Each of us will experience grief differently, it may take the form of anger, sadness, resentment, emptiness, loneliness, and other emotions at different times throughout the grief journey. The emotions felt can be powerful and overwhelming, and finding a way to work through them, ride the rollercoaster, and reach acceptance is extremely important. In some parts of the world mindfulness and meditation are part of everyday life, here in the UK our lives are often hectic, and it is not common practice for many people. However, learning how to be mindful and spending time meditating can be hugely beneficial for the grief process and other aspects of life.
What is Mindfulness Meditation?
Mindfulness and meditation are terms that are often used interchangeably; however, they are in fact different practices that are often combined to become mindfulness meditation. Alone mindfulness is the practice of being in the moment without judgement, acknowledging feelings but not worrying about or trying to fix them. Whereas meditation often starts with deep breathing to activate the Vagus nerve and can be used to focus on awareness and to help people to calm down and balance their emotions.
Mindfulness meditation combines these two practices. Essentially it is deep breathing combined with focusing on and acknowledging the whirlwind of thoughts and emotions that are passing through the mind without judgement, simply letting them go.
How to Mindfully Meditate
Meditation is often a focused practice, you take time out to meditate, whereas being mindful is a tool that can be used almost anywhere to help control and manage emotions. If you are not used to being mindful or meditation it is worth practicing as a combined technique, this will help you to learn the skill of mindfulness that you will then be able to use in any situation as required.
Try this routine to get started with mindful meditation:
- Find a quiet spot where you can sit comfortably and won’t be interrupted. You can sit on the floor cross legged, but a chair, lying on the floor or a bed all work well.
- Take in some deep breaths, focus on the inward and outward breath, breathe deeply allowing the chest and abdomen to expand on the inhale and release on the exhale. Focus your thoughts on your breathing.
- You will find that thoughts and emotions start to creep in. When you realise that your mind has wandered, acknowledge the thought or emotion, and consciously return your thoughts to your breathing.
- Practice for 5-10 minutes several times per day.
To begin with you will find that you are frequently distracted from your breath and that thoughts intrude and overtake your mind very quicky, this is completely normal, and you are doing it right. Don’t get cross at yourself, simply acknowledge, and return the focus to your breathing. Over time, with practice, you will find that it is easier to quickly acknowledge that a thought or emotion is there and let it go without distraction.
How Can Mindful Meditation Help with Grief?
Ultimately the grief journey is about learning to live without the person that has died. Mindful meditation can help with this by helping you to manage the feelings and emotions associated with your grief. Taking time to meditate and/or be mindful will not take away those feelings, and they will not stop you missing your loved one, but by being able to acknowledge the feeling without distress or hours of dissecting your thoughts in your mind you create space to move forward. We discussed moving forward following grief in more detail here.
When a surge of powerful emotions takes hold, knowing how to breathe deeply, focus on the breath, acknowledge the emotion, and let it go, can help provide a sense of peace. Oftentimes, our emotions overwhelm us because we don’t know how to deal with them, we believe they need to be fixed or changed. Whereas we cannot change that our loved one died, we will feel sadness, anger, loneliness, and all other emotions. Learning to accept that that feeling is there, and not letting it overwhelm us is the key to successfully navigating grief and forging a new life for ourselves.
Other Support is Available
Meditation and mindfulness are great tools to learn for everyone, for not only coping with grief but also life’s many other stresses and strains. There are many apps available for guided meditation sessions, and this online trial session, that you may be interested in before committing to an app purchase.
If you are feeling depressed and struggling to cope, there are other alternatives for support. Don’t struggle alone, reach out and seek help. Some contacts include Steve who can refer you to local bereavement support such as Jo Goodwin-Worton at Seeds In Time who Steve works closely with, there are also charities, and your GP will be able to refer you for bereavement counselling.