Grief is the resulting experience after losing a loved one or suffering another type of devastating loss. When someone we love dies, we experience feelings of intense loss and sorrow. Sometimes, coping with our grief is challenging as we try to deal with our feelings and emotions. Mindfulness therapy for grief can play a significant role in processing our pain and how we heal from it.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Does Mindfulness Help Grief?
- Tips for Using Mindfulness to Deal With Grief
- What Can You Do to Supplement Mindfulness to Deal With Grief?
Mindfulness has to do with becoming aware of our thoughts and feelings and how we process them. Sometimes, we allow racing thoughts and emotions to get the better of us. At others, we don’t know why we feel the way we do, and as a result, we find it difficult to accept that grief is behind the way we think.
Does Mindfulness Help Grief?
Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) helps grieving individuals become more aware of their feelings and emotions by being present in their grief. Grief self-awareness reflects on a person’s ability to purposely pay attention to what’s happening in their grief journey and to accept things as they are—not how they wish they were.
There are many benefits to mindfulness. One of the most prominent outcomes of practicing mindfulness is the ability of a suffering individual to regulate the overwhelming emotions that result from experiencing loss. Mindfulness helps improve your overall wellbeing through the use of simple self-care practices anyone can do at home.
A grieving person goes through several psychological, emotional, and physiological changes during grief. The grieving mind and body undergo a transformative period that begins with learning of the loss, coping with grief, and ending with some semblance of healing. Although most people suffering through loss will never become whole again, the journey through loss and healing helps restore some of what was lost.
MBCT focuses on helping grieving people learn to accept their thoughts and feelings without thinking they have to set them aside or ignore them completely. MBCT focuses on helping change a person’s mindset from experiencing uncontrollable grief to accepting that they’ve suffered through loss and that grieving is a part of that experience.
The two primary goals of mindfulness therapy for grief are:
- The grieving individual learns to recognize that racing thoughts without doing anything about them help exacerbate the grief experience.
- Prevent the aversion of grief-related thoughts through the development of self-care daily practices.
Tips for Using Mindfulness to Deal With Grief
Learning the essential skills for cultivating a mindfulness and grief practice requires that grieving individuals recognize how their thoughts play a pivotal role in their bereavement experience. Mindfulness is the practice of redirecting one’s attention to the here and now. One way to achieve mindfulness is to focus attention on the breath and bodily sensations whenever grief-related negative emotions arise. Some ways to reign in your grief are by practicing some or all of the tips and methods below.
1. Repeat daily affirmations
Grief affirmations repeated daily can help you get through some of the more challenging times in your bereavement. Affirmations are short and uplifting sayings that redirect your thoughts and energy away from your pain and sorrow. Some simple grief affirmations to consider repeating to yourself are:
- I will get through this.
- My heart is shattered, but I can make it through this.
- Grief is a manifestation of love.
2. Try guided meditations
There are many free and paid online resources for guided meditations for grief to teach you how to meditate through suffering. With practice, you’ll develop your meditation skill, and the process will become second nature.
3. Give yoga a try
Yoga is a healing method of coping with grief that doesn't necessarily require professional intervention. Yoga helps heal the grieving soul by refocusing your energy into physical movements that help center the mind, body, and spirit. Almost anyone at any physical level can do yoga. The poses can be as subtle as your physical condition allows and don't need to include complicated yoga poses done by more experienced yogis.
4. Try the raisin exercise
The Raisin exercise is a well-known psychological method of encouraging grieving individuals to maintain a more present-moment awareness. This exercise is an experiment of sorts that connects sensory awareness with taste, touch, and smell. The most commonly used item is a raisin because of the nature of its size, texture, and taste. The exercise lasts for five minutes of daily practice to increase mindful awareness instead of always doing things on autopilot. To do this exercise, follow these simple steps:
- Hold the raisin in your hand and examine every part of the raisin. Pretend you’ve never seen one before, and see what you notice about it.
- Touch the raisin and hold it between your fingers to explore its unique texture.
- Smell the raisin to get a sense of its fragrance. Pay close attention to how you respond to its smell. Does it make you hungry? Does the aroma repulse you?
