Mindful Grieving

Grief is a natural response to loss. It can be felt in many ways. Grief’s impact can be emotional, social, spiritual, physical and financial. It is as individual as the person you loved and lost. Grieving while living away from family and friends can be especially difficult. This is a place where you can share your thoughts, and get ideas on how to cope. It is here for you to get support and validation.

Mindful Grieving

Postby mary+m2 » Tue Jul 22, 2014 10:16 am

The word "mindful" has become a part of the daily patter in popular media. But what does it mean? Sharon Salzberg, writer, meditator, and mindfulness practitioner and teacher, calls mindfulness "wise attention" in the present moment. The attention is open, curious, and accepting. We notice thoughts, feelings, and events without being done in by them. There is the deep understanding of the impermanent nature of everything, including feelings and thoughts, and compassion for ourselves and others. It is a discipline and a practice.

And what does it have to do with grieving? One of the barriers to grieving is the judgments and expectations that grieving individuals impose on themselves. We fill ourselves with the shoulds, the forevers, and the fear stories. "I should be over this by now." "I should be feeling better." "I'll never be happy again." "I'll never get over this." "What will happen to me now?"

The judgment we place on ourselves works against expressing sorrow and the loss of someone we loved. With mindfulness, a person's wise attention might go like this: "I am having a bad day. I miss talking to my brother, who was my best friend. My chest is tight and bearing the loss is so hard and I am crying. I am going to sit with this feeling and honor my grief, and my love for my brother."

How different that is from stuffing it, soldiering through. We honor our experience of loss and love and the person who is no longer living. For example, years after my husband died, I returned to the hospital where he was diagnosed. Entering the ward, I felt that the air had been sucked out of my body, a giant gut punch. I had to attend to a friend's need, so I didn't act on my experience in the moment, except to say I'd have to deal with this later. After I tended to my friend's needs, I returned to the car and deep sobs were not far away. I had compassion for myself, "Mary, it's okay to feel this way. Revisiting that ward brought on this feeling of deep sadness and loss." I noticed sorrow in my body and soul. I also knew it would pass. And it did. Stuffing it wouldn't have worked. Thinking I was crazy for having feelings so many years later would have added another layer to the suffering, and I would have been at odds with a feeling that came .... and went.
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Re: Mindful Grieving

Postby m_postotnik » Tue Jul 29, 2014 1:32 pm

One of the enemies of mindfulness is distraction. Our Western culture encourages us to use distractions instead of feeling emotions: television, computer games, food, alcohol, drugs, busy-ness. As a culture, we are especially good at not acknowledging our need to grieve. Grief doesn’t usually end with the memorial service. As Mary shared, mindfulness is not only about paying attention to your thoughts, but also about questioning them and challenging them when they are not helpful!
The grief process takes as long as it takes for each person. There is no time limit or time frame which grief follows. It just is what it is. No two people react quite the same to a loss, even close family members. It all depends on the type and quality of your relationship with the deceased.
However, purposeful, positive distraction can be helpful at times when you are in a place or situation where it’s not comfortable being open about your feelings. In Mary’s example at the hospital, she made a conscious choice to put aside her feelings momentarily so that she could be present to her friend’s situation. She put her focus on helping her friend in the moment, but shortly thereafter, when she left the hospital, she allowed herself the time and space to let out her grief.
Allow yourself to become aware of times when it feels safe to grieve and times when it does not. When you don’t feel like you’re in a safe place, or the grief is just too much to deal with at that time, positive distraction can be appropriate and useful. You may decide to listen to your favorite music, go for a walk or do some exercise, do a crossword or jigsaw puzzle, color a mandala, make a phone call to see how someone else is doing, make a gratitude list, or distract yourself in some other positive way to get yourself through the difficult moment. However, always make it a point to allow yourself to return to the business of grieving when you are again in a safe environment.
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