Mindfulness and Grieving
If your anything like me I don’t believe we need to sit quietly for hours and empty our minds to practice mindfulness. Nor do I believe it’s possible to empty your mind for long periods of time when we’re grieving. I’m also not suggesting that mindfulness is easy to do when you’re grieving but I do suggest you develop a practice for even just a few minutes a day.
Mindfulness is about being fully awake in our lives. It is about perceiving the exquisite vividness of each moment. We also gain immediate access to our own powerful inner resources for insight, transformation, and healing.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn
When someone dies, life is thrown into turmoil. Your inner critic is going full speed and racing thoughts are constant. Peacefully sleeping is a thing of the past and appetite is greatly affected.
I know too well what this feel like. I started this New Year with insurmountable grief and loss. Just before the Holidays my Mom’s two-and-a-half-year fight with cancer came to a dramatic downward decline. Within a few weeks, she passed away. My Mom died on Christmas Day and a month later, my Father-In-Law died unexpectedly, and he too had been as much my parent for the last 30 years. Both of whom, lived 5,000 miles away from me and my family.
When we returned from the funerals, anxiety and grief gripped us all. Too much loss at once. Racing thoughts and lack of sleep was making me crazy. Like everyone else, we had things going on in our lives already, so to function I thought burying my feelings would be best. I tried to suppress my loss and grief. It appeared to work for a bit but it made me look and act like a robot according to my husband and kids. On reflection, they were right, and this was not how I normally deal with stressful situations, and this was not helping me or them.
I can tell you now, you can’t run or hide from grieving the death of loved ones. You must go through it and out the other side, it’s important for you and the loved ones around you to share in this. You must open your heart and not shut it closed for fear of more pain. We are human beings not human doings. Busying and distracting ourselves from mourning does not work!
Practicing mindfulness isn’t about blocking your thoughts and feelings but about being very present in the here and now. Mindfulness during times of loss, can allow you to relax more and struggle less. You are being fully present, aware of your feelings even when they don’t feel good. You are bringing acceptance to how you feel and being gentle with yourself.
If we continue to resist these painful feelings, they are like a boomerang – they just return. I’m not saying grieving the death of a loved one goes away, it doesn’t. Having a practice of mindfulness allows us to acknowledge what is, and not dwell so much on what isn’t. Over time, mindfulness slows down our racing mind and improves our sleep.
I am very grateful for the practice of Mindfulness during my Mom’s illness. I was very grateful that we were given two and a half years notice of my Mom’s demise. Instead of allowing feelings of fear and anxiety to set in knowing time was running out with her, I could be present, living life moment to moment with her. I felt more in control of my thoughts, feelings and how precious life is. I didn’t think about the future and what it was going to look and feel like without her. It didn’t rob me of my quality time with my Mom while she was still with us.
Losing these two very special people in my life has only driven the message home stronger that family and relationships are the key to our happiness and joy in life. Every moment in life matters and none of us are guaranteed tomorrow so live life now. My Father-in-Law passed suddenly and unexpectedly, we didn’t get the same opportunity and time to say goodbye.
We are changed forever after a loved one dies and things will never be the same. That is not to say, our lives won’t be enjoyable again, or a day won’t go by without missing our loved one, but grief can teach us insight into the true value of life. When we love so intensely, we grieve intensely.
The goal of having a mindful daily practice is so we can experience life as it is happening now. Stay present and aware of all the good and bad things that are happening around us and to us.
Have you experienced loss of a loved one, a divorce, a traumatic event in the past? Did you survive it? What did you learn from it? What we survive just makes us stronger. If you don’t go within you go without - you have all the answers within. Everyone grieves differently and we all need different things to heal.
A daily practice of Mindfulness is a journey to healing, accepting change and being present.
This is my Mindful journey through grief. If you are on this journey too, please feel free to share, comment or ask questions.
Be gentle and kind to yourself, and give yourself time,