Loss is a part of life, yet few of us are ready for it when it comes. Whether it’s the end of a long-term relationship or the death of a loved one, the chaotic and often conflicting emotions that accompany the event can make it difficult to function.
So what answer is there for someone lost in the throes of grief and anger, searching desperately for a lifebuoy in the maelstrom? Of course there are traditional support structures — your friends, family, mental health professionals and support groups — but what about the burden you have to bear in time spent alone without any aid? After all the harshest voice we hear, the ugliest words, are often our own.
It’s time for some compassion, time to quiet the raging whirlwind of doubts and anxieties that govern you in the aftermath of a loss, time to be present with your pain. Meditation and mindfulness can provide the key to regaining your balance and reopening your life to joy and growth again.
How Does Meditation Work?
For someone who’s never attempted it before, the idea of sitting alone with just your thoughts and emotions for company can seem faintly ridiculous. But whether it’s Judaism’s “Shiva” or the keening of Gaelic folklore, different cultures have advocated solitary rituals placing an emphasis on emotional transcendence for thousands of years. The process of meditation is no different.
Starting off with meditation is very simple.
All you need is a quiet place where you can sit and remain undisturbed. Sit straight, and comfortably – set a timer on your phone or an alarm clock to countdown from 20 minutes. Focus on your breathing, making sure it’s slow and even, once you’re into this rhythm you can close your mouth and focus on inhaling and exhaling through just your nose. Now, you can let in your emotions. Try not to analyze them, just let them be, acknowledge them, sit with them and let them flow through you. Treat each one with the kindness they deserve.
This is known as mindfulness meditation, and initially, it won’t be easy. We spend lifetimes running away from unpleasant emotions, and emotions linked to heartbreak or grief, are especially potent. If your mind does try to stray, just steer yourself gently back on course.
With consistent practice this form of meditation will teach you how to separate the source of your pain and sadness from the feelings themselves. While you have no control over the actions of another person, you can gain control over the emotions their actions inspire, and now you have a powerful tool to do it with.
The Effects of Meditation
Mindfulness and meditation have long been fields ripe for psychological research. In 1982 Olaf G Deatherage produced a clinical study detailing the effects of mindfulness in patients stricken with anxiety, depression and even schizophrenia. In several different circumstances, he detailed specific tools that he was able to provide to his patients, to help them recognize their emotions and identify them.
In one case a woman who had been committed to a psychiatric institute, facing the effect of an awful divorce was tasked with spending a set amount of time each day following the second hand of a clock (meditation). When she would find her thoughts wandering from her task, she was asked to note the source of the distraction (mindfulness).
When examining these distractions, she began to trace a pattern of past incidents that invariably interrupted her present state. She was given the label “remembering, remembering” to apply whenever she noticed herself having these thoughts in the future. As she began to gain distance and perspective from her emotions, she was able to understand their source and gain insight into the triggers for her behavior. The woman was released from care a short while afterwards.
Neurologically the effects of meditation have been well proven as well, University of Montreal studies show how meditation triggers the production of serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain, powerful chemicals which act as a bulwark against depression and stress.
Meanwhile Harvard scientists using MRI scanning were able to trace a marked reduction in electric activity in the amygdalae (stress center of the brain) of pupils who attended an 8-week mindfulness class.
Meditation and You
Meditation will give you many benefits. It will help free your body from physical tension, allow you to sleep better. It will reduce the anxiety and stress you bear on a daily basis due to the loss you carry with you. It will help you gain control of your emotions in the present, rather than trying to extract closure from a past event that never comes.
This will improve the relationships you nurture today, and the ones you will find in the future. By understanding your feelings, you can start to reshape your life and trace your own path through the pain towards a brighter future.
Lisa A. Romano is a sought-after Life Coach and Author who specializes in helping people become conscious of what is unconscious and preventing them from aligning with their authentic, higher-self. She is also the creator of The12 Week Breakthrough Coaching Program, which has helped hundreds awaken to their true self and heal the childhood programming that has been keeping them stuck. For information on Lisa’s coaching programs visit www.lisaaromano.com.