One of the hardest things in life is to lose someone we love due to death or other forms of separation. This results in grief – a profound sense of loss and sadness, and the knowledge of being unable to find whom we lost ever again.
Although most people recover from grief on their own, many others cannot. Regardless of their coping mechanisms, they cannot get back to life and perform everyday tasks. Even if they continue to live a productive life, the sense of dread, anger, and sadness won’t go away. This is usually due to prolonged grief or bereavement, which can resemble major depressive disorder (clinical depression), and is a diagnosable condition.
What does grief look like?
Grief can seem unbearable and intense if you have lost someone significant like your pet, a parent, or someone truly loved. Grief should be differentiated from general sadness, as it is more intense and pointed toward someone you’ve lost. Grief or bereavement can also leave you feeling numb, which closely resembles clinical depression. You may feel confused, shocked, and overwhelmed by sadness.
Grief often results in sensations and feelings that are all very unpleasant. For example, many people experience nightmares, anxiety, and anger. It is hard to predict how you will feel when you lose someone, and taking each day as it comes is essential. It’s also important to remember that you may never feel the same again and may have to acquire new coping mechanisms which are healthy and productive.
Some of the sensations and feelings associated with grief can be addressed by meditation. Meditation can help you achieve peace and clarity when feeling overwhelmed. It may not help reduce your sadness or a profound sense of loss. However, it can alleviate negative emotions such as irritability, confusion, and anxiety. When we truly love someone, they become part of our life, and grief never really disappears. We get used to grief, learn to live with it, and probably develop a healthy relationship with it.
You Are Not Alone – Know that grief is a shared human experience
Firstly, if you are grieving, please know that you are not alone. Grief is a shared experience – we all have to face death someday. We will all lose our parents, friends, and other loved ones. This shared human experience can only be dealt with by accepting the transience of our existence.
You can do several things if you have lost someone recently and are grieving. To begin with, you can seek the help of your friends and family members for emotional support. If no one is available, seeking professional help is a good option. Therapy is highly effective at helping you process grief and learn to live life despite your loss. Meditation helps you to accept unpleasant thoughts and feelings associated with grief without judging them.
What is guided meditation for grief?
Guided meditation is an effective coping mechanism for certain kinds of grief which manifests in irritability, anxiety, and confusion. The technique involves scanning your body and helping integrate your mind and body.
The benefits of meditation for grief and loss
Meditation has several benefits that are not limited to coping with grief. Studies show that meditation can reduce anxiety and help people cope with stressful situations. It has also been used to reduce sensations of physical pain and discomfort, which people often feel during bereavement. A few other benefits of meditation include improved sleep and energy. Please note that nightmares and the inability to sleep well are common symptoms of grief.
Although meditation may not help you deal with grief directly, it can address several peripheral symptoms. By helping you sleep better, meditation indirectly allows you to process your thoughts and emotions with clarity. If you lose sleep over a loved one, there will be no energy to process all the cognitions.
Meditation also has many physical benefits. It is known to reduce blood pressure, improve heart rate, and help with reducing inflammation. These benefits allow you to deal with grief in several ways, although meditation may not help you fix it directly.
A quick guided meditation for grief and loss
This is how to perform guided meditation in just 10 minutes.
- Find a quiet and comfortable place, and place a chair or yoga mat on the floor.
- Sit comfortably, and close your eyes.
- Take a deep breath through your nose and exhale through your mouth.
- Notice your body’s feelings, and observe if you feel light and heavy.
- You may feel restless and may find this exercise pointless. However, do not give up, and continue to scan your body from head to toe.
- Notice the sensations in each part of your body without attempting to change them.
- Allow your thoughts to pass without judging them or trying to make them stop.
- Once you have scanned your entire body, open your eyes again.
Working towards acceptance
Not all of us have the psychological tools to overcome grief. Many people fall victim to unhealthy coping mechanisms when they lose someone. People who lose someone to death often find comfort in substance use, isolation, and even impulsive behaviors. However, these are all unhealthy coping mechanisms and will harm your physical and mental health in the long term. Instead, working towards acceptance will help in the long term.
If you’re not ready to accept your loved one’s death, seek help. Professional help can help you process grief at your own pace, and teach you new coping mechanisms.
How guided meditation for grief and loss works
The good thing about a body scanning exercise is you learn to focus on your physical sensations instead of judging your thoughts and feelings. Physical sensations are closely linked to anxiety and anger, as they are physiological responses. By choosing not to judge your thoughts and emotions and focusing on bodily sensations, you find a healthy way to escape your bereavement-related thoughts and feelings. These few moments of escape can have the paradoxical effect of calming you and making you feel less distressed.
It is important to remember that meditation is not used to get rid of grief or to deny it. Instead, meditation helps you to deal with unpleasant sensations and feelings associated with grief. There is a lot of judging and criticizing when somebody passes away. We may feel anger at ourselves for doing things we shouldn’t have done, and also towards the person who passed away simply because they left life unfinished.
Other ways to manage grief
In addition to meditation, you can do the following to alleviate symptoms of grief:
Find support from people who care about you.
People often isolate themselves when they are grieving or undergoing bereavement. However, this unhealthy coping mechanism will leave you feeling more isolated and lonely. It also gives you time to think about unwanted thoughts and go deeper down the rabbit hole. Hence it is essential to find people who care about you so that you feel loved. It helps you remember that you are not alone and that there are people who still care for and love you.
Practice self-care and do not neglect yourself.
A common symptom of both clinical depression and grief is self-neglect. Grieving people often forget to eat on time, sleep properly, and engage in self-care. Hence it is essential to remember that you eat well, go to bed on time, and get enough physical activity. Do not neglect yourself and engage in self-care activities such as watching a movie, taking a warm shower, or meeting up with friends.
Learn to let go of any guilt or regret.
You may feel guilty about several things when you lose someone loved. You may remember unfinished tasks, incomplete conversations, hurtful behaviors, and unpleasant memories that leave you feeling guilty and regretful. However, it is essential to remember that life and death aren’t in our control, and we must learn to forgive ourselves for certain things. If you cannot deal with feelings of guilt and regret, talk therapy may help.
Are there any benefits of meditation for a person who is grieving?
There are certainly benefits of meditating when a person is grieving. Although meditation is not a solution for all emotions and thoughts associated with grief, it can help you find clarity and an inner sense of peace. A body scanning meditation or guided meditation can help you focus on the present, particularly your physical sensations. This enables you to forget grief for a few minutes and may help you sleep better. In other words, meditation may help you deal with grief and its associated symptoms directly and indirectly.
How can meditation assist you in recovering from grief and pain?
Grief is associated with several physical symptoms, such as worsening pain, inability to sleep, digestive troubles, etc. Meditation can help you improve the number of physical complaints associated with grief. Inherently, meditation helps you relax and calm down when you’re anxious and agitated. This enables you to deal with grief and pain better.
Can meditation increase depression and grief?
Meditation is not indicated for depression or sadness. It is more suitable for reducing physiological arousal associated with anger, anxiety, and stress. Hence, if your grief takes the form of depression, seeking professional support and not relying on meditation alone is essential. As discussed elsewhere in the article, meditation helps you sleep better, gain clarity, and teaches you how to observe your thoughts and feelings without judging. We are all different and may react to meditation differently. If you feel it is making your depression worse, talk therapy may help you better.
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