Practicing meditation for grief and loss can help you reduce the suffering that comes with grief. When you practice meditation for grief and loss, it is not about trying to get over anything. The intention is to help you suffer less. The relationship you have with the person who died is now a part of your life, and that can not, and should not, be changed. The great meditation teacher Shinzen Young offers us this equation:
Suffering = Pain x Resistance
Meditation for grief and loss helps us release resistance. Of course pain will remain - that is the artifact of love. But when you learn how to relieve some of the suffering, you will be able to engage with your grief-work mindfully, and skillfully reengage with life after loss.
How Meditation For Grief & Loss Helps
First, it can help relieve physical tension, and even change how you relate to physical pain. When you are able to take care of your body, your mind will feel some relief, too. After all, the physical pain of grief just adds suffering to suffering. People I work who are new to meditation often tell me that their body feels better than it did even before the loss because of learning meditation for grief. Relaxation meditations are particularly useful for this - especially in the early season of grief. Coupled with focusing meditations, I find these to be particularly helpful with grief-related sleep problems.
Second, meditation for grief and loss can help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. While grief and depression are not the same thing - the experience of grief can feel very much like depression. When you practice meditation during grief - specifically focusing practices such as counting and breath meditation - you signal to your brain that it is safe to turn off the fight-flight-freeze response, which can help reduce anxiety. You also give your attention a place to rest, which will lessen rumination and worry.
Third, compassion meditation for grief and loss practices can help you skillfully tend to your relationships with other people. In addition to being hard on ourselves during grief - we may tend to be hard on others - and vice versa! When someone dies everyone around them is left feeling raw and vulnerable, and this can lead to conflict. Additionally everyone grieves differently. You may have people telling you that you aren't "grieving right." Or you may be feel that about someone else. Compassion practices help us see clearly that all of us want to be free from suffering, and are doing the best we can.
Fourth, inquiry meditation for grief and loss can help start to reorient ourselves to our changed landscape. By turning towards our pain rather than avoiding it, we are able to see more clearly our own wisdom and truth. This to me is the crown jewel of meditation for grief - it can have a lifelong impact on how we relate to our own precious life. This type of meditation invites us to ask a question in a contemplative manner, and find the stillness to receive our own guidance. This empowers us to chart our own course through grief - rather than trying to fit into a contrived method or process.
I have recorded several guided meditations for grief and loss. Some are specific to grief, while others are classic meditations that are helpful during periods of loss. They are available free for you to use and share with others. May these teachings be of great benefit to you and those you love.
Stream or Download Guided Meditation for Grief & Loss
Stream guided meditations for grief & loss directly from this page, or enroll in the free Mindfulness & Grief Meditation Mini-Course and download them for offline practice.
Meditation for grief and loss can help you reduce suffering and gain insight no matter where you are on your grief journey. In the early days of loss, focusing meditations can help provide refuge from suffering by giving you a place to rest your attention. Mindfulness-based meditation practices will help you cultivate a calm and steady presence as you open to your experience of grief. As you move forward, and begin to integrate your experience and reengage in life after loss, more contemplative practices will help you acknowledge the ways that you have changed and rewrite your post-loss story. Below I have provided five meditations for grief and loss for you to try. The descriptions will help you determine which meditation is best for you in any given moment.
Guided Relaxation Meditation for Grief, Anxiety, & Stress
Based on the proven Relaxation Response technique, this guided meditation for grief is designed to reduce anxiety and cultivate deep relaxation, this meditation is ideal for anyone suffering from anxiety, grief and stress. You do not need to have a "calm" mind to benefit from this practice. Listen to this guided relaxation in a warm, quiet room, and ask to be undisturbed for at least 30 minutes.
The Body Scan - Observe the Physical Experience of Grief
There are many ways meditation can help you deal with grief. The first place to start is your body. When you are grieving there is a good chance you are experiencing a wide range of physical reactions to your loss. This body scan exercise will help you start a dialogue with your body, and help you tend to it with compassion. During this practice, you will use your senses to observe your body starting at your feet and working your way up to your head. You can do this standing up or laying down.
Coping With Grief & Difficult Emotions
Following a 2 minute introduction on difficult emotions, this guided meditation for grief and loss will help you explore difficult emotions as physical experiences in your body. The point of this exercise is to witness the difficult emotions, without pushing them away or clinging to them. Notice how the emotions feels in this moment, and to whatever extent it is possible, let go of the story and touch into direct physical experience.If you become overwhelmed, turn your focus solely to your breath. If you feel this practice is adding to your suffering, open your eyes and end the meditation. You can always try again at a later time. The meditation concludes with a brief compassion practice and reflection prompt.
Guided Meditation for Grief & Loss
Grief wipes us out, and leaves most of us feeling unsure of how to go on after our great loss. This meditation offers refuge, rest, and a time to reflect on the needs of your body, mind and spirit. Blending traditional compassion meditation with relaxation techniques and mindful inquiry, it is my hope that this recording will help you find balance during life after loss.
Gentle Yoga for Grief
Yoga is meditation in motion. Moving and stretching your body allows you to release tension, and give your mind a place to "rest" when it would otherwise ruminate. Practice yoga before meditation to help release anxious energy and prepare your body for sitting. Always honor your edges, never push yourself. If your breath is not easy and regular, back off of the posture or modify it completely until you can breathe with ease. The purpose of yoga is not to achieve a particular posture - rather it is to unite your body, mind and spirit.
More Meditation for Grief & Loss
There so many ways meditation for grief and loss can support you. Read inspirational stories and practical advice in the Mindfulness & Grief Book, or join Heather Stang in the Meditation for Grief Course & Community Forum, or go deeper with the Online Meditation for Grief Group, where you will receive guided meditations, video instructions, journaling prompts for grief, and more.