When we experience deep loss in life – whether from the death of a loved one or a “death” in some other area of our lives – grief is a natural response, and it looks different for everyone. From outpourings of sadness or anger, to feeling shut down and closed off, to the countless variations in between that we may encounter day by day and month by month, grief is an emotional farewell tour we each must navigate in our own unique way. That said, there are some tools that can help us find our way through it with more grace and ease, and one of the most powerful of these is mindfulness.

Mindfulness is the opposite of rumination and out-of-control emotional spiraling. It is the practice of choosing how and where to focus our attention, and it is a skill that can serve us very well as we traverse the most challenging times in life. Here are three ways you can use mindfulness to navigate your grief and create more peace and balance going forward.

1. Try mindfulness meditation: Do 10 minutes twice a day – or 20 minutes twice a day if you can make time. Look for guided meditations on Insight Timer or try my free Balanced Mind podcast on iTunes. Mix it up so that your mind is relaxing into the practice. Mindfulness meditation gives your brain a much-needed break. Meditation lowers your heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration. It decreases anxiety and depression, and helps you maintain healthy habits like diet and exercise. Mindfulness helps with interpersonal relationships, because you become less reactive. As your ability to pause strengthens, it enables you to choose a more skillful response in conversation with others.

2. 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.

3. Take in the good: It’s normal for our brains to hang onto negative information, and when we’re grieving, the pain we are feeling can be overwhelming. However, there is a technique we can use to begin to condition our brains to have more good feelings. As psychologist and brain researcher Rick Hanson says, “Taking in the good is the deliberate internalization of positive experiences into implicit memory.” Here’s how it works:

H – Have a good experience. Tune in and be mindful when you notice that a good experience is occurring.
E – Enrich it to install it. Instead of thinking, “Wow, nice sunset. What’s for dinner?” try really noticing the sunset for a breath or two: “Wow, what a gorgeous sunset. Look at those colors. That is truly amazing.” You are giving yourself time to enrich this positive mental state.
A – Absorb it as if you are filling your body up with the good experience. Enriching and absorbing will push that positive mental state into a neural trait. What fires together, wires together! You are making a happy bridge in your brain, which helps to counteract your natural negativity bias.
L – Link positive and negative material. This is an optional last step in which you can link this positive experience you’re having to another challenging experience and supplant that negative mental state with this positive mental state.

Wherever you are in your grieving process, realize that grief is not a “one size fits all” experience. Pay close attention to what self-care needs are coming up now for your attention, and give yourself the gift of accepting yourself (and your process) exactly as you are.

Author's Bio: 

About: Mindfulness expert and author Julie Potiker is an attorney who began her serious study and investigation of mindfulness after graduating from the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program at the University of California, San Diego. She went on to become trained to teach Mindful Self-Compassion, and completed the Positive Neuroplasticity Training Professional Course with Rick Hanson. Now, she shares these and other mindfulness techniques with the world through her Mindful Methods for Life trainings and her new book: “Life Falls Apart, but You Don’t Have To: Mindful Methods for Staying Calm In the Midst of Chaos.” For more information, visit www.MindfulMethodsForLife.com.