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mental health / wellness

Meditation in Times of Grief

by BetterSleep
Jul 7 • 6 min read

While meditation cannot take away the cause of your grief, it can change your perspective of those feelings. Waves of grief can feel painful, but meditation for grief helps you find peace by observing your feelings and thoughts without judgment.

Grief is experienced after a painful loss. This might be the death of a pet or a beloved family member, the loss of a friendship, a breakup with a partner, or losing your dream job.

People experience grief in many different ways. Emotions can vary, including shock, anger, disbelief, guilt, anxiety, despair, and extreme sadness. These feelings can lead to further symptoms such as illness, sleeping problems, and a loss of appetite.

Understanding Grief

Grief is the emotional response you have after a painful loss. This might be the death of a pet or a beloved family member, the loss of a friendship, a breakup with a partner, or losing your dream job.

While grief is usually fixated on the emotional response, there are other ways that grief can affect you:

Physical Effects

Grief can physically affect the body in various ways. Your mental and emotional health are powerful enough to affect you physically. People who face things like grief may mistake some of the physical symptoms with other illnesses.

Digestive Issues

Grieving can cause some people to pick up abnormal eating habits. Some people may experience a loss of appetite. Others begin to overeat to compensate for the void they feel. This change in eating habits can lead to things like diarrhea, stomach pains, nausea, weight loss or gain, and more.

Body aches

You may also experience physical pain like headaches and migraines, chest pain, and overall pain in the muscles. During this time, there is an overwhelming amount of stress hormones in the body. This negatively affects the muscles when they make contact, creating pain and discomfort.

Not only can it cause neck, back, and joint pains, but you may also feel a physical heaviness.

Decreased Immunity

Some research suggests that grief can cause inflammation in the body. This inadvertently weakens the immune system. When this occurs, you become more prone to infections and other illnesses.

Poor Sleep Quality

There is a high chance that grieving individuals may experience poor sleep quality. Conditions like insomnia or sleep deprivation may form due to racing thoughts and the inability to relax the mind. If your mind is focused on your loss, falling and staying asleep could be difficult.

Sleep is a necessary and beneficial factor in the healing process after a loss. It’s also a means for many people to escape reality. After a good night’s sleep, you can feel refreshed in the morning. Lack of sleep can cause:

  • Puffiness in face and eyes
  • Poor physical coordination
  • High blood pressure
  • Daytime fatigue

While sleep is important, some people may try to use it as a permanent fix. Getting too much sleep can be just as bad for you as not getting enough sleep. Instead of feeling refreshed when you wake up, oversleeping may cause you to feel lethargic and unmotivated.

Cognitive Function

Cognitive function refers to the mental capacity you have to do things like learn, think, problem solve, make decisions, etc. When grief becomes too consistent, almost like a permanent emotion, you may start to see that these abilities are negatively affected. This is because your brain isn’t getting the proper rest it requires to function properly and perform these activities.

Social Life

Because people have different ways of grieving, seeing conflict in your social life could occur if you are experiencing loss. Some people form unrealistic expectations of people and it gets in the way of the relationship that was formed before the life-changing event.

Your social battery may also be low. This means you may not be up for the idea of entertaining or being around other people. In retrospect, having the right people around you in times of sadness can be beneficial to your healing.

How can meditation help grief?

Different types of meditation have their benefits. The practice of meditation requires you to sit with and acknowledge your thoughts and emotions, instead of trying to avoid them. Meditation is all about allowing these emotions to meet you and not be judged for it or given a reaction—whether it’s from yourself, your meditation guide, partner, or group. This helps the mind and body find peace with the things that may be troubling you. If you can focus your mind on facing these emotions, you can soon overcome the power it has over you.

