Mindfulness for Grief

“I have lived in the shadow of loss – the kind of loss that can paralyze you forever. 
I died—without leaving my body…
But I came back, and now it’s your turn.
I have learned to remember my past—without living in it. 
I am strong, electric, and alive, because I chose
to dance,
to laugh,
to love,
and to live again.
I have learned that you can’t re-create the life you once had—you have to
reinvent a life for yourself.
And that reinvention is a gift, not a curse.
Let’s live like our lives depend on it.” 
– Christina Rasmussen

 

“I choose to live again” – conquering grief is as simple and as hard as that.

As I sat in the hard-backed pew at the front of the church, the tiny casket before me, I became flooded with an indescribable psychological pain. It felt like a thunderstorm was raging within me. On one side, grief’s dark shadow clouded my past, tinging every memory with its pain and its sadness. In an instant, I was transported back to the terrors of the hospital, to the moments where I had to say goodbye to my sons and where I so nearly died. On the other side, grief’s shadow cast an impenetrable darkness over all of the hopes and dreams that I had held for the future, leaving nothing but a dark and hopeless void stretching out before me. As these pains from the past and these fears for the future collided and raged within me, I was overwhelmed by the power of these emotions. Flooded, I began shaking uncontrollably.

My husband, Patrick, then gripped my hand and reminded me of a trick that my therapist had recommended for this very moment. “What are five sensations that you are feeling right now?” he whispered quietly in my ear. “Count them.” 

Slowly, I noticed the hard, wood back of the pew. One. The feel of my feet on the ground. Two. Patrick’s comforting hand on my shaking knee. Three. The feel of the beads on the rosary interlaced between my fingers. Four. The soothing voice of the pastor giving the homily. Five.

The shaking stopped, and with each deep, cleansing breath, I started to feel a little relief.

Often grief is like this – a raging thunderstorm of powerful and overwhelming emotions storming within you. The cure is presence. It is mindfulness. It is anchoring yourself firmly and squarely in the present moment. It is the awareness that each moment that you breathe is a gift.

As Eckhart Tolle once said,

“Unease, anxiety, tension, stress, worry — all forms of fear — are cause by too much future, and not enough presence. Guilt, regret, resentment, grievances, sadness, bitterness, and all forms of nonforgiveness are caused by too much past, and not enough presence.” 

There are many mindfulness techniques out there to help you in moments like these when you need help grounding your mind and your body. Usually, these techniques ask you to notice the sensations in your body or to become acutely aware of your surroundings. By refocusing the mind on the present moment, you are able to remind your anxious psyche that you are safe. By taking deep breaths and calming your spirit, you are able to soothe the storm raging within you and stop the flood of overwhelming emotions.

With each cleansing breath, you choose to live again.

Here are a few mindfulness techniques that I have found particularly helpful when facing the overwhelming emotions of grief…



SENSATIONS WITHIN

Notice five sensations in your body right now.

Count them on your fingers.

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THE RAINBOW CONNECTION

Gaze around the room…

Can you spot one of every color of the rainbow?

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THE THREE R’S

Rest your awareness on your breath.

Recognize when and where it wanders.

Return your awareness to your breath.

Repeat.

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H.A.L.T.

Right now are you feeling…

Hungry

Angry

Lonely or

Tired?

If you are experiencing any of these distracting sensations, stop and answer your body’s need for nourishment. Hunger, anger, loneliness, and exhaustion can all exacerbate the painful feelings of grief.

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NAGGING FEELING

Notice a feeling, thought, or sensation…

Allow it to be there for a moment…

Let it Go…

Thought Bubble



 

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