or practice grounding in an Epsom salt bath. Read More about Healing Baths HERE.
I have come to think of grounding as basic daily hygiene, akin to brushing your teeth or washing your face. It allows me to let go of anything that is not serving me to clear the mental and physical space necessary to receive support that is helpful.
3. Physical Detoxification
Grief is a cleansing process to help you deal with loss. It occurs on a physical, spiritual and emotional level and can help uncover and express feelings, especially hidden frustrations, anger, resentments, or fear.
My mentor, Dr. Dietrich Klinghardt noticed that the more physical toxins that person releases, the more stored emotion that is also released. It has been my personal experience that the opposite is true as well. As you release negative thoughts and emotions, it seems to trigger a physical detoxification and if those toxins are not able to leave the body through open drainage pathways, they recirculate in the system and contribute to negative emotions like anger and blame commonly associated with the detox organs like the liver and the gall bladder.
In other words, I don’t think anger is one of the necessary 5 stages of grief. I think it is a symptom of impaired physical detoxification and can be remedied by helping the Liver physically and emotionally release negative emotions, like anger, impatience, resentment and frustration. Supporting the liver with supplements like Milk Thistle and essential oils like Liver Support™ and other essential oils like Liver™, Gall Bladder™ and Lymph™ that help open your drainage pathways can help you process and release both physical toxins and negative emotions, like the anger associated with grief. Read More about Opening Drainage Pathways HERE.
To specifically help you move through and release anger and negative emotions from the cells of the liver, apply 2 -3 drops of Liver Support™ over the liver, the heart or around the earlobes. You can also gently inhale Liver Support™ for 3 – 7 breaths, breathing out any negative emotions on the exhale. For more tips on detoxify emotions, read this article.
When you detoxify, it is critically important to take binders, substances that ‘bind’ to toxins to help move them out of your body. In order to leave the body, toxins travel through the liver, where they travel to the small intestine in the bile. If the toxins are not bound to anything, most of them will get reabsorbed in the gut. Read More about Binders HERE
4. Become an Objective Observer
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” – Viktor Frankl
Since Max died, I have acquired a new super power – the ability to pause before reacting. In response to his death, I have been the recipient of an outpouring of advice and well-intended comments. As a self-protective measure, I have found a way to hold those comments at bay, almost as if I am observing them through a glass sliding door that allows me the physical and mental space to observe the different stimulus from a distance, as an objective observer. This mental distance acts as a buffer, almost a safety rail, that keeps me safely insulated from anything that could trigger a negative emotional response. I selectively examine the feedback and choose to take it in or discard it in a way that does not trigger unpleasant emotions.
Initially, I didn’t understand how or why I began to do this, but I could recognize that it served an important purposed of protecting me during this highly emotional and delicate time period. But as I began to research how the brain works, it became clear that I was intuitively engaging in top-down modulation, manually suppressing upsetting input and focusing instead on enhancing positive input. By switching lanes in the brain into the attention focused pre-frontal cortex and away from the safety focused amygdala, I was able to mentally down-regulate and calm the part of the limbic brain that triggers the fight or flight and stress responses in the body.
In order to interrupt the fight or flight patterns triggered by fear, anger and other negative thought patterns, you must first recognize those patterns. Assuming the role of the objective observer allows you to recognize and interrupt those thought patterns. Essential oils like Parasympathetic™, Brain Boost™ and Focus™ applied on the frontal lobe (over the temples) allowed me to literally switch lanes in my brain, pulling me out of the emotional spaces of the limbic system into the logical, focused space required for executive function and analysis. Focusing your energy and thoughts through the analytical portion of your brain in the frontal lobe can help you rewire your brain out of the fight or flight response and toward healthier and more optimistic potential.
My new found ability to recognize these thought patterns and observe them in an impartial way allowed me to both interrupt and avoid the stress response that often follows these external stimuli.
5. Exposure Therapy
Exposure therapy is a behavioral therapy technique that can help you confront, instead of avoid, your fears. When something scares you, be in an object, an activity or a situation, it is human nature to want to avoid that fear. Unfortunately, avoiding uncomfortable situations does little to resolve the issue and over time, can amplify the fear and the resulting negative thought patterns and resulting stress response.