In the same way that people experience grief differently, the benefits of meditation for grief may vary from person to person. Here are some of the most common benefits:

  • Helps manage physical grief symptoms. Meditation helps calm the chatter of the mind. This can be helpful during times of bereavement when negative thoughts consistently play in your head. With meditation, you become more aware of your body and how it feels. The physical symptoms you may have ignored, or didn’t notice before, may be brought to attention because you are focused.

It can also help ease other physical symptoms like body aches, muscle soreness, tension headaches, and nausea. When you meditate, your body produces endorphins that help you manage pain and other physical symptoms. * Improves sleep quality. Cortisol is the stress hormone that causes a lack of sleep and rest. Some people may experience high levels of cortisol, keeping them awake for a longer period. The calming and relaxing benefits of meditation help release the body of this hormone, providing you with better sleep.

When practiced often, it can help you regain your proper sleep pattern. * Regain proper mental health. Your mental state is highly impacted during bereavement. Meditation can help you gain self-awareness and love—some of the things you lose to poor mental health. Scientifically, it can increase the good hormones in your body, like dopamine and serotonin.

Best Meditations for Grief

Meditation is similar to exercising in the sense that there are many options to choose from. Various techniques can be beneficial for people who are grieving. The one you choose depends particularly on what you are battling. Here are some of the most beneficial:

Guided Meditation

You will see that many forms of meditation can be considered guided. This meditation is great for beginners who aren’t sure how to properly meditate without losing focus. During guided meditation, you will have a person, or guide, that walks you through the meditation process. You may start with breathing and then transition into a series of other meditational exercises that will help you relax and regain focus.

Guided meditation can be done in a group setting, like a classroom, or by yourself. Many podcasts and websites provide this practice and it contains the same benefits.

Mantra Meditation

Mantra meditation helps you deal with overwhelming thoughts that come with grief. If your brain feels scattered and you have trouble relaxing before bed, this is a great meditation practice to use. Mantras are repeated words, phrases, or sounds that promote focus and intention. This is why it’s a great choice for people who struggle with concentration.

When going through your healing journey, it may be difficult to focus on daily tasks. Doing a mantra meditation before starting your day may help. Some examples of mantras for grief are:

  • My grief is normal.
  • I am enough.
  • I am healed.
  • I free myself of guilt and sadness.
  • I am stronger than before.

Mindfulness Meditation

This type of meditation teaches you to focus on the present moment and release what doesn’t serve you well. During grief, mindfulness meditation helps you realize that your feelings matter and they will pass. You are encouraged to allow these thoughts to come to you but not judge yourself for having them.

Whenever your mind wanders off, you should accept it and then bring yourself back to the center by breathing and regaining focus. Mindfulness meditation also helps you slow down racing thoughts.

Self-compassion Meditation

Self-compassion meditation teaches you to be kinder to yourself, which often isn’t easy after a loss. Some people may feel guilty for still being alive. Some may feel like they didn’t do enough to prevent their loss from occurring. With this meditation, you show yourself the same love you show to others. As humans, it’s easy to be your biggest critic. This practice will help that.

How to Meditate for Grief and Healing

Meditation isn’t meant to get rid of grief but teaches you to deal with the feelings that come along with it. Find yourself a quiet space and sit down on a comfortable chair.

  • Start taking deep breaths
  • Gently close your eyes and focus on the center of your forehead
  • Begin noticing your grief and the emotions that come along with it, which might be guilt, anger, fear, or sadness
  • Try not to follow these thoughts with worry. Simply notice them
  • If you begin to feel overwhelmed, focus on your breath and the rise and fall of your chest. Count your breaths if this feels easier
  • When you feel ok again, turn your attention back to noticing your thoughts about grief
  • Remind yourself that it’s normal to feel grief
  • Allow emotions and thoughts to come and go without judgment
  • After 10 minutes or when it feels right, open your eyes and just sit for a few seconds

Final Thoughts

Meditation for healing and grief takes time. It’s important to face up to sad feelings. Set aside a time each day to practice meditation for grief with the BetterSleep app. It will lessen and become easier to deal with.

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