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Grief (Reactive Depression) and its Homeopathic Approach

Homeopathic Journal :: Volume: 2, Issue: 7, May 2009 (General Theme)   -   from Homeorizon.com
Author : Dr. Ajit Singh, Homeopath
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Article Updated: May 22, 2009

"I am under that state of mind that if I  were under water I would scarcely kick to come to the top." John Keats.

Definition: Grief Is the emotional or affective response to the loss. The symptoms of grief are part of normal recovery process and not a sign of pathology. Nevertheless, grief takes more prolonged, pervasive, and complicated forms than many people realize. These forms vary greatly; there is no uniform and orderly succession of stages through which all bereaved people must pass. However, phases are observed often enough to be recognized as, if not typical, at least common after the death a husband, wife, or child.

Grief is a multi-faceted response to loss. Although conventionally focused on the emotional response to loss, it also has physical, cognitive, behavioral, social, and philosophical dimensions. Common to human experience is the death of a loved one, whether it is a friend, family, or other companion, and in fact the word "grief" comes from the same root as "grave." While the terms are often used interchangeably, bereavement often refers to the state of loss, and. possessions, to the loss of loved ones. Our response to loss is varied and researchers have moved away from conventional views of grief (that is, that people move through an orderly and predictable series of responses to loss) to one that considers the wide variety of responses that are influenced by personality, family, culture, and spiritual and religious beliefs and practices.

Reactive Depression: A depressive mood predominates in the clinical picture of this condition. All of the patients’ statements are connected with the psychosomatic situation responsible for this condition. Death in the family is one of the causes of reactive depression. In these cases even the joyous events aggravate the state of melancholy. The patients very willingly discuss the topic that agitates their minds and look for sympathy. Their sleep is as a rule disturbed. If there are any dreams they are associated with the circumstances of the psychic trauma.

: Bereavement, while a normal part of life for us all, carries a degree of risk when limited support is available. Severe reactions to loss may carry over into familial relations and cause trauma for children, spouses and any other family members: there is an increased risk of marital breakup following the death of a child, for example. Issues of personal faith and beliefs may also face challenge, as bereaved persons reassess personal definitions in the face of great pain. While many who grieve are able to work through their loss independently, accessing additional support from bereavement professionals may promote the process of healing. ‘Grief counseling’, professional support groups or educational classes, and peer-led support groups are primary resources available to the bereaved.

Complicated grief
, now also commonly referred to as Prolonged Grief, can be differentiated from normal grief. Normal grief typically involves a range of transient behavioral and emotional responses to loss. While the experience of grief is a very individual process depending on many factors, certain commonalities are often reported. Nightmares, appetite problems, dryness of mouth, shortness of breath, sleep disorders, and repetitive motions to avoid pain are often reported by people experiencing normal grief. Even hallucinatory experiences may be normal early in grief. Examples of complicated grief can often be found in those who have survived a suicide attempt. Complicated grief responses almost always are a function of intensity and timing: a grief that after a year or two begins to worsen, accompanied by unusual behaviors, and is a warning sign. Complicated grief is usually grief where the story of the loss is in some ways difficult to tell. Deaths such as suicides, murders, accidents, and other sudden and unexpected deaths can result in complicated grief due to the sudden shock. The surprise makes it difficult to integrate the "story" of the loss, so the person struggles with an initial task of simply believing that the loss has occurred. Variables surrounding the death such as expectedness, naturalness, presence of violence, ambivalence, degree of attachment, and others play into the presence of complicated grief. All too often complicated grief can last for years and most people (friends of the mourner) will recoil when hearing that this sort of grief may still be present after several years.

Scientists suggest that complicated grief activates neurons in the reward centers of the brain, possibly giving these memories addiction-like properties. The authors found activity in the nucleus accumbency, a region of the brain most commonly associated with reward and one that has also been shown to play a role in social attachment, such as sibling and maternal affiliation.

Types of bereavement

Differing bereavements along the life cycle may have different manifestations and problems which are age related, mostly because of cognitive and emotional skills along the way. Children will exhibit their mourning very differently in reaction to the loss of a parent than a widow would to the loss of a spouse. Reactions in one type of bereavement may be perfectly normal, but in another the same reaction could be problematic. The kind of loss must be taken under consideration when determining how to help.

Childhood bereavement

When a parent or caregiver dies or leaves, children may have symptoms of psychopathology, but they are less severe than in children with major depression. The loss of a parent, grandparent or sibling can be very troubling in childhood, but even in childhood there are age differences in relation to the loss.