In order to break the pattern of harm avoidance, it is helpful to expose yourself to the object or situation that you dread. In my case, I feared how I would respond when asked about my children. How do you tell people that you had 2 children, but one passed away? Do you only mention your living child? Do you mention both? How do you address the death without falling into a puddle. The truth is, I don’t know. But I didn’t let that stop me. Instead, I just jumped in head first. Whenever asked if I had children, I answered honestly. “Yes, I have two children. My daughter Carly is 14 and my son Max was 12. He died in a car accident in August.” Every time I exposed myself to this situation, it got a little easier. My fears dissipated each time I practiced answering that question.
Essential oils that calmed my fear response like Kidney Support™ blend and bolstered my bravery, like Parasympathetic™ and Adrenal™ helped me jump into exposure therapy and break the pattern of avoidance and fear.
6. Learn to Over Communicate
“The best defense is a good offense”
I was always a fan of over-communicating, or pro-actively sharing information that would set others minds at ease and avoid any potential conflict. At one professional training, I recall the host clearly stating when breaks and meals would occur, noting that if attendees did not know that information upfront, their mind would naturally wander and they would be unable to focus on the presentations.
I have found the same thing to be true when discussing Max’s death with others. I learned to share his name, his age, how he died and when he died in one concise sentence, noticing that when I cover all the basics, the other party seemed to relax. The death of a child is terrifying to everyone because they all immediately fear “could this possibly happen to my child?” and over communicating information seems to put them at ease.
I continually hear feedback that no one knows what to say to a grieving mother, so I have started to acknowledge that as well, letting people know that just acknowledging the loss is all they need to do. For people who actually knew Max, I genuinely love talking about him and sharing in other people’s memories of him as it keeps him alive in my heart.
I believe by pro-actively over communicating and controlling the narrative, it allows me to maintain clearer boundaries with others and conserve necessary energy. Essential Oils of Thyroid Support™ help me clearly speak my truth and Small Intestine Support™ to maintain appropriate physical and emotional boundaries.
As an empath and an introvert, I have always been super sensitive to other people’s emotions and needs. Grief requires an exceptional amount of mental and physical energy, leaving me with less to share with other people. In order to conserve my own energy for myself and my daughter, I cannot worrying about or support other people’s emotional needs.
Which means I have needed to be very clean, clear and consistent with my own physical and energetic boundaries, sometimes literally cutting people off mid-sentence if they attempt to engage me in negative thinking. A boundary is a limit or space between you and other people. The tragedy of Max’s death has been far reaching, impacting everyone from close friends to complete strangers and it has brought out surprising elements in other people.
Some people, often those who have experienced a loss themselves, have been amazing. Showing up, bringing food, listening and not expecting anything of me in return. Others seem to expect a lot from me – they somehow need me to comfort them or want to take advantage of the opportunity to drop off food to have a private consult on their personal health issues. Others have used their access to me as an opportunity to be in the center of the gossip circle – sharing my personal tragedy to bolster their own social currency. I have a gained a new understanding of the adage, “misery loves company” as several people who are unhappy with their situations seem to smell blood in the water and flock to me, hoping to see me in a puddle on the floor so they can then feel better about themselves and their own lives.
“I cannot set myself on fire to keep other people warm.”
This requires clear boundaries – or physical and emotional distance. Thankfully, Small Intestine Support™ blend can help you maintain good boundaries.
As you know, the small intestine plays a critical role in the digestion process, absorbing and assimilating key nutrients while preventing harmful pathogens and toxins from entering the body. On an emotional level, the small intestine plays a similarly discerning role with emotions, helping to understand experiences and determine healthy and appropriate relationships and boundaries. Small Intestine Support™ blend supports the healthy boundaries, especially when you are overly in tune with other’s criticism, feelings or opinions. Read more about Essential Oils for Boundaries HERE.
8. Pattern Interrupt
When my babies were little, I discovered that the fastest way to calm a meltdown was to pattern interrupt. If we were inside, we would go outside. If we were playing with toys, we would read a book or take a bath. Anything to shift the pattern and the energy seemed to help calm the mood.
In the wake of Max’s death, I have discovered that pattern interrupting works extremely well for resetting my own energy. As I mentioned above, when you switch lanes in the brain toward the attention focused pre-frontal cortex – which is required for new and challenging activities – you move away from the emotional center in the amygdala. Pattern interrupting not only gives you a break from intense emotions, like grief, anger and fear, it helps pave the road for new, healthier pathways in the brain, a concept known as neuroplasticity.
