In this article we will be looking at both how to use yoga for grief and how to use meditation for grief and loss.
When you’re suffering after the loss of a loved one or the breakup of a relationship, rely on meditation for grief and loss.
In fact, meditation is one of the most effective ways to soothe the physical and emotional pain associated with grief.
Grief is a strong emotion.
When we experience loss and bereavement it is natural to feel grief and loss. And most of us have experienced those wrenching symptoms of a tense heart, numbness of the spirit, and of course, so many tears.
Sorrow and grief are natural after loss. But for some, moving forward is impossible.
2 to 3 percent of the population is affected by what is called “complicated grief” (a clinical disorder for people with prolonged grief), and 10 to 20 percent of the time this is after the death of a spouse or lover and especially when the loss is sudden or violent .
Complicated grief requires therapy and counseling.
But there is good news: You can overcome grief with meditation. And you can use mindfulness and meditation to 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 us and within our minds.”
“Grief is the price we pay for love—Queen Elizabeth II
Why you should use yoga and meditation for grief and loss
In my experience the two best ways to handle grief and loss is with meditation and with yoga.
If you want to overcome grief with meditation, you first have to ask yourself what the nature of your grief is.
What is it that causes suffering?
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 your father has passed away. But because you love your father so very much you are not simply able to let him go. Your mind holds on to the image of your father as a healthy man. This is called attachment. Your mind is attached to the idea of your father as a healthy man.
Now imagine that there are two forces.
- One force is reality.
- The other force is your idea of reality (for instance, your idea of your father being alive).
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 strain. And the strain is the pain in your mind; your feeling of grief and loss.
The only way to stop the pain of grief and loss is to let go. When we use meditation for grief, we teach the mind to let go.
How I Used Meditation To Overcome The Death Of My Father
My father’s passing was a very difficult time in my life. In this article I will share 5 meditations for letting go that helped me at that time.
There have been many times in my life when I have chosen to use meditation for letting go.
The most recent time when I really needed to let go 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 completely 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.
When It Hurts, use meditation to let go
If you’ve experienced the passing of a beloved family member, you’ll understand the need to let go, the need to move on.
Though it hurts to move on, the truth is that that is precisely what they would want. And that is what we should want for ourselves too. We should want to move on.
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.
Buddhism teaches us that life is impermanent and we cannot cling on
Wherever we look in life there is this process. There is 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.
And so 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 they must be let 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 tapped 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 possibly 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 know I must.
Emotions are as quick sand. 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 rutt.
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 at it. You’re only going to make matter 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. Meditation helps.
Past experiences haunt our existence like a smear on the retina of the conscious mind. We focus on the past experience, on what has been 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 now. That’s where meditation comes in. By focusing the mind on the present moment, meditation helps us let go off the past.
There are many fabulous meditations for letting go, all of which will help you to move on. Following at 5 of the best.
3 Best Meditations For Letting Go
1: Breathe in new oxygen
The first and maybe the best of all meditation for letting go, is a breathing meditation.
The oxygen in your mind has become old and stale. It’s time to breathe in some fresh air. Literally. The best type of meditation for letting go is to meditate on your breath. If you would like to know how to do this, read my guide to Anapanasati meditation.
This is probably the best meditation for letting go because it calms the mind and helps you to release… things.
2: Candle meditation for letting go
Another of the best meditations for letting go is a candle meditation.
Candle meditations are a powerful way of focusing the mind. And because of the symbolism of the candle itself, they also help us to move on. One very powerful way to use a candle meditation for letting go is to get a candle which is almost out or wax. 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 the flame I release you” (referring to the thing you are holing 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.
Try 20 minutes of this meditation to let go of baggage.
3: Taoist methods for letting go
Taoist methods are some of the best meditation techniques for letting go of anger, resentment and other negative emotions. These are some of the best meditations for letting go.
Often, at times of moving on there is some pent up anger or resentment. When my father died part of med was angry at him. 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.
I’ve written a free guide to Taoist meditations. I hope you find it useful.
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.
I hope these five meditations for letting go help youas they helped me.
One of the The best type of meditation for grief is a mindful ritual
Mindful rituals help with grief because they help you to let go.
For instance, a funeral, celebration of life, or a private moment. These rituals help us to let go and move on, and science proves they work.
Science shows that rituals help with grief
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 affects of rituals. The researchers looked at religious rituals and informal rituals and observed how these rituals 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. They were also asked 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 rituals including things like playing the favorite song of someone we have lost, and writing letters expressing how they felt.
In a continuation of this study, 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
- Rituals help us to deal with feelings of loss
- Even novel rituals help us deal with grief
- It doesn’t make a difference what kind of ritual you perform
- Writing about the rituals afterwards helps us to feel more control over our loss.
That’s why a mindful ritual is the best meditation technique for grief and sorrow.
What Buddha said about using meditation for grief
Ubbiri was one of the first women 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 ground. One day the funeral ground was full of people. The Buddha was traveling through the region and was teaching the people.
Ubbiri listened to the Buddha but was again 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 touche us all. It makes us feel alone. But in the pain of grief and loss we are more together than ever. Take solace in the wisdom that in grief, we are one.
Let Go By Using Meditation For Grief And Loss
The key to overcoming grief is letting go. But boy is it hard sometimes.
It’s hard because of the inner struggle. That’s why it’s a good idea to use meditation for grief.
