I remember fighting through the grief of losing my father. He was 65 and his death was a shock. When my mom called to tell me, I was absolutely devastated. And it took a long time to heal.
Thankfully, at that time I was able to turn to my meditation practice. It gave me strength and peace and allowed me to move forward with love.
Indeed, meditation is one of the most effective ways to soothe the physical and emotional pain associated with sadness according to research from Ying Huang, National Taipei University of Education. 
As Thich Nhat Hanh, author of No Death, No Fear says, “We are often sad and suffer a lot when things change, but change and impermanence have a positive side. Thanks to impermanence, everything is possible.”
Please note that meditation can be hard when you are facing grief. Even I, as a professional, found it a challenge. But I am here to help you.
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Guided Meditation For Grief
I’ve found it helpful using the following grief meditation scripts for sadness and letting go. If you are new to meditation, start by reading my beginners guide to meditation.
And do not worry when your eyes wet. If that happens, just read my explanation of why meditation makes you cry.
Grief Meditation Scripts
1: Breathing meditation
For me, one of the best meditations for grief and loss is a simple breathing meditation.
When you face loss, your mind becomes stagnant as you hold on to the past. To let go, meditate on the breath. I find that this calms the mind and helps me to release emotions associated with grief, as well as helping me to forgive.
The following exercise combines Anapanasati, Vipassana, and mindfulness. It will help you to move forward in a positive way, as it helped me when my father passed.
- Sit comfortably with good posture. For most people, the best position is simply sitting in a comfortable chair. Place your feet shoulder-width apart. Make sure your knees are directly above your ankles. Make sure your weight is evenly distributed across your sitting bones. Sit up straight but with a relaxed spine. Roll your shoulders then let them relax. Move your head from side to side then relax. Gently tuck your chin down a little.
- We want to use Dhyana mudra. To do this, place one hand in another with the palms facing upwards (so you are cupping your hands). Allow the pads of your thumbs to touch each other. Place your hands in your lap, palms up. Keep your hands here.
- I find it useful to use a mantra. My favourite mantra for grief is “I am moving forward with love.” If you lose your way in this meditation (which is possible because of the emotions), remind yourself why you are meditating, and recite this mantra to yourself.
- Close your eyes and breathe. Breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth. Watch your breath moving in through your nostrils, down your throat, into your lungs and your diaphragm. Continue to watch your breath.
- You want to focus 100% of your mind on your breath, and thereby reconnect with the present moment. However, this is going to be challenging because you have been through a traumatic experience. Inevitably there will be times when you experience painful emotions. I cried (which is absolutely fine—let it happen). I also experienced painful thoughts. Again, that’s normal because of bereavement. Simply observe these thoughts and feelings and return to focusing on the breath. Aim for 108 mindful breaths.
- When I lose focus I remind myself of my aim. I am finding inner peace and moving forward in a loving way. And I speak the grief mantra when I need to (“I am moving forward with love”).
- If you struggle to focus, do not be hard on yourself. Meditating at emotional times is a challenge. It’s a lot harder than meditating when everything is fine. Go easy on yourself.
2: Candle meditation
Get a candle that is almost out of wax and meditate as the candle dies out. Here’s how:
- Get a candle that is almost out of wax Make sure there’s enough wax to last for around twenty minutes.
- Now go to a dark room and tell yourself that you will spend the next twenty minutes meditating on the candle and that when the candle dies, you will be set free from the past.
- Focus your gaze on the candle.
- Repeat the mantra “With this flame, I release you” (referring to the thing you are holding on to)
- Meditate on the candle until it is out.
- Say, “It is done.”
- Visualise letting go and moving on.
- Express gratitude for this meditation.
3: Taoist meditations
Taoist meditations are all about acceptance.
Often when we try to move on we feel pent up anger or resentment. When my father died, part of me was angry at him because he died unnecessarily from years of alcoholism. But that anger doesn’t help. My father deserves to be remembered in a loving way, and I deserve peace. And it is the same for you.
Taoist meditation helps to remove any negative feelings and to create complete acceptance and love. This allows you to move on in the right way.
One of the best meditations for this is Zuowang, which is simply meditating on nothingness. Find a quiet spot and meditate on the sound of silence.
4: Guided Meditation 2
5: Mindful Funeral Ritual & Scattering Ashes
Rituals like funerals and “celebrations of life” help us to relieve grief. And science proves this.
The Journal of Experimental Psychology published research on the psychological effects of rituals. Researchers looked at religious ceremonies and informal rituals and observed how these services helped with bereavement. 76 university students were asked to write about a time of loss and how they coped. All the cases of loss were either from death or the breakup of a relationship.
Researchers then asked participants to describe the rituals they performed. The reports showed that most rituals were private. Only 10% were public and 5% religious. The ceremonies included things like playing the favourite song of someone lost, and writing letters expressing how we feel. Researchers looked at how these rituals affected 247 participants, and half the group were asked to write about how they felt.
The results show that:
- Rituals help us to feel more control after bereavement.
- It doesn’t make a difference what kind of ritual you perform.
- Rituals help us to deal with feelings of loss.
- Writing about the rituals afterwards helps us to feel more control over our loss.
Decide on a personal ritual that you can use to show love to the deceased (or the end of the relationship) and perform it. I will not give precise instructions because I believe that rituals should be private and personal.
6: Script 2
This grief-meditation script will help you to release emotion in a positive way while honouring the person (or relationship) you are releasing. You will need a personal object from the individual you’ve lost. It must be an object you are willing to release (literally).
- Sit in the garden (or indoors somewhere quiet and peaceful) with a meaningful object from the person or from the relationship. The absolute perfect spot for this is by water.
- Close your eyes and focus on your breath for 15 breaths.
