Mindfulness As A Tool For Grief

When we experience some form of loss it usually prompts change to take place in our lives, which can be very difficult to cope with. Loss bears a mix of emotions, thoughts, and behaviors that are unique to each of us.  Unfortunately our society tends to place expectations on how we should react when we experience grief, which just adds to the stress of an already stressful situation.  Comments of ‘you should be over this by now’ or ‘you need to be strong’ minimizes the degree of the impact loss may have.  Comments like these can influence grieving individuals to think and feel like they are not coping very well despite the fact that what they are experiencing is normal.  This in turn can cause grieving individuals to alter their expectations of how they should be thinking, feeling, and behaving which can increase symptoms of depression and anxiety

One of the most powerful and effective tools we can turn to during times of loss is mindfulness.  Mindfulness prevents us from ruminating in the past or worrying about the future and instead allows us to focus on the present moment.  Mindfulness techniques can help grieving individuals to challenge and minimize the pressure of reacting or being a certain way because of mindfulness’ crucial aspect of being non-judgmental with whatever thoughts and feelings that exist at any moment.   In other words, mindfulness allows us to pay attention to, acknowledge, and sit with our experiences so that it just is what it is, instead of being what we think it should or should not be.

Here are a few mindfulness strategies that can help us to acknowledge our thoughts and feelings in the present moment in a nonjudgmental manner:

  • Body scan: Take a moment to notice what feelings and sensations you are currently experiencing starting in your toes, calves, knees, thighs, hips, abdomen, chest, shoulders, neck, cheeks, eyes, and scalp.  Then notice what types of thoughts you are having as you try to focus on your body and allow yourself to just sit there for a few seconds and focus on your breathing. If any judgmental thoughts or worries come into your mind, allow yourself to let them go and bring your attention back to your body. 
  • Breathing exercises: Focus solely on your breathing by taking 4-5 deep breaths
  • Use your five senses:  Sight: Identify 1-3 objects you can see. Sound: Focus on the sounds/noises you hear. Touch: Feel something within reach and identify the texture. Taste: Do you notice any specific tastes in your mouth. Smell: Pay attention to any odors you may pick up on.

~ Cory Stege, M.S., LMFT