Meditation for grief does not change what has happened, but it can help you care for yourself with the compassion you deserve. It can also help you with a variety of grief-related symptoms and help you feel more in control. No matter where you are on your grief journey, meditation can help you:
- Get back to sleep and counteract grief-related insomnia.
- Reduce physical pain and tension.
- Ease anxiety and calm difficult emotions.
- Cultivate compassion for yourself and others.
- Establish and maintain a connection with your loved one.
- Improve your immune functioning and overall health.
- Increase your ability to focus and concentrate.
Finding Hope in Meditation for Grief
If you are early on in your grief, I know items on this list may seem unattainable. Some days surviving grief itself may seem impossible. I want to offer you hope. Humans are wired to survive loss, but having coping and self-care tools can really help you navigate life after loss.
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. I have been leading meditation for grief for over a decade, and I have had to practice it myself. I know it can work. So please keep reading, and give the guided meditations for grief that I offer below a try.
What Is Meditation?
The concept of meditation is similar to the concept of exercise: There are countless ways to do both. Exercise can be a gentle walk or rock climbing, Zumba, or swimming, and there are countless ways to meditate, too.
Physical exercise strengthens your body. Meditation — mental exercise — strengthens your mind. Personally, I define meditation as compassionate mind-control.
When you meditate you choose where to direct your attention, rather than let your mind run all over the place. This is why meditation is a lot like exercise! It requires training and practice. And even the best athletes don't stop working out. In fact, many have personal trainers.
So if you are new to meditation, I want to encourage you not to get discouraged. It is not uncommon for new members in the Awaken Meditation for Grief Group to think they are not "good" at meditating, or tell me they have tried it before and feel they are doing it all wrong.
I believe that there is no such thing as a good or bad meditator. There are people who meditate. There are people who do not. The act of attempting to control your mind leads to amazing results. Even if you are distracted most of the time!
Self-Compassion for Your Grieving Mind
If you are grieving and trying to meditate, the first thing you need to do is give yourself a break. Let go of perfection. Let your practice be messy — like grief.
The relationship you have with the person who died is now part of your life, and that cannot, and should not, be changed. In fact, it is helpful for most people to honor the relationship and incorporate the love and the memories into life after loss.
On our best days our mind naturally spends a lot of time traveling back and forth through time. Rehashing the past. Rehearsing the future. And rarely does it do this in a way that reduces our suffering. Instead it causes a lot of stress and anxiety.
Even in the midst of grief, you can learn to control your mind at least some of the time, and in the process reduce emotional and physical pain. So go easy on yourself. Know that trying is really enough. ALWAYS practice self-compassion as self-care.
Guided Meditations for Grief & Loss
So what type of meditation for grief is best for you? That depends on what you need in the moment. All of the foundational practices listed below help you build the resilience you need to live with your loss and re-engage with life in a meaningful way.
The guided meditation MP3s below are based on the Mindfulness & Grief book, and are examples of resources that are available when you join the Awaken Meditation for Grief Group, which has a course library filled with guided meditations and videos. We also meet online every week to practice, share, and support one another.
Focus & Concentration Meditation
In the early days of loss, focus and concentration meditation, such as counting your breath or mantra meditation, can help give your mind a much-needed break from thinking and calm down your anxious mind. This can also help reduce 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.
Practicing meditation after a major 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.
People I work with who are new to meditation often tell me that their body feels better after learning meditation for grief, even than it did even before the loss. 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.
Using a Personal Mantra
When you feel you are able to steady your mind, mindfulness-based meditation practices will help you cultivate a calm and steady presence as you open to your full experience of grief, neither avoiding nor clinging to any one experience.
It is all too easy to focus on the negative. After all, a lot of bad things have happened! Mindfulness doesn't mean you pretend everything is OK. It does mean that you make space for everything you are experiencing — pleasurable, unpleasurable, and neutral. This can help counteract our natural negativity bias and help us appreciate what we have as we also honor what we have lost.
Daily Guided Meditation
With Focus, Mindfulness & Compassion
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Compassion & Lovingkindness Meditation
Compassion and self-compassion meditation will help you soften to your own experience and feel more connected to those around you by acknowledging our shared humanity and the universal desire to be free from suffering.
Grief can be very lonely. Compassion meditation for grief helps you connect more deeply to yourself and others, and it can help you feel less alone, even when you physically are alone. 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. People may be telling you that you aren't "grieving right," or you may feel that way about someone else. Compassion practices help us see clearly that all of us want to be free from suffering, and we are doing the best we can.
Metta Meditation for
Compassion & Lovingkindness
Meditation for Difficult Emotions
After you finish reading this article, I highly recommend this one devoted entirely to meditation for grief and sadness. In short, it acknowledges that when we resist an emotion, it persists. Tending to your suffering with compassion is one of the most healing practices you can do when you are grieving.
Meditation for Grief & Sadness
As you begin to re-engage in your life after loss, adopting more contemplative practices will help you acknowledge the ways that you have changed and rewrite your post-loss story.
At some point you will start to rebuild your worldview. Contemplative practices can help reorient you to your changed landscape. Who are you now? By turning toward your pain rather than avoiding it, you can see more clearly your own wisdom and truth. To me, this is the crown jewel of meditation for grief, and 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.
Mindful Self-Inquiry Meditation & Writing Practice
A Meditation System to Help You Cope With Grief & Life After Loss
If you want to learn more about meditation for grief, please read my Mindfulness & Grief book. Or if you want more personal support, book a 1-on-1 meditation for grief session or join me in the Awaken Meditation for Grief Group.
My Mindfulness & Grief System is based on contemporary grief research and uses time-tested meditation techniques to help you move forward in a way that builds meaning and resilience. I hope you find these teachings helpful, and will share them with anyone who can benefit.