How Meditation Helps With Grieving
An encounter with grief is much like being alone on a ship lost at sea. The shock and stress of the situation become all-encompassing, leaving little room for any other thought. Just as the waves of the sea rise and fall, so do the emotions associated with grief. Finding a safe haven or relief from the ordeal may seem hopeless. After all, you’re in unchartered waters. There’s no blueprint for processing your unique grief. Navigating your way through the grief process is challenging. There is no quick “fix” or a way to dissolve it completely. Even though grief remains with us for the rest of our days, we can learn to cope with it in a healthy way. When grief feels unmanageable and peace elusive, meditation can call you back home to safety.
How Does Meditation Help with Grief?
One of the biggest challenges in managing grief is quieting the mind. Grief has a way of hijacking all of our energy and funneling it toward the anguish of our loss. As stress levels rise and emotions seem to make us feel out of control, the brain is in “fight or flight” mode—a physiological reaction that keeps you in a state of heightened alert. Meditation compassionately redirects the mind’s attention to a more manageable state. Like physical exercise, the more you meditate, the more you strengthen your mind to return to a peaceful state more easily.
Meditation is about self-care. With grief, our minds are typically fixated on the past or the future. Rehashing the past and our losses can bring about a lot of stress and sadness. When we jump ahead to the future, we can be filled with anxiety as we try to plan for the unknown.
Practicing meditation brings our minds back to the present moment, where we can find peace. Here are some wonderful benefits of meditation:
May Reduce Stress and Anxiety
When you take time out for self-care, you immediately put yourself on track for a better day. Even if you meditate for just five minutes, it can help you center yourself and put your mind back in the present moment. When you’re in the present, you aren’t thinking about the stress associated with the past or the anxiety that goes along with “future tripping.”
May Relieve Physical Tension
Meditation can put our minds and bodies in a relaxed state, which means physical symptoms of grief may dissipate. Whether you have headaches, muscle tension, or a “knotted-up” stomach, meditation can calm your nervous system and help you surrender tension.
Connect with Your Inner Wisdom
Wisdom is an innate quality everyone possesses. When we meditate, we remove all the “noise” in our minds and find clarity. Whether we’re unclear on how to move forward in a particular area of our life or are troubled by “messy” feelings associated with grief, meditation can reconnect us to our inner wisdom.
Develop Coping Tools
When we get into a regular rhythm of meditating, we fortify our minds for the challenges in our lives. Bad days don’t have to be bad for long. Meditation can help us find greater resilience in the face of grief.
Kinds of Meditation for Grieving
The grief process can be challenging and complex. Depending on what you’re experiencing, there are several meditations to choose from for support and self-care.
Focus and Concentration Meditation
If you feel overwhelmed or scatterbrained, this meditation can be very useful. As the mind wanders, simply count your breath or repeat a mantra. By counting your breath, you tell your brain that letting the “fight or flight” defense down is okay. You can also repeat a mantra of your choice, such as “I have the power to focus” or “I can be kind to myself when I lose focus.”
This simple meditation can bring awareness back to the present and give your mind a break from the stress of the past or the anxiety of the future. With mindfulness meditation, you try to focus on your breath—inhaling and exhaling while you notice where your thoughts start to go. It’s okay that your mind wanders. It’s all about being aware of your thoughts and surrendering judgment.
Self-compassion meditation focuses on extending forgiveness, love, and empowering thoughts to yourself. While grief can be difficult, we can often criticize ourselves harshly. No matter what negative message your mind is repeating, self-compassion meditation has the power to help you reverse course. In this meditation, you repeat positive mantras such as one of the following:
- I am enough
- I am worthy of love
- I deserve happiness
The grief process can be a very confusing time for the bereaved. Dealing with the loss of a loved one can bring up several critical questions. Finding clarity on how to heal or proceed with life differs for each person. Contemplative meditation observes a specific question or idea. For example, a question like “How can I find peace after my loss?” is held in the mind. By focusing on a pressing thought, the bereaved can tap into their inner wisdom and possibly receive clarity and comfort. This meditation can be done anytime and anywhere by holding the thought in your mind and keeping awareness.
Other Benefits of Meditation
The grief process can cause a number of sleep issues. When we’re alone with our thoughts at night, the mind can spin out of control. When you meditate before bedtime, you can calm your mind, allowing you to fall asleep much easier and get good, quality sleep.
With so many overwhelming emotions erupting inside of a grief-stricken person, it can cause them to be irritable if they can’t find a suitable solution to manage them. Meditation can invite peace into the bereaved’s day, reducing irritability and giving them a better chance at having a good day.
A small inconvenience for one person may be interpreted as a disaster in the eyes of the bereaved. Stress levels can be high, and nerves can be raw. While spilling a glass of water isn’t the end of the world, it may be the “straw that breaks the camel’s back” for those who are grief-stricken. Understandably, there’s just so much for their nervous system to handle. Meditation can help the bereaved feel better equipped to take on challenges and setbacks with greater ease.
When encountering grief, it’s very important for the bereaved to make time for self-care. Looking after mental health and well-being through meditation is an excellent way to cope with grief. No matter which form of meditation you utilize, they can all offer tremendous support. When we can calm our minds and stay in the present moment, hope can return, and life can become beautiful once again.
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