Healthy Grieving: Seven ways to grieve mindfully in a new year

Mounting scientific evidence from scores of universities strongly suggests that mindfulness not only reduces stress, but also gently builds an inner strength so that future stressors have less impact on our happiness and physical well-being.

Simply stated, mindfulness is the natural human ability to be pay attention and be aware of what is happening around us, to us and within us. When we are mindful, we are more able to respond rather than react to issues, events and people. Mindfulness is an important quality to bring into the bereavement process.

Here are seven ways to grieve mindfully.
1. Mindful breathing. Grief produces stress; and when you are stressed, there are physical changes such as increased heart rate, fast breathing, and high blood pressure. The shortest route to reducing this stress is to breathe deeply and slowly. When you breathe deeply, it sends a message to your brain to calm down and relax.

Here is a simple breath exercise to do when feeling stressed, called CPR.

  • First, inhale slowly and say, “I am” the exhale slowly and say “calm.”
  • Second, inhale slowly and say, “I am” then exhale slowly and say, “peaceful.”
  • Third, inhale slowly and say, “I am” and exhale slowly and say “relaxed.”
    Do this for several minutes until you feel more calm, peaceful and relaxed.

2. Mindful thoughts. When grieving, it’s easy to let the mind gravitate toward negative, catastrophic thinking. However, it doesn’t need to be that way. Rather than have your mind manage you and your feelings, flip the switch and manage your mind, training it to think positively and optimistically. Whenever negative thoughts emerge replace them with positive ones.

3. Mindful words. Pay attention to the way you speak. Is your vocabulary positive and uplifting or does it tend to focus on the negative and pessimistic. Use words, phrases and sentences which build up, encourage, inspire and applaud yourself and all those you come in contact with.

4. Mindful action. Take steps necessary to educate and inform yourself about the grief process. Read books and magazine articles, take workshops, join a grief support group. Some of the many benefits of being in a self-help group include:

  • Emotional, psychological and spiritual support in a safe and non-judgmental environment.
  • Sympathy and understanding from others who have experienced a similar loss.
  • Coping skills to help you through the most difficult days of your grief journey.
  • New friendships with people who “get it” and understand first-hand what you’re going through.
  • Permission to grieve and permission to live a happy productive life.

5. Mindful eating. Grief disrupts appetite. Some grievers eat too little, while others overeat. Practice mindfulness at meals. Be sure to mindfully eat fresh, healthy foods to keep your body strong.

6. Mindful exercise. To offset the shock and sadness of grief, engage in regular exercise most days of the week. Studies reveal that exercise is just as effective for reducing depression as are anti-depressant drugs.
Even if you feel you can’t possibly drag yourself out of bed, get up and get moving. Think carefully about an activity that appeals to you—hiking, biking, swimming, yoga, group fitness classes, dancing, kayaking—and do it.

7. Mindful possibilities. As grief eases and days become lighter and brighter, begin to be mindful about your future. One chapter of your life has concluded, and now is the time to begin writing a new chapter. Be mindful about your ability to tap into inner strength, move forward and reinvent yourself.

Victor M. Parachin, M. Div.,
is a bereavement educator and grief counselor.
He is the author of numerous books about grief including
The Lord Is My Shepherd:
A Psalm For The Grieving and Healing Grief.

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