- Bring the person to mind (if it’s a romantic relationship, bring to mind the two of you together).
- See the person (or the relationship) in a happy moment. Meditate on this happy moment for fifteen breaths.
- Imagine saying anything you need to say to them. “I love you.” “Thank you.” And, “I am sorry for…” Take twenty-five breaths to do this.
- Imagine hearing them saying what you need to hear. “I forgive you.” And “I am still with you”. Take twenty-five breaths to do this.
- Feel them with you as you take another ten breaths.
- Say that it is time to move on, but that you are moving on with love and gratitude.
- Let go of the personal object. If you are by water, release it into the water.
- Say “I release you.”
- Express gratitude for this meditation.
When we experience loss and bereavement, it is natural to feel sadness and sorrow.
Most of us have experienced those wrenching symptoms of a tense heart, numbness of the spirit, and tears. I know I have, when my father passed, when my nan passed, when my cat passed…
But for some, moving forward seems impossible. And sometimes that is because of mistakes in the past, which we need to forgive [READ: Meditation for Forgiveness]
According to the journal Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience, seven per cent of people facing bereavement are affected by what is called “complicated grief”.
Complicated grief is a clinical disorder marked by prolonged sorrow. Approximately 10 to 20 per cent of the time, complicated grief happens after the death of a spouse or lover and especially when the loss is sudden or violent.
Spiritual practices can help.
As American Zen Buddhist teacher Joan Halifax says in Being With Dying, “A spiritual practice can give us refuge, a shelter in which to develop insight about what is happening both outside of us and within our minds.”
I am always relieved when I can help end the suffering of people who are facing grief and loss in my online lessons. Because I myself have been there.
How Meditation Helped Me With My Father’s Passing
My father’s death was a shock and was the end of a turbulent relationship. My father had always been two things: one, a loving family man. And two, an alcoholic. Those two opposite aspects of his personality led to a war in my mind. When he died, I was sad, angry, despondent, exhausted… I experienced so many thoughts, from “It’s my fault” to “He’s abandoned me” to “I miss him, and I love him.”
There were so many thoughts, my mind sunk like a ship in stormy tides. I plummeted to the depths.
My family and I relied on each other for support. But there was one thing I needed to do for myself: I needed to release my suffering, release painful memories, and find inner peace.
Meditation helped me to let go and move on so I could look back happily, no longer in the midst of grief and sorrow.
If you’ve experienced the passing of a beloved family member, you’ll understand the need to let go and move on. Though it hurts to move on, the truth is that that is precisely what they would want.
The same is true for broken relationships. We need to let go. If the sun has set on a once blossoming relationship; if that relationship is now in shadow; then it is time to move on in the light of day, time to release, time to face the next chapter of life. At times like that, you need to let go, perhaps to forgive, and move on.
One of the main thing I have learned from Buddhism is that life is impermanent and we cannot cling on.
Wherever we look in life, there is a process of finding, experiencing, and then letting go. We find a new job. And we enjoy it. But inevitably the time will come when we move on from that job. The same with love. We find love, we experience love, but the time comes when we must let go. And for our kids too. We have children and we nurture them. But the time comes when we must let them go.
The moments of life come like the breath. We inhale. We let that moment, that breath, fill our being. But then we must let go. Only by letting go of one breath can we experience the next breath. To hold on to one breath is to suffocate because the body needs fresh oxygen. And so too do the mind and spirit.
We need to breathe in, experience things, and then let go. That is the three-pronged wheel of life.
Sometimes we get caught on one of those prongs. Sometimes we are caught on finding new things. We go from one job to the next, or from one person to the next, constantly wanting to experience more and more and more.
At other times we are stuck in one experience. Perhaps we’re trapped in a relationship that is no longer healthy and positive. Perhaps we’re no longer enjoying our jobs, but we feel trapped in them, as though there’s no way we could leave.
And finally, at times we hold on to something that has already passed. I held onto my father. I found it exceedingly difficult to let him go. But I knew I must.
Emotions are as quicksand.
There comes a time when you know you need to get out, but the more you fight, the more trapped you become. Soon you will be stuck in a rut. You can’t fight to let go, because when you make yourself fight something you are giving that something control over yourself.
Trying to release emotional pain by fighting is like trying to get rid of a scab by scratching it. You’re only going to make matters worse.
You cannot fight to release Instead, you must loosen your grip and accept reality. This acceptance is one of the main points of Buddhism. We must stop fighting. We must accept. To accept, we have to let go. And this is the link between meditation and grief, because meditation helps us release our feelings.
Past experiences haunt our existence like a smear on the retina of the conscious mind. We focus on the past experience, on what was lost, and prevent ourselves from seeing the present moment. This is only going to lead to more harm. And so, we must learn to accept, to let go, and to move on.
Overcome grief by focusing on now
The only way to release our past is to focus on the present moment. That’s where meditation comes in. By focusing the mind on the present moment, meditation helps us let go of the past.
Buddha taught that the root of all suffering (including grief) is attachment. This is one of the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism. Attachment is when you hold on to something in your mind. When you use meditation for grief and loss you let go of that attachment.
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Paul Harrison BSc is a qualified meditation teacher who believes in genuine, authentic meditation. He has more than 15 years experience in teaching meditation and mindfulness both to individuals and to corporations and is the author of four books on meditation. He has been featured in Psychology Today, Breathe Magazine, Healthline, Psych Central and Lion’s Roar.
Paul studied meditation in beautiful Oxford, UK, and Hamilton Ontario Canada, and earned his degree at Staffordshire University.
Paul’s biggest inspirations include Thich Nhat Hanh, Jon Kabat Zinn, and Jack Kornfield.
“My goal is to provide the most authentic meditation sessions so you can harness the power of your own mind for personal transformation” – Paul Harrison