Even as a child grows older, death is still difficult to assimilate and this affects the way a child responds. For example, younger children will find the ’fact’ of death a changeable thing: one child believed her deceased mother could be restored with ’band-aids’, and children often see death as curable or reversible, more as a separation. Reactions here may manifest themselves in ’acting out’ behaviors: a return to earlier behaviors such as sucking thumbs, clinging to a toy or angry behavior: they do not have the maturity to mourn as an adult, but the intensity is there. As children enter pre-teen and teen years, there is a more mature understanding. Adolescents may respond by delinquency, or oppositely become ’over-achievers’: repetitive actions are not uncommon such as washing a car repeatedly or taking up repetitive tasks such as sewing, computer games, etc. It is an effort to stay ’above’ the grief. Childhood loss as mentioned before can predispose a child not only to physical illness but to emotional problems and an increased risk for suicide, especially in the adolescent period.

Death of a child

Death of a child can take the form of a loss in infancy such as abortion, miscarriage, stillbirth or neonatal death, SIDS, or the death of an older child, in all cases, parents find the grief almost unbearably devastating, and while persons may rate the death of a spouse as first in traumatic life events, the death of a child is still perhaps one of the most intense forms of grief, holding greater risk factors. This loss also bears a lifelong process: one does not get ’over’ the loss but instead must assimilate and live with the death. Intervention and comforting support can make all the difference to the survival of a parent in this type of grief but the risk factors are great and may include family breakup or suicide. Because of the intensity of grief emotions, irrational decisions are often made. In the event of a miscarriage or abortion, it is important for friends and family members to acknowledge the loss of the pregnancy, and not to attempt to minimalist the significance of a pregnancy that did not come to term. Feelings of guilt, whether legitimate or not, are pervasive, and the dependent nature of the relationship disposes parents to a variety of problems as they seek to cope with this great loss. Parents that suffer miscarriage or abortion may experience resentment towards others who experience successful pregnancies.

Death of a spouse

Although the death of a spouse may be an expected change, particularly as we age, it is a particularly powerful loss of a loved-one. A spouse often becomes part of the other in a unique way: many widows and widowers describe losing ’half’ of themselves, and after a long marriage, at older ages, the elderly may find it a very difficult assimilation to begin anew. Furthermore, most couples have a division of ’tasks’ or ’labor’, e.g. the husband mows the yard, the wife pays the bills, etc. which in addition to dealing with great grief and life changes means added responsibilities for the bereaved. Social isolation may also become imminent as many groups composed of couples find it difficult to adjust to the new identity of the bereaved. When queried about what in life is most traumatic, most rate death of a spouse first, although the death of a child presents more risk factors.

Death of a parent

As a child, the death of a parent, without support to manage the effect of the grief, may result in long term psychological harm. Therefore, it is important that the emotions the child feels are worked through completely and discussed openly. An adult may be expected to cope with the death of a parent in a less emotional way; however it can still invoke extremely powerful emotions. This is especially true when the death occurs at an important or difficult period of life, such as when becoming a parent themselves, graduation or other times of emotional stress. It is important to recognize the effects that the loss of a parent can cause and address these. As an adult, the willingness to be open to grief is often diminished and a failure to accept and deal with loss will only result in further pain and suffering.

Death of a sibling

The loss of a sibling is a devastating event and sibling grief is often a disenfranchised type of grief (especially with regard to adult siblings) in that it is overlooked by society as a whole and people in general, thus negating the depth of love that exists between siblings. Siblings who have been part of each other’s lives since birth help form and sustain each other’s identities; with the death of one sibling comes the loss of that part of the survivor’s identity. The sibling relationship is a unique one as they share a special bond and a common history from birth, have a certain role and place in the family, often complement each other, and share genetic traits; siblings who enjoy a close relationship participate in each other’s daily lives and special events, confide in each other, share joys, spend leisure time together (whether they are children or adults), and have a relationship that not only exists in the present but often looks toward a future together (even into retirement).

Siblings who play a major part in each other lives are essential to each other; the sibling relationship can be the longest significant relationship of the lifespan and this loss intensifies their grief. Adult siblings eventually expect the loss of aging parents, the only other people who have been an integral part of their lives since birth, but they don’t expect to lose their siblings first; as a result, when a sibling dies, the surviving sibling may experience a longer period of shock and disbelief. Overall, with the loss of a sibling, a substantial part of the surviving sibling’s past, present, and future is also lost. It should also be noted that if siblings were not on good terms or close with each other, then intense feelings of guilt may ensue on the part of the surviving sibling (guilt may also ensue for: having survived, not being able to prevent the death, having argued with their sibling, etc

Other losses

Parents may grieve due to permanent loss of children through means other than death. This loss differs from the death of a child in that the grief process is prolonged or denied because of hope that the relationship will be restored. In this sense, children may be lost due to many different causes, including loss of custody in divorce proceedings; legal termination of parental rights by the government, such as in cases of child abuse; through kidnapping; because the child voluntarily left home (either as a runaway or, for children over 18, by leaving home legally); or because an adult child refuses to have contact with the parent and withdraws from all social and family contact (a symptom of various depression or anxiety disorders).

