Mindfulness has become a hot topic in recent years even though it’s been practiced for centuries. It’s a tool that can be used to address a variety of challenges that people face, such as anxiety, depression, chronic pain and grief. It is natural for humans to try to avoid pain and suffering. But avoiding the reality and pain of loss is not beneficial for grieving individuals in the long-term.
Mindfulness practice is not meant to minimize that pain or to convince people that everything is OK. But it is rather to help you recognize the reality of your circumstances, and to do so in a nonjudgmental and self-compassionate way. Mindfulness can become a way of being, but it doesn’t happen overnight and has to be practiced.
Grief – Mindfulness – Walk Mindfully
This is a great activity because it also includes physical activity, which can be beneficial for mood and mental health. It is especially helpful for those whose grief has them feeling depressed or who tend to isolate themselves. A nature walk can also provide an opportunity to reflect on the natural cycle of life and death and to experience the beauty in everything around us. If possible, start this exercise outside and spend one to two minutes standing in place before you start walking.
- Close your eyes and pay close attention to the sounds, smells, feeling of your feet on the ground, the wind on your face.
- Open your eyes and take in the sights, paying attention to the colors, shapes and textures.
- When you’re ready, begin walking slowly, continuing to focus your attention on the feel of your feet hitting the ground.
As you walk, shift your attention from one sense to another. You can spend two blocks focusing on smells, the next block focusing on sounds and so on. With practice, you won’t need to have set times or distances for each sense, but you will naturally alternate between awareness of your different senses.
Grief – Mindfulness – Acknowledge and accept your feelings
While it might not be easy, accepting how you feel is one of the most important steps to healing and the most essential in the process of mindful grieving. By allowing yourself to feel what you feel without judgment, you stop resisting your emotions. That means you can stop fighting what you feel. You also start to understand that grief is not a linear path with nice boxes to tick off. Rather, it’s a cycle. It may come in waves, ebbing and flowing without explanation.
By understanding that, you can start to see that grief comes and goes. It becomes much easier to handle your feelings knowing that, eventually, they will pass.
Remind Yourself of the Happy Memories
It’s important to take as much time as you need to grieve. And it pays to acknowledge the sadness and the myriad of feelings that can come with that. But when you’re ready and feel able, it pays to be able to focus on the good memories. This may seem like an obvious suggestion, but it can often be forgotten when you’re in the thick of grief. You can also make a memory book of the person. This is an amazing resource to keep forever, as you can constantly look back on it throughout your life. You can add photos to go with it, and it will act as a physical memory box.
Death and loss always feel very permanent, and of course, it is. But our loved ones never entirely leave us because their memories live on. Creating a memory book can be a good way to remind yourself of all the happy memories of that person and how they touched others’ lives. You can also get a piece of paper and list out all the happy memories and moments you shared. After that, keep it somewhere safe, and then you can refer back to it in the dark moments.
Take Everything As Slowly As You Can
Grief does a funny thing to our perception of time. In the thick of it, it can slow each minute and hour down. But as time passes, before we know it, it’s been a year since that person has gone. Life always moves on. But you don’t have to move with the constant pressures of it if you don’t want to. We live in a fast-paced, constantly busy world, which is hard to deal with at the best of times, let alone when you have lost a loved one.
Take time off social media, take less strain off your daily routine, and do activities solely for you. In moments of pain, it can be the small things that really matter and can act as a form of distraction. This may be something like developing a morning coffee ritual or going for a walk before the rest of the world is awake. If we start to romanticise every part of our lives, eventually we can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Grief makes us even more aware of the passing of time, especially when a person’s life has been cut short. So, it’s important to develop rituals, habits, and activities in your life that you love.
Practice Grieving Meditation
Whenever you find yourself feeling overwhelmed with grief for the loss of a loved one, take a few minutes to sit in stillness and practice grieving meditation. Find a comfortable place to sit upright where you won’t be disturbed for 15 to 20 minutes. Begin to breathe slowly and deeply, and place your attention on how you are feeling—both emotionally and physically. Try not to analyze what you are feeling and rather, just be in the experience. Acknowledge your emotions in a gentle and loving way.
Imagine the face of the person you are grieving. You may think of it as a manifestation of their spirit or just see it as a memory in your mind. Now, consider anything that needs to be said and begin to have a conversation with them. Visualize this happening in your mind, now. Spend a few minutes saying whatever it is that you need to say from your heart. Then hear them saying whatever they need to say to you from their heart.
Focus on the conversation taking place in a loving and compassionate way, a giving and receiving of open, loving communication with this person. Next, focus on any one of the most positive memories you can bring to mind with this person and immerse yourself in this memory. Relive the happy, fun times and the deep connections that you shared, knowing that what allows grief to release is positive, happy moments. When you are finished, take a few slow, deep breaths.
Sit quietly for a few minutes and bring your meditation to an end. Do this meditation as often as you need to and know that you can always return to this space whenever you want to feel at peace.
Some people prefer a pen and paper or computer to practice mindfulness. Similar to meditation, journaling allows you to acknowledge your feelings and thoughts in the moment. Writing down your feelings helps you take a step back from your feelings and your thoughts. Rather than having them rain on you, it brings intentionality to your feelings. Journaling also has the added benefit of preserving your thoughts for deeper reflection at a later time.
Create healthy boundaries
When you’re grieving, well-meaning friends and acquaintances may want to step in to help. While their hearts may be in the right place, it might not be what you need. For instance, some people may try to lessen the blow by saying things, like: “They’re in a better place now”, “They wouldn’t want you to be sad” or “You have so much going for you in life.” This can feel like they’re trying to erase your pain and loss.
Others may repeatedly check in with phone calls or visits to your home. While this may be helpful for some, others may need space and time alone. You can communicate your needs and set healthy boundaries. The way you do so, may depend on your relationship with the person you’re setting boundaries with. When it comes to an acquaintance, you can say something simple and to-the-point, like: “I appreciate the sentiment. That’s not something that’s helpful for me right now, but I hope you have a nice day.” With friends or family, you might say: “I know how hard it is to see me in pain and that you’re trying to help. Can we talk about what’s helpful for me and what isn’t?” It can be difficult to ask for what you need, but a simple request can go a long way toward helping you feel supported and understood in your grief.
Grief – Mindfulness – Loving Kindness
This is a type of mindfulness meditation that involves self-talk. Loving kindness is especially helpful for people who struggle to find acceptance or are being self-critical of their progress through grief. This exercise can also be done to show loving kindness toward the person who died. The premise is to create a type of mantra to recite to yourself silently, or out loud, that helps you move toward accepting these words as true. You can create your own mantra specific to a certain issue you are struggling with. For example, you can say things like: “May I be happy, may I be peaceful, may I be free from suffering, may I be forgiving, may I trust the process or may I have the courage to move forward”.