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Essential Oils for Grief

By Jodi Cohen

There are days when my heart hurts so much, I struggle to even take a breath.

The intense pain of grief always hits me in the lungs – right on the chest – sometimes it literally feels like a Mac truck is parked on my chest.

The pain and intensity can feel all-consuming and overbearing – perhaps more overwhelming than my daily anxiety because it is punctuated with an intense sadness and longing.

I miss my boy.

I miss his hugs.

I miss the way he smelled.

I miss hearing his creative and unique take on the world.

I not only miss the person he was, but feel tremendous sadness at never getting to see the person he might have become.

As his friends are all finishing up their junior year of high school, getting their driver’s licenses and deciding where to apply to college in the fall, I wonder what this summer would have looked like if he was still alive?

How would he want to spend his time?  Where would he want to travel?   What would our relationship be like?

My head and my heart might be drawn in this direction because of a certain holiday celebrating motherhood this week.

It always feels especially difficult to celebrate motherhood without one of your children, but more so this year perhaps because I am now morning not just the loss of who he was but the absence of discovering who he might have become.

I really would have loved to have seen him grow up.

But alas, you cannot unscramble an egg, turn back time or bring anyone back from the grave.

And I don’t want to ruin the day for others.

So, I try to take advantage of these sad moments to learn new strategies for navigating my grief.


Essential Oils for Grief

Grief is a natural response to the loss of something or someone to which you have formed a bond or an attachment.

Essential oils can help you process and shift feelings of grief, along with the feelings of sadness, loss, overwhelm and disempowerment often associated with grief.

This has to do in part with your sense of smell.

You have a direct link between your sense of smell and the areas of the brain responsible for moderating your emotions and behaviors.  When you inhale essential oils, airborne substances stimulate receptor cells in the roof of the nasal cavities. The olfactory receptors carry signals to the olfactory bulb in the brain. The information is then sent to the areas of your brain responsible for memory, behavior, and emotion.

Your limbic system is the emotional center of your brain that controls your hormones and influences your emotions and your mood. The limbic system plays a role in controlling several unconscious physiological functions that influence your emotions, like breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure.

On a physical level, only two synapses separate your amygdala from your olfactory nerve. No other sensory system has this kind of direct and intense contact with the neural substrates of your brain’s emotional control center. Your other four senses, including sound, sight, taste, and touch must travel to other regions of the brain first, before reaching your limbic system.

This makes essential oils an incredibly powerful tool for calming the intensity of some of the emotions that correlate with grief such as fear and anger.

By triggering specific memories or emotions, the aroma from an essential oil may help release grief, improve your mood and promote relaxation.  In fact, research suggests that essential oils may help in the treatment of depression, which is one of several emotions that people tend to experience when dealing with grief.

Oils allow you to gently release these intense emotions, much like you would slowly and carefully unscrew the top of a carbonated beverage to gently release excess carbonation and avoid an explosion.


Lung Support™ for Grief

Feelings of grief, bereavement, regret, loss and remorse are often associated with the lungs.  The lungs are sponge-like organs located near the backbone on either side of the heart. They function as a fundamental source of life energy –transporting oxygen from the atmosphere into the capillaries so they can oxygenate blood – as well as an important channel of elimination – releasing carbon dioxide from the bloodstream into the atmosphere.

Grief can obstruct ability of the lungs to accept and relinquish, impeding their function of “taking in” and “letting go”.  Grief that remains unresolved can become chronic and create disharmony in the lungs, weakening the lung’s function of circulating oxygen around the body.  When lung function is impaired, it leads to shortness of breath, fatigue and feelings of melancholy, like that experienced with grief.  Sadly, many chronic respiratory diseases and conditions develop after a major loss or bereavement.

The essential oils in Lung Support™ blend is contains a proprietary formulation of organic and/or wild crafted essential oils designed to help overcome grief and let go of negative experiences, including:


Known as a natural yet potent antidepressant, bergamot purports relaxing properties that have been shown to reduce stress hormone levels in the body and prohibit the release of adrenaline by the body which helps calm grief.

