Whether it’s the loss of someone close, going through a separation, losing a pet, financial loss or loss of health, experiencing intense grief and loss is one of the most difficult challenges we can face in our lives. When we experience loss, we ourselves feel lost.
While there is nothing I can say to ease the pain of loss, I can share a little bit of insight into the nature of grief, why we feel it, what it is, what it does, and how a daily meditation practice can help us more quickly reach the light at the end of the tunnel.
The Two Keys to Coping with Grief
Coping with painful emotions like grief requires two things: wisdom and experience.
By learning about the nature of our grief, greater insight and wisdom can occur. But learning about grief is not enough. To fully understand anything, we have to put what we’ve learned into practice.
In meditation, we experience witnessing our pain firsthand. The more we witness the pain, the less we become identified with the pain, and the more we become identified as the peaceful watcher. As we practice observing the pain, our understanding of it grows and the less power it has over our lives.
Why Do We Grieve?
When we face a sudden and tragic change in our lives, our bodies and mind are unable to quickly adjust to our new reality. We have become so accustomed to having this person or thing in our lives that the loss feels unbearable. We don’t know how to live our lives with such loss and our thoughts, feelings, and bodies go into shock.
Everyone experiences grief differently and for different lengths of time. Feelings of guilt or trauma may accompany grief. Our impulse is to ignore our grief, but this can often make it worse and delay the final stage of grief, acceptance.
At its very core, grief is intense resistance to loss. Our strong desire for the person or thing to come back creates immense mental and physical suffering. Because we’ve become so attached to that person or thing, their loss creates unbearable pain. It is this resistance, pain, and desire that causes our grief.
Even though we know that everything in our lives is only temporary, we still become attached and mistakenly think of them as permanent. We fall for the illusion of permanence and desperately hold on to people and things. It’s only natural. But when the illusion is shattered, so are we.
What is the Effect of Grief on our Body?
Besides the intense sadness, depression, loneliness, and anxiety, grief can take its toll on the body too.
Because we love with all our heart, grief often directly impacts our heart health and can lead to cardiovascular problems as well as heart attacks.
The strain on our bodies can often lead to a weakened immune system as stress hormones become imbalanced.
Poor eating habits can be developed by grief. In addition, nausea, upset stomach, and irritable bowel syndrome can be triggered by grief.
Pain and Stiffness
The severe stress from grief can cause pain in the joints, back, and neck. Headaches are also very common.
Trouble Sleeping and Lack of Energy
The intense emotions associated with grief can be very draining for a person. These intense emotions can also disturb sleep, making the problem of fatigue even worse.
Turning to Unhealthy Behaviors
In some cases, people turn to harmful coping mechanisms such as drugs, alcohol, tobacco, overeating or undereating. These choices can lead to permanent damage to the body.
How to deal with grief, loss, and separation?
Step 1: Wisdom
First, it’s important to understand that this, like everything in life, will pass. Try to let go of expectations and just allow whatever comes to come. Don’t resist how you feel.
Accept it. Everything in life constantly changes. All suffering comes from attachment. Welcome whatever comes, let go of whatever goes. You don’t have to make peace with the situation, just try to make peace with your thoughts and feelings.
Step 2: Experience
Healing from grief doesn’t happen overnight, but a deeply relaxing meditative practice can be the first step to healing. In meditation, we simply observe the nature of reality. We observe the nature of our minds.
Moreover, We observe the sensations in our bodies. We learn from this practice that everything we experience in the world, we actually only experience as a projection in our own mind. Thoughts and emotions arise and fall away.
Sense perceptions emerge and disappear. Everything is in constant flux and changing from one moment to the next. The more we observe this phenomenon, the more we understand on a deep level that everything shall pass and nothing is so unbearable if we are able to let go of our attachment and expectations.
This is a practice that takes time and is meant to be done gently, with self-love and compassion, with no expectations or feelings of failure. This is merely the act of sitting with your thoughts and emotions without external distractions and allowing your mind and body to relax and heal.
Meditation for Loss
When we’re grieving, we need to take time to work through our pain. Meditation for grief and loss gives us the time and safe space to do just that. There is really no better way to process our grief than by sitting or lying down, closing our eyes, and turning our attention into our inner world.
We tend to instinctively feel as though these painful thoughts and emotions are too much to bear, but it is precisely this resistance and aversion to our feelings that make them truly unbearable.
When we can just sit with ourselves, watching our thoughts and emotions as they come and go, we learn that they are not so unbearable. They have merely thought-forms popping in and out of existence, leaping from thought to thought, and by the end of a 20 or 30-minute meditation, we will usually be feeling and thinking in a whole new way.
Meditation is about constantly accepting the present moment, surrendering to it fully, and just allowing it to be. In meditation for grief and loss, we let go of our longing, we let go of our attachment to the past, and we just become present, feeling our breath and awareness of our body and surroundings. At this moment, there is only peace.
Benefits of Meditation While Grieving
Meditation for grief and loss allows us to see the impermanent nature of all things, thoughts, and emotions. Once we see this, we stop grasping for things past and start accepting what is. The road is not always easy, but it will take you where you need to go.
5 Tips for Making Your Meditation Effective
- Let go of expectations
- Be kind to yourself
- Become accepting of your feelings
- Don’t worry about if you’re doing it wrong, just keep doing your best
- Stick to it every day
Don’t Be Afraid to Seek Help
Loss affects everybody differently. You are not alone and there is no shame in asking for help. If you are struggling from a loss, reaching out to a spiritual counselor and meditation teacher has helped many people get through it. Expert counselors and teachers are standing by at