Pattern interrupting forces you to focus on enhancing positive input to the brain and suppress upsetting input, in essence rewiring the circuitry in your brain. Our survival mechanism, known as the “fight or flight” response initiates in the limbic system of our brain, the area of the brain that analyzes and filtering incoming stimuli to determine if it is a threat to our survival and health. Threats include both physical stressors, as well as emotional and thought driven stress and are categorized as either a threat or a non- threat based on past experience, which means repetitive thought patterns, like those present in grief, can keep us stuck in the “fight or flight” state.
A brain stuck in survival mode can disorganize neural circuits and damage the limbic system, further impairing it’s filtering process, altering the way that the brain and body interpret, encode and react to sensory or emotional stimuli that it would usually disregard as not representing a danger to the body. When not functioning properly, a hypersensitive limbic system categorizes non- threatening stimuli as threatening, triggering involuntary trauma patterns and contributing to distorted unconscious reactions, sensory perceptions and protective responses.
Over time, this state of hyper arousal can weaken the immune, endocrine and autonomic nervous systems and negatively impact our ability to rest, digest, detoxify, and heal, stabilize our mood, and maintain motor and cognitive function. In other words, Limbic System Impairment can sensitize the brain to a negative stress response and keep us stuck in a Sympathetic Dominant viscous cycle. Read more about Limbic System Impairment HERE.
Pattern interrupting can help you break the vicious cycle of limbic system impairment, which helps you feel immediate relief from negative thoughts in the short term and helps to build positive neural pathways over time, breaking the vicious system. Pattern interrupting requires increased activity in the prefrontal lobe of the brain, which is associated with planning and decision making along with the anterior cingulate cortex region of the brain involved in attention and evaluation of emotional stimuli. Switching lanes in the brain away from the fear center in the amygdala toward areas of executive function pulls you out of survival state of fear, worry and anxiety. Focusing your attention on a positive experience can help strengthen the positive association and related biochemistry which can assist in healing from grief.
It is especially beneficial to pattern interrupt with new activities as your brain has to prioritize. When doing a new thing, it cannot entrain negative thoughts and feelings. Even a change in environment can help you manually override sadness and despair. Further, changes in mood can shift levels of chemical messengers in your body, boosting levels of the “happy hormones” like serotonin. Low serotonin levels have been associated with depression and increased emotional sensitivity.
Essential oils like Parasympathetic™ can help trigger the Parasympathetic response and relax the fear response. Similarly, Focus™ applied on the frontal lobe (over the temples) turns on your executive function and simultaneously down regulates the emotional response of the limbic system, helping you rewire your brain toward healthier and more optimistic potential.
9. Release Self Limiting Beliefs
Self-limiting beliefs are any thoughts that limit your potential or tell you that something is not possible. For example, any time you say “I can’t”, you shut down your potential to the possibility that maybe you CAN do that. Think of limiting beliefs as mental roadblocks that keep us physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually stuck. When you let go self-limiting beliefs and associated behaviors, you are free to move into a place of empowerment and positive change. Read More about Self Limiting Beliefs HERE
Essential oils can play a powerful role in breaking down layers of emotional scar tissue to really get to the root of your self-limiting beliefs that are holding you back. Essential oils are uniquely beneficial in helping to release limiting thoughts and emotions as the sense of smell links directly to the limbic lobe of the brain which stores and releases emotional trauma. Smell has a direct route to the limbic system and often can mobilize and release long forgotten memories, emotions and self-limiting beliefs that can date back to childhood. Read More about Releasing Emotions with Essential Oils HERE.
Combining positive affirmations and essential oils can help shift limiting self beliefs. Parasympathetic™ over the vagus nerve (behind the earlobe on the mastoid bone) can calm your “fight or flight” reflex and help balance your nervous system, Liver Support™ can release self-limiting beliefs and the anger and suppressed negative memories that lock those beliefs in place on a deep cellular level and Large Intestine Support™ can release past hurts and self-limiting beliefs so that you can move through transitions or changes in life course.
Just place the bottle under your nose and breathe deeply, fully inhaling the oil for 3 – 7 breaths. It helps you breathe into and work through the self-limiting belief.
Ready to get started? Click the links below to order today:
- Adrenal™ available here
- Attention™ available here
- Brain Boost™ available here
- Focus™ available here
- Gall Bladder™ available here
- Kidney Support™ available here
- Large Intestine Support™ available here
- Liver™ available here
- Liver Support™ available here
- Lymph™ available here
- Parasympathetic™ available here
- Small Intestine Support™ available here
- Thyroid Support™ available here