Many other losses predispose persons to these same experiences, although often not as severely. Loss reactions may occur after the loss of a romantic relationship (i.e. divorce or break up), a vocation, a pet (animal loss), a home, children leaving home (empty nest syndrome), a friend, a favored appointment or desire, a faith in one’s religion, etc. A person who strongly identifies with their occupation may feel a sense of grief if they have to stop their job due to retirement, injury, or loss of certification. While the reaction may not be as intense, experiences of loss may still show in these forms of bereavement. Those who have experienced a loss of trust will also experience some form of grief. For example, people that have been physically or sexually abused as a child may have issues around trust as an adult.

Possible Complications
    Grief and loss can affect your overall health. It can lead to depression or excessive alcohol or drug use. Grief that lasts for more than two months and is severe enough to interfere with daily life may be a sign of more serious illness, such as major depression. Medication may be helpful.

    Grief can not be prevented because it is a healthy response to loss. Instead, it should be respected. Those who are grieving should have support to help them through the process.


Homeopathic treatment

Homeopathic treatment is not "take this for that" but according to its own individual peculiarities both mental and its effects on the body. No two cases react to grief or any other exciting cause alike hence no two cases get the same remedy. Homeopathy is strictly individualized method of treatment, where as allopathy is generalized method of treatment.


Miasms preponderant, and the Prognosis during homeopathic treatment.

Homeopathy cannot of course fulfill the loss, but can provide relief and philosophical thinking to the grieving individual. Hence prognosis is good. In the case of prolonged grief the, condition of the patient becomes pathological, and affect the health badly and Psora may join hands with Syphilis, and may give rise to very serious conditions, e.g., suicide or murders etc. However the prognosis under homeopathic treatment is good.



Ignatia amara: "The sighing remedy". Remedy of silent grief. Sobbing: Utterly absorbed in grief. Unable to control emotions and excitement. Severe grief after sudden disappointments, romantic reversals, severe experience of loss; emotions are held inside, taciturn, does not want to cry; headaches from grief; weight upon the chest and deep-sighing respiration, asthma; heart palpitations from grief; spasms and cramping, prostration; moaning during sleep; dreams of waves breaking over self, as if drowning in sorrow.


Aurum metallicum: The greatest among the suicide remedies, and a remedy of the deepest depression. Melancholy: imagines he is unfitted for the world: Filled with intense delight when he thinks of death: Wants to get out of the world. Depression and compression throughout organism,  burdening grief after severe loss, after disappointments in love, or after humiliations; suicidal ideation, cannot release pain; darkening of consciousness, gloominess, after grief or head injury; serious mood; chest feels as if encased in armor; heart palpitations from grief; (deep-seated bone pains); moaning during sleep; insomnia. Morose; indisposed to talk, sulky. Sits apart in deepest melancholy. The slightes contradiction excites anger and he forgets himself.


Phosphoricum acidum: Emotional standstill after grief or disappointment in love; resignation and indifference; headaches with a heavy feeling on top of head; (grief leading to hair loss or premature grayness); ulcerative colitis; (diabetes); collapse states and weakness.


Causticum: Grieves over losses, often coupled with outcry against injustice received or witnessed; intensely sympathetic for others; asthma from intense or suppressed emotions; colitis; (indurations of tendons, slowly progressing paralysis).


Crocus sativus: Tendency to sadness, yet also great changeability of symptoms; laughing alternates with sadness or anger; deep-sighing respiration, heavy feeling around heart; heart palpitations; weakness with fainting fits; (feeling as if something alive in various internal organs, also in right breast).


Colchicum autumnale: Grieves from being mistreated by others; unsupportable suffering; appetite vanishes, odors of food nauseate, especially of eggs and fish; heart palpitations; difficulty of respiration, oppressed chest; intestinal catarrh, dysentery, much withheld abdominal gas; weariness (rheumatic and arthritic complaints).


Opium: Complaints from trauma or fright, consequences of head injury; darkening of consciousness, drowsy state, almost blissful; also nervousness and impatience; (flushed face); chronic bowel obstruction and inactivity from trauma, especially in small intestine; prostration and fatigue; insomnia. 


Natrum muriaticum: Locked-in emotions after grief, introversion and dwelling on adverse or grievous experiences; sensitive and vulnerable; bears grudges; headaches from grief; asthma, sighing; heart palpitations; gastric ulcers from not being able to work through grief, colitis; insomnia from recollection of hurtful events; head injury.
Natrum muriaticum: "I give the flight up: let there be an end, a privacy, and obscure nook for me I want to be forgotten even by God." — Robert Browning.