- Place the raisin in your mouth and hold it there without chewing it. Focus on its presence in your mouth.
- Taste it with awareness. Notice how it tastes. Is it sweet or bitter? What does the texture feel like?
- Swallow the raisin with intention and awareness.
- Follow the raisin’s path down to your stomach as far as you can imagine it.
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5. Listen to soothing sounds
The sounds of nature, soft or classical music, and other relaxing sounds can help calm you after experiencing bouts of profound grief and anxiety. If you’ve never experienced the calming sounds of thunderstorms or spiritual chanting, give each a try and observe how your mind reacts to these sounds. Experiment with a few different sounds and music until you find one that helps alleviate your sorrow.
6. Honor your grief
Grief mindfulness means being present with your pain and sorrow. When you try to suppress the negative emotions that result from grief, you prolong the grieving process. Honoring your grief can mean taking account of what you’re feeling and why.
It’s OK to focus your thoughts on your loved one who died or on what you’ve lost. When you attempt to shield yourself from the pain, you’re not honoring your grief.
What Can You Do to Supplement Mindfulness to Deal With Grief?
With grief comes inevitable sadness that is sometimes challenging to control. Suffering is known to produce disturbances in a bereaved person’s sleep and eating habits and intensify feelings of depression and anxiety.
There are several ways to supplement the daily mindfulness tips outlined above to help you reach a higher level of calmness as you work through your grief. Here are a few tips that might help.
7. Develop a daily practice
You can supplement mindfulness to deal with your grief with a few minutes of daily practice. Aim for practicing mindfulness for a minimum of ten minutes each day until you get better at controlling your grief feelings and emotions. Like with anything, the more you practice, the better you get at bringing yourself to a more centered and grounded state of mind.
8. Incorporate mindfulness into your routines
Almost every one of your daily routines offers you an opportunity to supplement your mindfulness practice. Try adding a few minutes of meditation while showering by focusing on how the water feels as it rains over your head and body. Allow your grief to wash away with every drop of water.
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9. Don’t just walk, meditate
Did you know that walking meditations are a routine practice for monks in training? They use this exercise in mindfulness to bring a different awareness to their body, mind, and thoughts. Walking meditations help relieve anxiety while reducing depression.
You can make walking meditation part of your daily routines whenever you take out the trash or walk the dog. You can schedule a few minutes each day to devote to this practice exclusively.
10. Learn to enjoy the silence
Silence is a beautiful foundation for learning to become more self-aware. Trying to practice mindfulness in a world that’s noisy and chaotic can leave you feeling even more stressed and anxious than you were before. Learn to refocus your thoughts during those times when you’re feeling lonely or when the house seems empty. When things are quiet, this is a perfect time to reflect on your grief and mindfulness.
11. Seek professional guidance
Trained grief or spiritual counselors can help you overcome some of the more lingering feelings associated with loss and grief. They can help you pinpoint areas where you might need to focus more of your attention and introduce you to different methods of becoming self-aware.
Counselors and therapists can not only give you new ideas on how to deal with grief, but they can guide you through some of the exercises while providing insight and feedback.
12. Join a bereavement group
Going inward and exploring your grief during mindfulness activities needn’t be done alone. There are many benefits to joining other bereaved individuals as you go through becoming more self-aware. You can do many, if not all, of the above activities in a group setting. The added benefits of participating in a group are sharing your experiences, supporting one another in your grief, and making new friends.
Daily Mindfulness Helps Heal Grief
Grief is an individual journey with many shared experiences. From every loss, we learn valuable lessons on how to better cope with our grief and get through it. Developing a mindfulness practice helps you better cope with the consequences of pain and suffering as you heal from the trauma of your loss.
- Huang, F-Y, Hsu, A-L, Chao, Y-P, Shang, CM-H, Tsai, J-S, Wu, CW. Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy on bereavement grief: Alterations of resting-state network connectivity associate with changes of anxiety and mindfulness. Hum Brain Mapp. 2021; 42: 510– 520. doi.org
- The Raisin Exercise. ggia.berkeley.edu