Whether you or a loved one is holding personal grief; family, community, or ancestral grief; or a whole planet of grief on your shoulders, these lotion bars are an offering for you. They offer silent, loving support inspired by the way that trees, plants, flowers, and the wisest of humans honor grief: silently, bolstering us with their simple presence and teaching us over-thinking humans a valuable lesson about how to show up for the grieving. The plants I chose for this Grief Support lotion bar have long histories of loving grieving humans and helping us do better at holding each other as we grieve. You can read more about my experience of the trees, flowers, and plants below, if you're interested.
Ingredients: Windfall Douglas fir branches gathered after winter storms here, ethically wild-gathered rose petals, buds, and early leaves (from well-loved Whidbey woods and fields), and grown-on-Whidbey (at Silly Dog Studios or gifted from trusted neighbors) rose petals, buds, and early leaves, early violet flowers and leaves, lemon balm, and yarrow infused into organic extra virgin olive oil, plus coconut oil, shea butter, beeswax, and just a couple of drops of rose absolute essential oil (rose essential oil in jojoba oil) per bar.
To use: 1. Hold the lotion bar between your palms to warm it. In winter or when your hands are unusually cold, this may take a few more seconds that normal. In summer or just out of the bath or shower, when your skin is unusually warm, you may not have to do step #1 at all. 2. Rub the bar into your skin like regular body lotion. For this bar in particular: Consider focusing on places where you notice that the grief you're holding has settled in your body, such as your chest (over your aching heart and above your lungs, where many traditions believe we hold grief), or your belly, or other places that have become tense from rigid holding or too-stillness in grief (for example, my neck, jaw, and shoulders are often sore from ignoring or holding back emotions instead of allowing them to move through me when they need to via talking and telling stories, singing, crying, wailing, yelling, walking, or dancing). And, sometimes we grieve so deeply and cry so hard that unexpected places ache, such as our temples, jawline, back, throat, or just below our throat. If thinking about where you're holding grief is too much for you now, just focus on the hardworking places that always need extra care (such as hands, feet, elbows, knees, neck) to begin. You could also do this for someone else who is grieving. Quietly rubbing lotion into their hands, neck, shoulders, or feet, for example. Something to do without having to say anything.
Your experience of these plants may be different than ours: that's the nature of relationships with the living. So don't skip the medical disclaimer below. That said, these plants are trusted friends here. If you're grieving, or can imagine having to grieve one day, I recommend trying to bring at least one of these plants into your life somehow, even if my lotion bar isn't your thing. Personally, I find that:
- Rose opens and softens my heart and connects me to ancestors and ancestor wisdom, which always calms my nerves. Also, helps me feel loved even when I'm not in the best state to notice, feel, or--when I'm really down--even to want love. Roses are also great hosts. I've been overwhelmed lately with the state of the world, plus a new building project here, on top of our normal caregiving and busy small business work and family life, a dog with bad allergies we can't figure out, a local beloved elder who tragically took his own life, and a global pandemic still happening. I've been a mess this month, and our home is a chaotic mess too (I strongly believe in allowing our home to reflect our states of mind so we can see them and not deny how we're feeling.). Then, a friend visited briefly to drop off bread she'd made. She stopped to smell one of our yellow roses outside--even asked her husband to come back into the yard to smell it as they were leaving. Roses the last gardener who lived here planted, and we've almost completely neglected. In that moment, I thought "Oh thank God. At least somebody here has it together enough to be a generous, welcoming host." That's rose. Beautiful. Powerful. Bad ass!
- Lemon balm. Just the touch of lemon balm steadies my agitated self. Seems to calm and relax me while uplifting my spirit. Many people drink lemon balm as tea because yum. I mostly like to run my hands through her and enjoy the lemon scent, and I use a little dried lemon balm in my herbal sleep pillows too. (Trust your body! I have an underactive thyroid and my body says that lemon balm wouldn't be the best tea for me.) She spreads herself well, and I find little lemon balm plants all over and in surprising, unexpected places (like cracks in the concrete, in full sun and deep shade, in planted pots completely full of other plants--how did she even get in there?). Some people hate this about her. I think it's her most endearing quality. She's not aggressive, not a bully, at least not here. No, on this land she's just silently a little here, a little there, and little everywhere.
- Violet. A great new friend for when I'm at my lowest-of-the-low. The tiny leaves and flowers of violet here grow so low to the ground that I didn't even notice several of the patches of them here until I fell down in grief and met them at eyes-near-the-ground level. A great friend for me when the shock and horror of losing another loved one (to death, terminal illness diagnosis, violence, suicide, fanaticism and lies for political gain, or Mom's slow multiple losses into Alzheimer's, for example) drops me to the earth, and I momentarily shut my eyes because I don't want this new reality to be true. I'm learning to reach for violet in moments it feels like I've just been handed more than I can handle in life. Violet soothes me. So small yet mighty enough to grow directly under our huge cedar tree where many large plants wouldn't dare to even try to live. I'm also new enough to violet that I want to share what someone else who cares about our emotional wellbeing said: "Violet, often referred to as 'heart ease,' assists the body in the movement of lymph fluid and helps to move stagnation or obstructions which are particularly helpful during the anger phase of grief. Violet, like rose, helps to soften the heart, allowing it to feel again." (Kelbi McCumber Morris, LUMENous Healing). These words resonate as true for me: likely because I've been in the anger phase of grief--and with others in the same place--so very, very often across the past decade.