Ammonium muriaticum: Grief and apprehension; internalization of grief, wants to cry and is unable to; irritability; complaints may begin after head injury (loss of flesh and muscular power after head injury); hair loss; cancer of stomach; oppression of chest, asthma; disturbed sleep.


Digitalis purpurea: Despondency and melancholy; anxious sadness, disappointed love, sadness from music; heaviness and oppression in heart and chest region, asthma; heart seems to stop when moving, must hold still (congestive heart failure); heart palpitations after grief; prostration; (wakes from sleep with gasping and fear of suffocation).


Arnica montana: Shock and trauma in mind and body after injury, accident, overexertion, sudden grief, intense remorse, or sudden financial ruin; chronic effects of trauma or injury; head injury, with stupor and depressive sadness; nervous vulnerability and depletion from shock and grief; lack of stamina in mind and body; belabored breathing and sighing; sunken epigastrium, with feeling of powerlessness; (gastritis, dysentery); lack of vitality; bruised, sore, sensitive condition.


Ornithogalum umbellatum: Feeling  of dread in chest and stomach, depression; ulcerations and indurations, cancer of stomach and caecum, painful contractions of pylorus, flatulent distention that rolls as a ball from one side to another, loss of appetite and weight loss, coated tongue, vomiting of coffee-ground looking matter. Repertorial analysis


Ambr. Anac.. Arn. Ars.. AUR.. Bell. Bry.. Cann-xyz. CAUST. Cic. Cimic. Coloc. Croc. Dig. Dros. Ferr. Graph. Hell.. Iber. IGN. . kali-p. Lach.. Lyc.. Merc.. NAT-MNux-v. Op. Ph-ac.. PULS. RHUS-T.. Sep.. STAPH. Sulph. Tarent.

MIND - IRRITABILITY - alternating with - cheerfulness

aids. ant-t. ars. Aur. aur-ar. Borx. bov. carc. caust. chin. cocc. croc. cycl. kali-c. lyc. merc. merc-c. nat-c. nat-m. ozone plat. sanic. spig. spong. Stram. sul-i. tell. zinc.


Acet-ac. AMBR.. Apis Arn.. AUR.. Aur-m-n. Bell. Bry. Calc-p.. CAUST. Cocc.. Coloc.. Crat. Dros. Gels. Graph. Hura Hyos. IGN.. Kali-br.. kali-p. LACH.. NAT-M. Nux-v. Op. PH-AC. PHOS. Plat.. Puls.. Samb. Sep  Sol-o. STAPH.. Uran-n.. Zinc.

MIND - CHEERFUL - alternating with - grief

calc-s. graph. Op.

MIND - INSANITY - grief, from

ARS. BELL. Cocc. Plat.

GENERALS - CATALEPSY - grief; from

Ign. Ph-ac. puls. staph.

MIND - AILMENTS FROM - love; disappointed

AUR. Aur-m-n. Aur-s. Bell. Bufo Calc-p.. Caust. Cimic. Coff. Con. Hell.. HYOS. IGN.. kali-p. Lach. NAT-M. PH-AC.. PLAT. STAPH.

MIND - AILMENTS FROM - rejected; from being

Aur. Aur-s. carc. Caust. LYC. Nat-m. Pall.. Sil. Sulph.

MIND - AILMENTS FROM - death of loved ones - child; of a

caust. Gels. IGN. Kali-br.. NAT-M.

MIND - AILMENTS FROM - death of loved ones - children; in

ACON. ARS.. IGN. kali-br. kali-p. LACH. nat-m.. OP. PH-AC. Plat. STAPH.

MIND - AILMENTS FROM - death of loved ones - parents or friends; of
IGN.. staph.

MIND - AILMENTS FROM - death of loved ones - parents or friends; of - mother; of


MIND - GRIEF - money; from losing

aur. calc-f. mez. psor.

MIND - AILMENTS FROM - abused; after being — sexually

ACON.. ARN. CARC. IGN.. Med. Melis. NAT-M. nux-v. OP. Orig.. SEP. STAPH..

Nat brom (auth: George Loukas, Psychiatrist Homeopath)


Ign. nat-m. OP. Staph.

Note: The above abbreviations of the remedies are standard abbreviations according  to RADAR 10.


1. www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/encyclopedia_html. From Wikipedia the Free Encyclopedia

2. Irwin G. Sarason and Barbara R. Sarason, Abnormal Psychology, Eleventh addition, Published by Person Prentic Hall.

3. G.Morozov and Ramaskeno (translated by David A Myshne), Neuropathology and Psychiatry, Peace Publishers  Moscow

4. Cornelia Richardson-Boedler, Psychiatrist Homeopath, Applying Homeopathy and Bach Flower Remedy, Published by B Jain Publishers (P) Ltd., New Delhi.

5. M.L. Tyler, Pointers to the Common Remedies, Published by B. Jain (P) ltd, New Delhi.

6. RADAR 10.31

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