meditation for grief & loss

In this article, we will be looking at how to use mindfulness and meditation for grief and loss for when relationships end, when someone passes away, and, you know, at those other awful times in our lives that we all face and somehow endure.

When you’re suffering after the loss of a loved one or the breakup of a relationship, you can rely on meditation for grief and loss.

There are some excellent meditations that can help you to control your emotions and to handle painful memories from the past.

Meditation is one of the most effective ways to soothe the physical and emotional pain associated with sadness. [1]

When we experience loss and bereavement, it is natural to feel sorrow and pain. Most of us have experienced those wrenching symptoms of a tense heart, numbness of the spirit, and tears.

Sorrow and grief are natural after a loss. But for some, moving forward is impossible.

2 to 3 per cent of the population is affected by what is called “complicated grief” (a clinical disorder for people with prolonged grief), and 10 to 20 per cent of the time this is after the death of a spouse or lover and especially when the loss is sudden or violent. [source]

But there is good news: You can overcome grief with meditation and create inner peace for yourself.

As Joan Halifax says in Being With Dying [AMAZON] “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.”

6 Best Mindfulness & Meditation Scripts For Grief And Loss

Use these meditation scripts for grief, sadness and letting go. You may have never meditated before. In which case, read our beginners guide to meditation. 

I’ll explain meditation very briefly. Meditation is focusing your mind on reality (and normally on one specific part of reality).

When you meditate, you focus your mind on reality. You let go and let the world take over. And you do that by focusing on the present moment.

You might focus on your breathing, on the sounds around you, on a movement (for instance yoga and tai chi) or anything. What matters is that you are focusing your mind on the present moment.

When you focus your mind on the present moment in this way, you let go and let the world take over. And just as when you drop weight the world takes over, drops the weight to the ground and lets it rest there, the exact same thing will happen when you meditate. You will give your mind over to the world. The world will drop those thoughts (which are your grief), and you will be free.

And do not worry when your eyes wet. If that happens, just read my explanation of why you cry when you meditate.  

1: Breathe in new oxygen

Perhaps the best meditation for loss and grief is a breathing meditation.

Loss causes your mind to become stagnant as you hold on to the past. To help you let go, try meditating on the breath.

This is a great tool because it calms the mind and helps you to release all those stored-up emotions.

2: Candle meditation script

candles at a funeral
candles at a funeral

Another of the best meditations for loss is a candle meditation. This is a powerful way of focusing the mind. And because of the symbolism of the candle itself, they also help us to move on. Get a candle that is almost deplete of its wax and then to meditate as the cande dies out. Here’s how:

Script

  1. Get a candle that is almost out of wax
  2. Make sure there’s enough wax to last for around twenty minutes.
  3. 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.
  4. Focus your gaze on the candle.
  5. Repeat the mantra “With the flame, I release you” (referring to the thing you are holding on to)
  6. Meditate on the candle until it is out.
  7. Say, “It is done.” Visualise letting go and moving on.
  8. Express gratitude for this meditation.

Note: This method will make you emotional, but it will also help you to move on.

3: Taoist  

Taoist methods are some of the best meditation techniques for grief, anger, resentment and other negative emotions.

Often when attempting to move on there is pent up anger or resentment. When my father died, part of me was angry at him because he had died unnecessarily from years of alcoholism. But that anger doesn’t help. My father deserves to be remembered in loving memory, 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.

It is a challenge to move on. The past has a way of haunting the mind, like shadows. But when consciousness focuses on the present moment, the light of day shatters the darkness and allows you to rise once more.

4: Guided Meditation For Loss

Coping with Grief: Guided Spoken Meditation for healing after a loss of a loved one

5: Mindful Ritual 

woman scattering ashes in lake
woman scattering ashes in lake

Mindful rituals help you to let go.

Funerals, celebrations of life, and private moments help us to let go and move on, and science proves they work.

Science 

Rituals like funerals and “celebrations of life” help to relieve grief. Science proves it.

Research published by the Journal Of Experimental Psychology studied the psychological effects of rituals.  The researchers looked at religious ceremonies and informal rituals and observed how these services helped with bereavement.

The researchers asked 76 university students to write about a time of loss and how they coped. The losses were all either death or the breakup of a relationship. Researchers asked them to describe the rituals they performed and how they handled their loss.

Most of these rituals were private. Only 10% were public and 5% religious.

The ceremonies included things like playing the favourite song of someone we have lost and writing letters expressing how they felt.

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:

6: Grief Meditation Script

This grief-meditation script will help you to let go in a positive way while honouring the person (or relationship) that we are releasing.

You will need a personal object from the individual you’ve lost. It must be an object you are willing to let go of (literally).

