With around 115,000 deaths plus countless canceled graduations, weddings, and funerals, people of all ages are experiencing different levels of grief while navigating the ramifications of the coronavirus pandemic.
Julie Potiker, author of Life Falls Apart, but You Don’t Have To: Mindful Methods for Staying Calm in the Midst of Chaos, explains three ways mindfulness can help anyone grieving in these unprecedented times.
- Try mindfulness meditation: Start with 12 minutes twice a day — or 20 minutes twice a day if you can make time. Look for guided meditations on Insight Timer or the free Balanced Mind with Julie Potiker podcast on iTunes. Mix it up so that your mind is relaxing into the practice.
- 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.
- Get outside: There are huge health benefits to being in nature, so grab your face mask and head out! Feel the temperature of the air, and 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.
“When we’re grieving,” says Julie, “we can easily become lost in waves of emotion or downward spirals of thought that leave us feeling really stuck in those feelings. Mindfulness is a tool we can use to break the cycle of rumination and give our brain something else to attend to. It doesn’t take our painful feelings away, but it does give us a little breathing room around them so we can see ourselves and our lives from a place of more peace and clarity.”