Mindfulness for Grief
Mindfulness is not only a tool for enhancing overall well-being, but also a coping mechanism for moving through difficult emotions like grief. It’s not always easy to feel painful emotions – let alone talk about them – but they are an important part of being human.
Grief can be understood as an intense and devastating sadness. Grief occurs after a loss of any kind, such as the loss of a job, the end of a relationship, the loss of a house, the death of a pet, the end of a lifestyle, or the death of a loved one. Grief typically results in a prolonged period of sadness, loneliness, and mourning that can last anywhere from months to years.
Grief can cause changes in brain chemicals like dopamine and serotonin, which manage brain function and mood. In this vein, common mental effects of grief include difficulty concentrating, irritability, sadness, numbness, anger, anxiety, and disorientation. These mental side effects can be compounded by physical symptoms such as exhaustion, headaches, high blood pressure, disruptions in sleep and eating habits, and getting sick often.
In the face of these intense emotions and challenging side effects, mindfulness offers an opportunity for self-care and rebalancing of the brain and body. As mindful movement teacher Nikki Myers says, “You have to feel it to heal it.” Mindfulness invites you to stop fighting your emotions, change your perspective, and start healing. Research shows that mindfulness training for bereavement can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression and shorten the duration of the initial stages of grief.
These mindfulness-based steps for moving through grief are based on Vietnamese Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh’s The Art of Suffering and inspired by Peace Through Grief. These steps may also help with other difficult emotions such as fear, anger, worry or jealousy. Please realize that these steps are not a quick fix but rather an invitation to connect more deeply with our emotions so that we may emerge on a path of peace.
1) Say Hello to Your Grief
Be the observer of your grief and pain. Say, “Hello, Grief. I see you. I know your name. I am here for you.”
2) Offer Care to Your Grief
Next, take care of your grief. Acknowledge what or who you are grieving. Say, “I see clearly the object of my grief. I hold space in my heart for it.”
3) Look Deeply
Look even deeper than the tragic moment of loss and consider the whole path – the fullness of your relationship with the person, thing, or experience that you lost. Say, “I see where you’ve come from Grief, the path that brought us together.” Appreciate the interconnectedness and complexity of life.
4) Share Healing Intention
Affirm your desire to heal. Say (and repeat), “I’m ready to find healing, joy, and peace again. With concentration I will focus on this healing and liberate my grief.
5) Let Go
Move toward acceptance and release. Say, “I contemplate the nature of impermanence, that nothing remains unchanged over time. I release my grasp ever so slightly.”
In the documentary Walk with Me, Vietnamese Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh further shows his proficiency for moving through grief with mindfulness. He is shown speaking with a young girl who says, “I have a doggie. The doggie died. I feel so sad.”
Thich Nhat Hanh replies, “You love your doggie. You look up into the sky and see a pretty cloud and say, ‘I love that cloud.’ Then the cloud disappears. The cloud has become the rain. And when you drink your tea, you can see your cloud in your tea.”
Grief can manifest itself in different ways for different people. There’s no quick fix, but mindful meditation is a pathway to healing that can be revisited again and again. If you’re interested in getting started with healing through mindful meditation, consider signing up for Mastermind’s signature class, Mindfulness for Beginners, in Dallas on October 11 and 12. Learn more and sign up today by visiting https://mastermindmeditate.com/program/oct-mindful-beginners/.