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 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 (watch: How To Stop Time). When we accept impermanance, 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 grief and loss, fighting to accept reality and let go, and the other part of you is fighting to hold on and never let go. So your mind is at war with itself, one part attacking the other. This makes is 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 fight in the mind, the fight in which one part of them is pulling one way and the other part pulling the other way.
When you use meditation for grief and loss you balance your emotions. This returns you to your natural, calm state.
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.
So how do you use meditation for grief and loss?
When using meditation for grief and loss the aim is to let go. We need to end the inner struggle. We need to stop holding on so tightly. We need release our loved ones back into the universe.
Imagine that your grief is not something in your own mind. Imagine that it is a physical thing. Imagine it as a weight that you need to let go before you injure yourself.
Notice how this analogy works perfectly. You are carrying a heavy weight (your emotional burden) and you do need to let go before it harms you.
To let go of the weight you literally let go.
What happens to the weight after that is up to the world.
The world will take the weight, and of course gravity will drop the weight to the ground where it will come to rest.
And the exact same thing needs to happen with your mind.
Let go of grief by dropping those thoughts in your mind. Stop clinging. Remove the attachment. Let go. Release the person (or the relationship) into the universe.
Use This Meditation For Grief
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 a 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 eye get wet. If that happens, just read my explanation of why you cry when you meditate.
This meditation for grief and loss 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 who has been lost. It must be an object you are willing to let go of (literally).
If there is negative energy surrounding the loss, read my guide to overcoming bad memories before you do this meditation.
- Sit in the garden (or, if indoors, sit somewhere quiet and peaceful) with a personal object from the person or from the relationship. The absolute perfect spot for this is by a body of water or stream / river.
- Close your eyes and focus on your breath for 15 breaths.
- Bring the person to mind (if you are doing this for a breakup or divorce, bring to mind the two of you together).
- See the person (or the relationship) in a happy moment. Meditate on this happy moment for 15 breaths.
- 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.
- Imagine hearing them saying what you need to hear. “I forgive you.” I am still with you”. Take 25 breaths to do this.
- Feel them with you as you take another 10 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.
- Express gratitude for this meditation.
Congratulations. You have moved forward with love and respect, and you will forever more look back with happiness.
Benefits of Yoga For Grief And Loss
When you experience moments of grief, such as the loss of a loved one, your brain chemistry is massively impacted. Your stress hormones are knocked out of balance. This results in loss of emotional control, heightened stress and sadness. One way to correct this is by using meditation for emotions control.
And yoga can help too.
Left unchecked, these chemical changes have a heavy impact on our health. It changes blood flow to your muscles, which tighten and become tense. Stress and anger, meanwhile, cause you to subconsciously move in unhealthy ways, such as by adopting bad posture or gritting your teeth. And all this leads to the degradation of your muscles an joints.
And so grief causes both your body and mind to suffer. And this downward spiral will continue unless you do something to change your mind and body: namely, by releasing the negative energy.
And this is why you might like to use yoga for grief relief: because it helps to release both the negative emotions and the physical tension.
The combination of asanas (yoga poses) and pranayama (rhythmic breathing) calms the nerves and helps to create chemical balance. It reduces anger and sadness in the mind, and at the same time it calms the nerves. And you can achieve all this in as little as 30 minutes.
What I recommend is that you spend 15 minutes before you yoga sessions setting your intent.
How to set your intent when using yoga for grief-relief
It is important that you acknowledge that you are using yoga for grief-relief. You will want to do this before you start your yoga session. Heres how:
- Create a yoga space that actually helps to soothe you. For instance, you might choose to incorporate some water features and aromatherapy candles into your yoga space.
- Spend at least five minutes meditating on your breath. This is vital because you are holding so muc tension in you body. Take five minutes to breathe and to start to relax.
- Now move into your yoga practice. Throughout, maintain the intention of letting go and soothing your body and mind. You are being self compassionate. You are releasing your pain.
Now let’s look at which asana to use when using yoga for grief relief.
Yoga Poses For Grief Relief
Naturally, many of the 28 forms of yoga help with grief.
However, some asanas are more effective than others.
When you are using yoga for grief, you will want to open your body and let go. For that reason, the best yoga poses for grief are ones that either reconnect you to the earth, or that open your heart-space.
Try these yoga poses:
1. Wild Thing Pose:
Wild Things Pose is an excellent pose for letting go of pent-up negative energy. In this pose we are arching backwards have both feet on the floor, with one arm reaching out past the head and face. There is an incredible sense of space with this pose. It opens up the entire body, helping to let go of tension.
2. Child Pose:
Child Pose is a very humble pose in which we are kneeling down with the arms extended out on the floor in front of us, like we are praying. This is a powerful move for reconnecting us with the earth (and especially if we are doing yoga outside in barefoot).
This pose will help to ground you, which helps with processing grief.
When we are too inside our own minds it can be hard to balance. However, by forcing ourselves to balance we essentially demand the mind to focus on the present moment. And this can help us to snap out of our negative thoughts. One of the best yoga asanas for this is Half Moon, which has one leg on the ground, the other reaching backwards from the hip. The position of the arms also helps with both connection and release. One hand touches the floor grounding us, while the other reaches upwards in release, helping us to let go.
4. Downward Dog:
Downward Dog is one of the easiest poses to do and also an excellent way to open the heart space. Reach down through the arms and feel that release in your heart space.
Shavasana should be held for several minutes at the end of the yoga session. While doing this, make sure to meditate and to experience the feeling of release that your yoga practice has produced. Notice how you now fee more relaxed. Embrace this feeling. It will be there for you next time you need it.