It is really tough dealing with loss, especially the loss of a close family member or friend. Many of us have no idea how to handle the emotional turmoil we’re experiencing and not dealing with that loss adequately can lead to even more pain. While the grieving process is never easy, there are some simple and effective ways to handle the loss of a loved one. Here are five mindful methods for staying calm in the midst of grief.
1. Up your meditation practice: Try 10 minutes twice a day – or 20 minutes twice a day if you can make time. Look for guided meditations on Insight Timer or the free Balanced Mind with Julie Potiker podcast on iTunes. Mix it up so that your mind is relaxing into the practice.
2. Stay connected with other humans: We are wired to connect and it feels supportive when we share the burdens with each other. I attended a rally against hate after the horrendous events in Charlottesville, Virginia. Intellectually, I knew that me being there would not make one bit of difference. Emotionally, it was just what I needed to feel connected to 500 other human beings who share my values.
3. Take self-compassion breaks throughout the day: Place your hand on your heart or where you find it most soothing. Acknowledge what’s going on. For instance, say to yourself, “This is a moment of suffering; this is hard.” Then connect yourself to the multitudes of humanity that are also suffering, knowing in your bones that you are not alone in your existential angst. Then tell yourself something helpful. My mom used to say, “This too shall pass.” I tend to say, “You’re going to be okay,” or something along those lines.
4. Stay grounded: Ground yourself through the soles of your feet. No kidding; put your feet on the ground and send your attention down to the soles of your feet. How do they feel? Are you in socks and shoes? Barefoot? Cold or warm? Moist or dry? The act of doing this breaks the discursive loop of thoughts and emotions. You can also ground yourself with a “here and now stone.” Feel it, look at it, notice everything about it. Focusing on the stone will break you out of the loop of painful thoughts and feelings.
5. Get outside: There are huge health benefits to being in nature. While you are there, see if you can feel the temperature of the air, the breeze where it touches your skin. Notice any smells, and really look at the sights – leaves, flowers, etc. If you are walking, pay attention to how your feet feel hitting the ground, how your legs feel working, how your arms feel swinging at your sides. While you are noticing all these sensations, you are not ruminating.
While death is an inescapable fact of life, how we deal with grief has the power to keep us from losing it and help us get through the loss. Applying these mindful strategies can help you. During these trials, know that you are not alone. There are people around who will walk with you every step of the way. You will get through this.
Contributed by Julie Potiker, author of “Life Falls Apart, but You Don’t Have To: Mindful Methods for Staying Calm In the Midst of Chaos.”