A few months ago — in the matter of just a couple of weeks — I lost both my grandmother and my dog. Neither was a surprise, but both were close relationships. And happening that close together? Well, it hit my family and me HARD.
Not only was I dealing with the grief of losing a woman gave me a strong foundation of unconditional love throughout my childhood and into adulthood, but I also lost my four-legged daily companion of 11 years.
Sometimes it felt as though both losses were connected, and I could release emotions for both of them at once. At other times, it felt as though I’d mourn one for a day — only to turn around and mourn the other the next day.
It was intense. And I gave myself a lot of time and space to process as I needed to. And, I still do today. Because grief isn’t exactly linear.
Over the last few months, I’ve found a number of ways to move through my grief — from journaling to talking to trusted friends to going for walks to creating photobooks to just allowing myself to be in whatever emotion I’m in with a lot of self-compassion. It’s all helped at different points in my grieving process.
We also got these mindful tips for grief from Julie Potiker, mindfulness expert and author of Life Falls Apart, but You Don’t Have To: Mindful Methods for Staying Calm In the Midst of Chaos, which have been really helpful for me. We’re sharing them today in case they might be for you, too.
After all, grief isn’t easy — but with the right support, you can learn to live with it a little better.
5 Mindful Ways to Move Through Grief by Julie Potiker
1. Up your meditation practice. Try meditating for 10 minutes twice a day – or 20 minutes twice a day if you can make time. Try guided meditations like this or the “Balanced Mind” with Julie Potiker podcast on iTunes. Mix it up so that your mind relaxes into the practice.
2. Take self-compassion breaks throughout the day. Place your hand on your heart or where you find it most soothing. Acknowledge what’s going on. For instance, say to yourself, “This is a moment of suffering; this is hard.” Then connect yourself to the multitudes of humanity that are also suffering, knowing in your bones that you are not alone in your existential angst. Then tell yourself something helpful. My mom used to say, “This too shall pass.” I tend to say, “You’re going to be okay,” or something along those lines.
3. Go outside. There are huge health benefits to being in nature. While you are there, see if you can feel the temperature of the air, the breeze where it touches your skin. Notice any smells, and really look at the sights – leaves, flowers, etc. If you are walking, pay attention to how your feet feel hitting the ground, how your legs feel working, how your arms feel swinging at your sides. While you are noticing all these sensations, you are not ruminating.
4. Stay connected with others. We are wired to connect and it feels supportive when we share our burdens with each other. I attended a rally against hate after the horrendous events in Charlottesville, Va. Intellectually, I knew that me being there would not make such a big difference — I’m just one person. Emotionally, though, it was just what I needed to feel connected to 500 other human beings who shared my values.
4. Stay physically grounded. Ground yourself through the soles of your feet. No kidding; put your feet on the ground and send your attention down to the soles of your feet. How do they feel? Are you in socks and shoes? Barefoot? Cold or warm? Moist or dry? The act of doing this breaks the discursive loop of thoughts and emotions. You can also ground yourself with a “here and now stone.” Feel it, look at it, notice everything about it. Focusing on the stone will break you out of the loop of painful thoughts and feelings.
In your experience, what’s helped you to move through grief best? —Jenn