  1. Sit in the garden (or indoors somewhere quiet and peaceful) with a meaningful object from the person or relationship. The absolute perfect spot for this is by a body of water or stream/river.
  2. Close your eyes and focus on your breath for 15 breaths.
  3. Bring the person to mind (if it’s a romantic relationship, bring to mind the two of you together).
  4. See the person (or the relationship) in a happy moment. Meditate on this happy moment for 15 breaths.
  5. Imagine saying anything you need to say to them. “I love you.” “Thank you.” And yes, “I am sorry for…” Take 25 breaths to do this.
  6. Imagine hearing them saying what you need to hear. “I forgive you.” I am still with you”. Take 25 breaths to do this.
  7. Feel them with you as you take another ten breaths.
  8. Say that it is time to move on, but that you are moving on with love and gratitude.
  9. Let go of the personal object. If you are by water, release it into the water And say “I release you.”
  10. Express gratitude for this meditation.

How I Meditated To Overcome The Death Of My Father

There have been many times in my life when I have chosen to use meditation for grief and letting go.

The most recent time was following my father’s death last year.

My father’s death was a shock and was the end of a somewhat 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” (though Lord knows how that could ever be the case) 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, and I plummeted to the depths.

Thankfully I am fortunate to have a loving family, and they helped pick me up.

But there was one thing I needed to do for myself: I needed to release my suffering.

I needed to let go of painful memories and move on.

And I needed to 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.

Meditating heals after bereavement

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 let go, time to face the next chapter of life.

At times like that, you need to let go, perhaps to forgive, and move on.

Buddhist wisdom

Buddhism teaches us 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. We enjoy the job. 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. We nurture them. But the time comes when we must let them go.

The moments of life come like 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.

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. We need to experience. We need to let go. That is the three-pronged wheel of life.

But at times 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 past. I held onto my father. I found it very 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 let go of emotional pain by fighting is akin to trying to get rid of a scab by scratching it. You’re only going to make matters worse.

You cannot fight to let go. You cannot let go by gripping tighter. You must loosen your grip. You must 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 let go.

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. We need instead to focus on the present moment. This will clean the consciousness of its smear and allow us to live free from the ghosts of past experience.

The only way to let go of the 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 off 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.

For instance, imagine that you have lost your father (something I personally went through a couple of years ago). Now the reality, of course, is sadly that the person has passed away. But because you them so very much, you can’t just let go. Your mind holds on to the image of them. This is called attachment.

Now imagine that there are two forces.

These two forces are working in opposition because the reality is that the person has passed, but your mind is attached to the idea of them being alive.

When any two forces work in opposition, there is a strain. In grief, we have the strain of your mind versus reality. Naturally, the reality is not going to change, so the only solution is to let go with your mind. And this is what we practise when we use meditations for grief.

Ubbiri was one of the first female Buddhists. She had lost her daughter and was stricken with sorrow. Her daughter, Jiva, was the daughter of the King, but she died soon after birth.

Ubbiri mourned the loss of her daughter every day at the funeral grounds. One day the funeral ground was full of people. The Buddha was travelling through the region and was teaching the people.

Ubbiri listened to the Buddha but was overcome with grief and loss. She ran to the riverside and wept.

Buddha heard Ubbiri’s crying. He longed to help her.

Ubbiri told Buddha of her loss.

The Buddha pointed to the funeral grounds and said:

Mother, you cry out “O Jiva” in the woods.

Come to yourself, Ubbiri.

Eighty-four thousand daughters

All with the name “Jiva”

Have burned in the funeral fire.

For which one do you grieve?

With these words, Buddha reminded Ubbiri that she was not alone, that we have all experienced grief and loss. We are together in this pain. Grief and loss touch us all. It makes us feel alone. But in the pain, we are more together than ever. Take solace in the wisdom that you are not alone.

Closing thoughts

The key to overcoming grief is letting go. But boy is it hard sometimes.

It’s hard because of the inner struggle.  Have you ever felt that you are experiencing inner struggle about your loss?

When you are trying to overcome grief and loss you may feel as though one part of you is pulling one way, the other way.

When my father died, I remember desperately wanting to say the things I never got to say (my father’s death was an accident and sudden, so there was no time to say what I needed to say).

Times like these we are torn in two.

Part of me wanted to accept my father’s death so that I could move on and look back on him with love and happiness. But part of my just couldn’t let go. So I was torn.

Buddhism teaches that life is impermanence. When we accept impermanence, we relieve sorrow and loss. When we fail to accept impermanence (when we cling), we create a rift in the mind.

This rift in the mind is where the grief comes in.

You have pain because part of you is fighting to overcome the bereavement, fighting to accept reality and let go, and the other part of you is struggling to hold on and never let go. So your mind is at war with itself, one part attacking the other. This makes it impossible to overcome sorrow after the death of a loved one.

One of the reasons highly emotional people are unable to control their emotions is because they cannot stop this internal struggle, the fight in which one part of them is pulling one way and the other part pulling the other way.

If you want to have inner peace, you need to stop the war that is going on in your own mind. To do that, we let go. And to let go, we meditate.

When meditating the aim is to let go. We need to end the inner struggle. We need to stop holding on so tightly. We need to release our loved ones back into the universe.

Download this as a PDF

SOURCES:

1: Mindfulness Improves Emotion Regulation and Executive Control on Bereaved Individuals: An fMRI Study, Feng-Ying Huang, National Taipei University of Education, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6360180/

2: The Psychology of Rituals: An Integrative Review and Process-Based Framework, Nicholas M Hobson, University of Toronto https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1088868317734944


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