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Bereavement

Is there any treatment for Bereavement?

Question

A close friend's husband lost his life recently, at a young age. She is finding it very hard to cope and I wondered if you had any suggestions.

Answer

Bereavement is characterised by sadness, tearfulness, insomnia, a sinking feeling and loss of appetite. Sometimes there is also shock, which is a state of daze, accompanied by physical and nervous breakdown. Most emotional problems can be dealt with using physical and/or psychological therapy.

The physical approach includes drugs, exercise, yoga (which helps breath control) and martial arts (which help to throw the energy outwards). Psychological therapies include counselling, psychotherapy, hypnosis and neuro-linguistic programming (a self-help psychological therapy that uses words to dampen down emotions). Meditation, autogenics, chanting and talking with friends and family are also beneficial.

If people are in shock, only psychotropic drugs will have an immediate effect - these must, be prescribed by a doctor. Natural preparations, which have a milder effect include herbal valeriana ( 10 to 15 drops in ¼ cap of water twice daily for up to ten days; you, will need to see a qualified herbalist for guidance) and homoeopathic ignatia, 30 potency (2 tablets three times daily for three to seven days). If you don't sleep well, try the Ayurvedic preparation Brento (1 tablet at night for a month).

The acute phase immediately after the bereavement is usually stage-managed well. Everyone is there for the funeral: they cry, talk and pray together. The chronic phase which follows is often when feelings truly sink in. The bereaved can feel so sad, depressed and inert that they are unable to help themselves. Physicians can do little at this time, but the support of family and friends is vital, until the person's mood begins to lift and the healing process can take over.

Going away to a beautiful, remote place can help enormously. I have taken several people in deep bereavement on my Himalayan health holidays. They walk at high altitudes (which make their bodies work efficiently), do yoga, I sleep well and stay with people who live simply. They return to their lives with new hope and are able to cope better.

Wake-Up Food

Ideally breakfast should be substantial and dinner light in religious practice, you break your fast with fruits (not citrus fruits, because they are too acidic), then add a combination of proteins and complex carbohydrates.

I strongly recommend eating porridge or muesli. (Some of the proprietary cereals such as bran flakes cause a lot of gas due to their high fiber.) Dried nuts are difficult to digest so it's preferable to soak them for 12 to 24 hours before eating. Ideally, eat about five to eight peeled almonds, soaked for 24 hours at room temperature (not in the fridge) at the beginning of breakfast. Leaving the almonds for that time allows them to germinate so that the oil in the endosperm of the nut is converted into easily digested vegetable protein.

Live yoghurt, cottage cheese and poached or boiled eggs are also good sources of protein. It's better to avoid fried foods: they are heavy to digest and so extra energy has to be diverted to the stomach when you really want to be up and going, with plenty of blood flowing to your brain. Also avoid yeasty products, such as croissants or toast or baps; go for bread or crisp bread made with rye.

Catch the Drift
The shavasana yoga pose will help you achieve deep relaxation before sleep.

  • Lying on your bed with your arms by your sides, close your eyes and relax.
  • Gently move your joints shoulders, elbows, wrists, fingers, knees, ankles and toes - to loosen them.
  • Take a deep breath in through four nose, counting slowly to three let your abdomen swell. Pause for a count of three. Now breathe out very gently through your mouth to a count of six, letting your abdomen deflate. Practise this for two nights.
  • When this is smooth, try concentration. Focus on the spot between your eyebrows. Imagine you are looking at the rising or sinking sun. Feel the warmth on your forehead; let it peruade your skull. Imagine your brain relaxing, thoughts and stresses evaporating.
  • Your eyebrows relax and feel warm, then your eyelids, facial muscles and jaw.
  • The warmth spreads through your body, down from the back of your head to your neck, down your spine, seat, thighs, calves, ankles and feet.
  • Bring your focus back to your neck muscles. Now let the warmth spread to your shoulders, arms, elbows, fore arms, wrists, fingertips.
  • Repeat the whole process several times until your entire body feels calm and relaxed.
  • Now imagine your heart is slowing down. Sense your blood pressure dropping.
  • Let yourself go into a state of trance. Just be. You should drift into deep slumber.
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