A gentle offering for those holding deep personal grief, community grief, or a whole planet of grief on their shoulders. They offer silent, loving support inspired by the way that trees, plants, flowers, and the wisest of humans honor grief--bolstering us with their simple, wordless presence. The plants gathered here on Whidbey for use in this lotion bar are all wild, abundant, loving, and strong. These plants have long histories of gently loving grieving people and helping us do better at holding ourselves and each other as we grieve.
Ingredients: Whidbey windfall Douglas fir branches gathered after winter storms here, ethically wild-gathered rose petals, buds, and early leaves, wild violet flowers and leaves, self-seeded lemon balm leaves and upper stems, and both wild and garden yarrow infused into organic olive oil, organic coconut oil, shea butter, local beeswax, and 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. 2. As it melts, rub the bar into your skin like regular body lotion. Tips for this bar in particular: Focus 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 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, then 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 deeply grieving--quietly rubbing lotion into their hands, neck, shoulders, or feet, for example. Something to do for them--without having to say anything at all.
Your experience of these plants may be different than ours: that's the nature of relationships with the living. If you're grieving, I recommend trying to bring at least one of these plants into your life somehow (plant one? find one on a walk? tea?), even if a 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. Helps me feel loved even when I'm not in the best state to notice, feel, or--when I'm really low--even to want love. Steadies me in the present. Roses are also welcoming hosts to friends when you don't have the energy to be. Once when I was swamped by grief, a friend visited briefly to drop off bread she'd made. I was too down to invite her in. I watched as she stopped to smell one of the yellow roses outside and then 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 for years. In that moment, I thought "Oh thank God. At least somebody here has it together enough to be a generous, welcoming host."
- 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. I mostly like to run my hands through her and enjoy the scent, and I use dried lemon balm in herbal sleep pillows. (Trust your body! I have an underactive thyroid and my body says that lemon balm often isn’t the best tea for me.) She spreads herself graciously and well, and I find little lemon balm plants all over and in surprising, unexpected, even ugly, places (like cracks in the concrete, in full sun and deep shade, in planted pots already completely full of other plants). 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. On this land she's just quietly a little here, a little there, and little everywhere. Like a favorite auntie.
- Violet. A friend for when I'm at my lowest-of-the-low. The tiny leaves and flowers of wild 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 a loved one (to death, terminal illness diagnosis, violence, suicide, grief, fanaticism and lies for political gain, or Mom's slow multiple yearly losses into Alzheimer's, for example) drops me to the earth, and I momentarily shut my eyes like a child because I don't want this new reality to be true. I reach for violet when it feels like I've just been handed more than I can handle in life. Violet soothes me. Small yet mighty enough to grow directly under our huge cedar tree where most large plants wouldn't dare to even try to live. "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).
- Douglas fir. Steady, solid, silly friends. I talk to the fir trees here daily, watch the birds and squirrels live with them daily, touch them often, work with them every month of the year, and we also wander daily in nearby local forests full of Douglas fir. Other humans haven't taught me much about how Douglas fir help us with grief—the trees themselves do. Walking among them makes me feel better, period. Touching them is comforting. They are a soft, gentle tree to get to know. You can literally nuzzle your face against their branches. They seem to grow well alone and together, in full sun or shade, and in physically and emotionally decimated areas, such as clear cut forests. Part of grieving is a returning to the decision to survive, and if we're fortunate, even eventually living well together in the rubble and shade of life. They also have seem to have an expectorant (expelling mucus and snot from air passages) quality and the infused oil feels supportive of crying. Many cultures believe grief is held in the lungs. I believe that as we pay closer attention and scientists learn to embrace and understand forests and emotional wellbeing and other cultures' wisdoms, 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 except my own life. Good thing, then, that being right is no longer my goal! ;-) At the very least, the Douglas fir oil in this bar can sooth grief-sore muscles. We have many friends and neighbors who can attest to that one.
- Yarrow. Yarrow is often used to stop bleeding (it's styptic) and for other visible purposes. That's not why it's in this bar. It's here because I myself have picked a yarrow leaf and flower and held it as emotional protection when I was feeling overwhelmed by the world or lost in grief. I've laid yarrow beside my keyboard as I was writing difficult-to-write-and-share things, too. Not understanding why back then, but just because my body--and maybe the plant itself or my herbalist grandmother from beyond the veil--told me to, so I did it. I 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." One nice part about using yarrow as emotional armor is that you are more conscious that you are, indeed, using emotional armor. This helps me understand that in some moments what I need most is to drop the emotional armor to let a trusted other in.
Size: Always somewhere between 2 and 2.3 ounces (these are hand poured into molds).
Packaging: These bars come in a gold, reusable metal pull-top tin. Gold to remind us to honor grief within ourselves and others. They may also come wrapped in a vintage handkerchief. We inherited many vintage handkerchiefs from Daniel's generous aunts. Visit the Packaging page of this website for more details.
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: 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. 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. Visit the Medical Disclaimer page of this website for more details.