Losing a canine friend is never easy. Whether the dog was a child’s pet, a working dog, a training partner, or simply (and wonderfully) your best friend, the loss is often felt keenly by not only the human members of the family, but by any other animals at home, as well.
This article is a guide to choosing flower essences to help deal with grief over the loss of a family member. I address essences for both people and dogs here, since the passing of a beloved dog can be deeply affecting to both the people and pets left behind.
While nothing can eliminate the natural and ultimately healthy grieving process, Bach flower remedies can ease the severity of pain and shock involved, and lessen the sadness, grief, and mood fluctuations that can accompany loss and trauma.
When selecting Bach flower essences, only choose as many essences as seem pertinent at the time. A good rule of thumb is to limit the number of essences in one formula to no more than six at a time.
Avoid the temptation to pick every essence that seems remotely applicable; a more narrowly focused formula is more likely to be helpful, and you will have a better idea which essences are actually helping.
Primary Bach flower essences for dogs and people during times of grief and loss:
Rescue Remedy – Dr Bach’s original formula for severe trauma and stress. Rescue Remedy is a combination of 6 essences that restore clarity and calm, and reduce panic and shock. Rescue is a good choice for survivors whenever death has occurred suddenly and unexpectedly, as well as when the individual has passed after a long, physically and/or emotionally arduous period.
Water Violet – the Bach flower essence specifically indicated for the processing of grief. Water Violet is called for when the dog or person withdraws from company, seeking solace in isolation. While it is natural for many to seek solitude, and even avoid dealing with feelings, for a period of time when ill or traumatized, if this continues overlong it can result in unhealthy emotional “blockages”.
Water Violet helps bring feelings to the forefront so that the individual can process his emotions. In dogs and people, Water Violet helps restore the individual’s normal level of desire to interact with others. In people, Water Violet typically will bring on a short-term release of tears as grief is released and processed.
Honeysuckle – the flower remedy for those who pine away for lost loved ones, living overmuch in the memory of what was. Honeysuckle helps regain normal, healthy remembrance while allowing one to move on and face the present hopefully.
Gorse – the remedy of choice when the dog or person seems to have lost hope. In dogs and people, this can be indicated by downcast eyes, sagging body language, and general lack of vitality. Gorse is often called for after a long ordeal, or repeated setbacks (see also Gentian).
Gentian – the flower essence for setbacks. Some individuals (dogs and people) are prone to taking difficult life events to heart, and losing faith that life is overall good. Even strong, resilient individuals can suffer doubt and disheartening after a series of challenging events. Gentian restores resilience. It is often combined with Gorse to good effect.
Olive – the Bach remedy for exhaustion. Consider Olive when death has been followed by long illness and/or emotional struggle within the household. Olive restores emotional energy, and in doing so, improves the ability to regain physical energy and stamina.
Hornbeam – an excellent choice when grief drains one’s enthusiasm about life. Hornbeam is called for to counteract the “Monday morning feeling” of simply not having the energy, interest, or enthusiasm to start the day. Hornbeam restores enthusiasm for life.
Star of Bethlehem – the remedy specifically for shock, pain, and numbness brought on by trauma. Star comforts and soothes after traumatic events, and is a good alternative to Rescue Remedy when there is pain and emotional suffering without panic.
Elm – for overwhelm. Indicated when this loss has added yet another strain, and the dog or person appears hard pressed to handle one more thing. Elm restores stamina.
Supportive flower essences for dogs and people facing grief:
Mimulus – the remedy for fears. A not uncommon response to loss is fear, in both dogs and people. In people, we may fear facing life without our devoted companion, or may fear the loss of further pets or family members. In dogs, change in family structure and loss of beloved friends and companions can trigger a general lack of security, leading to increased fear. Mimulus increases courage in the face of uncertainty.
Aspen – the essence for anxiety. Animals may respond to the sudden, unexplained disappearance of canine or human family members with a general feeling of anxiety and foreboding. Aspen reduces apprehension.
Clematis – the remedy for the drifting, daydream-y, in your own world response that can be an avoidance of painful reality. Clematis restores mental clarity and presence of mind.
Bach flower essences for people in grief:
Willow – remedies resentment. This flower essence is more likely to be needed by the humans, rather than their canine counterparts, in this situation. Wanting to place blame on someone, anything, for bringing about the passing of a beloved companion is a very human, and perfectly normal, emotion. Willow helps restore perspective and equable temper.
Pine – for self-reproach, guilt feelings. Guilt is an emotion likely to be experienced more often by humans than canines. Death has a way of bringing out the worst doubts – about what we might have done differently, what we should have done better, and what we could have done if only we’d had the time (or known how short it was). Pine restores a sense of forgiveness of self.
Beech – improves tolerance. Irritability, reduced tolerance, and general grumpiness are all common by-products of any kind of stress, and death of a family companion is, without doubt, very stressful. Beech reduces irritability, and improves tolerance, even during stressful times.
Wild Rose – remedies apathy and resignation. Any severe trauma, or long-term illness or debilitation, has the ability to drain away the “joie de vivre” from those who have steadfastly stood watch over the ill. Wild Rose is an often overlooked flower essence that restores joy, spontaneity, and lightness of being.
If you have lost a friend, either in the past or recently, my sympathies. I hope this article proves helpful and restorative to you and those you care about.
Julie Cantrell BSc is a professional dog trainer and canine behavior consultant who’s logged many thousands of hours training dogs and teaching owners since 1990. Flower essences have been part of her work with canine behavior since 1994. (bio)