Douglas fir. There are 10 Douglas Fir trees on the land here and all sit on our board of directors, helping us make better decisions. I talk to them daily, watch the birds in them daily, touch them several times a week, work with them almost every month of the year (gathering windfall branches, making infused oil, making self care offerings with their oil), and we also wander daily in nearby local forests full of Douglas Fir. So, we learn a lot from them directly. Other humans haven't taught me much about how Douglas Fir help us with grief. But the trees themselves do. Here's what I've seen and believe. Walking among them makes me feel better, no matter how low I am. Touching them feels comforting. They are a surprisingly soft, gentle tree to get to know. You can literally hug and even nuzzle their branches with your face. We occasionally eat their citrusy needles (usually we make fir salt or fir sugar) and drink a bit of fir tip tea in springtime. They also grow well in both full sun and shade. Part of grieving is learning to survive, and if we're fortunate, even eventually living well together in the shade of life. In the darkest parts of life, not just the sunny ones. They also have seem to have an expectorant (expelling mucus and snot from air passages) quality. Many cultures believe grief is held in the lungs. I believe that as we pay closer attention and scientists learn to embrace and understand both forests and emotional wellbeing, others will find that Douglas fir helps us move grief out of those lungs when it gets too stuck there. I have no proof that I am right. Good thing, then, that that's no longer my goal! ;-) At the very least, the Douglas fir oil in this bar will sooth your grief-sore muscles. We have many friends and neighbors who can attest to that one.
Yarrow. I'm going even more "woo woo" here, and if you're not interested in this now, just skip it. The lotion bar can be of use to you whether you hear the woo woo, agree with me, or not (this is actually why I moved from being an essayist to being an herbalist--because I'm interested in being of use to those who can't accept my words or don't agree with me). As you might know if you're a plant person, yarrow is often used in the gardening, natural family care, and herbalist worlds to stop bleeding (it's styptic) and for other very practical, physical, more easy-to-see purposes. That's not why it's in this bar. It's here because I myself have picked a yarrow leaf or flower and held it as protection when I was feeling overwhelmed by the world and lost in grief. I've carried a leaf in my pocket when mourning. And I've laid yarrow beside my keyboard as I was writing difficult-to-write-and-share things, too. Not understanding why, but just because my body--and maybe the plant itself or my herbalist grandmother from heaven--told me to, so I did it. I just allowed yarrow to be my emotional protector for a while so I could drop worry and rest for a moment. So imagine my surprise when I was reading an article by Kelbi McCumber Morris (of LUMENous Healing) about herbs for grief, and I read this: "Physiologically, we work with Yarrow for bleeding, and emotionally that can be true too - to prevent your own resources from bleeding out of you while you're supporting others. But the mythology behind Yarrow - though we haven't invented the microscope that can explain it yet - also plays a part: Yarrow is like 'emotional armor.' When you need to be strong in difficult situations, when you need to put on your armor and head out to the emotional battlefield, Yarrow has an amazing shielding quality." Fantastic! So it's not just me then! Thank you plants and emotionally wise plant people of the world! One nice part about using yarrow as emotional armor is that you are a little more conscious that you are, indeed, using emotional armor. This helps me me understand that sometimes what I need most is to drop the emotional armor to let a trusted other in.
These friends never fail to support me when I'm feeling grief. I hope you find similar support within them and this lotion bar.
Size: These lotion bars are hand poured into molds and are roughly (almost always) 2.3 ounces.
Packaging: These bars come in a gold, reusable metal push-top tin. The gold tin is meant to be a reminder to honor the grief within ourselves and others. When I have them available, they may also come wrapped in a vintage handkerchief. We inherited many vintage handkerchiefs from Daniel's generous aunts.
Notice for people who live in warmer climates: These bars were made for locals and formulated for the Pacific Northwest in the U.S. They begin to melt at body temperature. If you live in a place substantially warmer than here (where summer temps are usually around 70-75 degrees F), you may find them too melt-y for your taste. Also, if we ship them to you during warm months, watch for them and get them out of your warm mailbox or out of the box on your warm porch ASAP!
Medical disclaimer: Please don't use this bar if you are allergic to the ingredients, and always stop using a product if your body doesn't like it. If you have hypothyroidism (underactive or low thyroid disease) like I do, talk to your health professional about using a product with a little lemon balm infused oil (not essential oil!) in it. These plants are our trusted friends, and yet we all respond to plants differently: that is the nature of relationships with the living. To make well-informed decisions for yourself, seek the guidance of your qualified health professional, such as your medical doctor, nurse practitioner, naturopathic physician, and/or clinical herbalist with questions regarding your medical conditions, dosage information, and possible interactions with prescription drugs. This is especially important if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, taking prescription drugs, have a chronic disease or any chronic concern, and/or you have allergies.
The information on this page is for general reference for further exploration and study. It is not intended as a replacement for professional medical advice. I'm an herbalist who leans on ever-deepening relationships with local forests and plants and herbs and flowers and lichen, local wise women, ancestors (my own and others), other herbalists, and learning traditional folk ways from people who love to share them, every chance I get. I intentionally study forests and plants directly, plus community wellness and connectedness, resilience, self-organizing groups, playfulness and deep fun, and life as lived by regular folks who don't take themselves too seriously--because I believe these are what humanity (at least my part of humanity) needs to learn more about and become better at right now. I don't study illness or disease. I'm not a doctor or a scientist. I'm not a professional researcher in the allopathic (western) medicine sense. I've also never been pregnant or had children.