Mindfulness On Loss, Grief and Mourning
Mindfulness about personal loss, grief, and mourning may encompass many things. Here I will focus on the process and what people can do to better handle their suffering and pain. One way to look at it is through the lens of radical acceptance; another is via the reality of impermanence. Emotion regulation with necessary grieving process (pure suffering) is yet another perspective. We humans tend to be on autopilot a lot. Then we lose someone close to us and the whole world falls apart. What I found to be most helpful to me when my loving wife died was to create and participate in ceremonies, rituals, and a good deal of meditation. For experienced meditators like myself, directly meditating into the pain and suffering helped me the most. I do not recommend this process for inexperienced meditators. Kubla-Ross and others have provided us with a reasonable set of steps to navigate this painful process. Whatever pathway you select, the following information may be helpful to reduce the intensity and duration of your suffering. We do need to allow the process until it works its way out of our life. If you get stuck and cannot find your way out, get good professional help (therapy not just pills).
Of all human emotional experiences, grief and mourning transcend general life processes. Perhaps no other emotional experience except love has such a profound impact on our emotional structure and awareness. Much of the process is about mindful awareness and how we utilize it. A typical reaction is to experience fear, anger, deep sadness, and emotional dysregulation after a significant loss occurs. The more power we use to push the pain away, the more power the pain has to come back at us. Its all about our neurons and how we use them in thoughts and emotions. Sacred recall about the loving experiences you had with this person helps to rekindle emotional connection; however, the same process may intensify the grieving process. Remember that death does end human suffering; when we die and our physical form changes we no longer suffer from thoughts and emotions related to life experiences. That is why many suicides may reflect the desire to escape the pain and suffering at hand. We need to search mindfully for the middle way; we need to find the middle path between denial and despair. We need to welcome our grief as an old friend. In genetic terms it is just that. Our gene history has much experience with loss, grief and mourning. We can radically accept the loss and simply allow the pain and suffering to become part of us. Remember, like life, suffering is also impermanent.
In The Five Ways We Grieve, S. A. Berger offer a creative perspective on the grieving process. Some of us are nomads, just wondering around for years without significant resolution. Others are memorialists, creating (cherishing and preserving) concrete and process-oriented rituals to honor the lost loved one. A third approach is to normalize by investing energy into recreating more normal functioning. One other methods is to be an activist by helping others who suffer in similar ways as your lost love object did. Lastly, some are seekers – moving more deeply into spiritual or religious involvement to find a more emotionally meaningful life. J. E. Welshons and S. A. Berger offer many ideas about how to become mindfully involved in various actions that may reduce the intensity and duration of your suffering. Remember, this information is not presented so you can cut-short your grieving process. That is not a god if. Grief is a natural process. That said, there is no need to suffer unnecessarily from the pain of loss.
Here is part of their list. May you find inner peace.
- Cry when you need to.
- Participate in sacred ceremonies, rituals and blessing related to your loss.
- Return to positive emotional memories and let go of any residual guilt, shame, or fear.
- Mindfully pray, contemplate, and meditate on both content and process of your grief.
- Be as creative as you can be in pursuing joy and healing.
- Do deep, slow, calm breathing often – and on each breath connect with the healing of your loving heart.
- Recognize and accept the sacredness of this whole process.
- Remember that all of your suffering is dedicated to the merit and value of the person you lost.
- Remain focused on being involved in life , more and more over time.
For more information refer to: Berger, S. A. (2009). The Five Ways We Grieve: Finding Your Personal Path to Healing. Boston: Trumpeter. Also see: Welshons, J. E. (2003). Awakening From Grief: Finding the Way Back to Joy. Makawao, HI: Inner Ocean Publishing.
By Anthony R. Quintiliani, PhD., LADC
Author of Mindful Happiness
CLICK HERE to Order!