As noted above, essential oils deeply affect your brain’s ability to think and feel. Inhalation of Bergamot, in particular, was found to “communicate signals to the olfactory system and stimulate the brain to exert neurotransmitters (e.g. serotonin and dopamine) thereby further regulating mood.”   Specifically, a 2013 article published by researchers at Xiamen University, China, elaborated, “Most studies, as well as clinically applied experience, have indicated that various essential oils, such as bergamot can help to relieve stress, anxiety, depression and other mood disorders.”

What’s more, research in an article in Current Drug Targets entitled “Aromatherapy and the Central Nerve System” found that smelling bergamot, lavender, and lemon essential oils help to trigger your brain to release serotonin and dopamine.


Geranium can assist with ‘letting go’ and releasing sad or anxious feelings along with helping to overcome extreme grief.  It is known to help soothe anxiety, depression and reduce stress. It also helps relieve acute fear, extreme moodiness, abuse, hurt, and emotional crisis. Geranium may help release anger, manage overwhelming emotions such as grief acute fear, hurt, and emotional crisis and help to re-establish trust in the world and in others to tear down barriers and open up or express emotions. Helps release anger, manage overwhelming emotions such as overcoming abuse, acute fear, hurt, and emotional crisis.


Citrus oils, like Lemon, inject an uplifting and refreshing approach to life and help heal a dark and heavy feeling – the cloud of dread or hopelessness that often is attached to grief.

Lemon oil may help support the release of strong emotional grudges, grief, resentment, apathy, anxiety, and self-judgment. It also promotes healthy self-approval, improved emotional clarity and awareness.

Research on the Effects of citrus fragrance on immune function and depressive states found that “citrus fragrance was more effective than antidepressants.”  The research found that smelling citrus allowed depressive subjects to “markedly reduce” the doses of antidepressants necessary for the treatment of depression.

Additional research found that lemon oil relieves stress. The study examined the anti-stress action of the essential oils of lavender, rose, and lemon by inducing stress in mice and found that “lemon oil had the strongest anti-stress effect”. Similar animal research found that lemon essential oil reduces anxiety.


Often used as an antidepressant because it helps you clear stagnant thoughts and grief, allowing the strengthening of focus toward positive thoughts. Orange also has a sedative effect on the nervous system and helps calm anxieties, stress, tension, and nervousness.  For example, research found that that inhaling orange essential oils reduced depression-like behaviors.

Red Mandarin 

Mandarin Citrus oils, like Red Mandarinhave been shown to lift mood, calm anxiety, alleviate depression and literally make you feel lighter.

It helps relieve anxiety, nervous tension and restlessness and switch off an overactive mind and promote relaxation. Research on the Effects of citrus fragrance on immune function and depressive states found that “citrus fragrance was more effective than antidepressants.”


Rose is one of the best essential oils for dealing with grief and loss.

Flower Oils, like Rose, are powerful when you need to get out of a dark place.  Rose oil is also known to bring a feeling of love, create a sense of well-being and release past hurts, like grief.  Its benefits were documented in studies that found breathing and blood pressure relaxed after Rose oil was applied to the skin.

Topical application of Rose essential oil was shown to “represent a relaxing effect and causing relief of depression and stress.”

Ylang Ylang 

Ylang Ylang has strong antidepressant properties and it helps to bring the emotions into proper balance.  It is known to soothe the nervous system, calm the mind, relieve mental fatigue, anxiety, depression, and grief.  According to studiesylang-ylang oil has been found to have significant effects in improving mood and a sense of harmony.


Lung Support™ blend works best when topically applied over the lungs or around the ears.  It can also be deeply inhaled and allowing yourself to gently release intense emotions with your exhale as a powerful strategy to allow you to micro-dose emotional release.

A normal and healthy expression of grief can be expressed as sobbing that originates in the depths of the lungs, including deep breathes and the expulsion of air with the sob.


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About The Author

Jodi Cohen

Jodi Sternoff Cohen is the founder of Vibrant Blue Oils. An author, speaker, nutritional therapist, and a leading international authority on essential oils, Jodi has helped over 50,000 individuals support their health with essential oils.