Mindfulness For Grief

by | Mar 11, 2024 | Blog


Mindfulness can be defined as a way of life in which we become aware of our present thoughts, feelings, physical experiences, and the world around us. It is recognizing everything that is in the now. Another concept important to understanding mindfulness is impermanence. Impermanence is the idea that everything is always changing. Existence is always in flux, ours, and everything around us. Nothing stays the same. Acknowledging this reality enables us to strive for living in the present moment because we recognize that each moment of time lasts only for a second, and then it is gone forever. Impermanence teaches us the importance of now, and mindfulness is the act of living in the now.

Mindfulness is often discussed in connection with meditation. Meditation is a brain training exercise, a way to practice mindfulness. And often, this practice begins with the breath. As our practice with the breath proceeds, we can begin to be aware of our thoughts and emotions. After awareness comes acceptance. And through acceptance, we can let go of our thoughts and emotions.1 Mindfulness reminds us that pain and sorrow, like everything else, are impermanent, and practicing mindfulness can help us process these difficult emotions. It doesn’t make the grief go away, but it does help remind us that it will not last forever. The emotions of grief ebb and flow, change shape and form.1 Recognizing and acknowledging this allows us to avoid becoming consumed and trapped by our grief. It also encourages us not to ignore our grief. It can help the sometimes-overwhelming feelings seem easier to navigate. Mindfully slowing the breath, becoming aware of what we are thinking and feeling, and using the breath to lean into our emotions helps to really feel them and then let them go.

What happens if we try to avoid the emotional process of grief? Often, we try to “get over” grief because we “misunderstand the true nature of our emotions. Emotions are not solid and pure entities.” Remember impermanence? “They are flexible entities that are both a message and a messenger sent from the deepest reaches of the psyche. When it comes to emotion, the medium really is the message. So, in practice if you try to suppress the message, then the dutiful messenger will keep coming back to pester you until you have felt the emotion it each time you turn away the messenger, it will try a little harder to find another way of conveying the message.” This is how we can get stuck in our grief, from trying to get over it or repeatedly ignoring it. “Acknowledgment of the truth (of our grief) is a relief, and it heals. To come to what is true now and be with it, that is compassion. That is the practice.” Emotions are also often seen in absolutes, either good or bad, sweet or sour, painful or pleasant. But the emotions we actually feel are fusions of many different feelings. We rarely feel pure anger or happiness. Happiness might have a sad undertow, while anger might be tinged with sorrow. Grief is even more powerful, subtle, and complex. This is why it can be so overwhelming.” Mindfulness can help sort through all the complexity by helping you to “experience and accept all your emotions, whatever they might be” with compassion. Mindfulness encourages you to “feel what you feel. And trust in your emotions.” Try not to “get sidetracked with the thoughts about emotions. Emotions are just experiences, limited to the present.” There’s that impermanence again. “Thoughts can keep emotions intense by recreating them.” Use mindfulness to help accept any thoughts with compassion and let them go. With time and practice, both the thoughts and emotions associated with your grief will begin to dissipate.

Here are some thoughts on how to be mindful with your grief. Remember that everyone grieves differently. Whatever you are experiencing is natural. Allow yourself space for whatever your grief experience brings. Allow emotions to arise. Remember that turmoil is normal. Breathe through your emotions while leaning into them. This may feel uncomfortable at first, as your emotions may feel overwhelming. Some people find it helpful to write in a journal about what they are experiencing. Others find solace in art or being in nature. Explore what works for you. Sit quietly and reflect, breathing through whatever arises. Trust your inner resources. You will get through this experience. Use meditation as a tool. Regular meditation makes it easier to breathe and center yourself when unexpected emotions arise.

Reach out to others, friends, relatives, or even a therapist. Or, if you prefer, spend as much time alone as you need. There is no wrong answer. Maybe there are times when you want to reach out to others, and other times you want to be alone.

Remember that you are not your thoughts. Let go of any thoughts about your emotions, especially those that contain judgments. “Thoughts are not facts; even those that say they are.”

Release any guilt. It’s possible that you will feel guilt when your grief starts to subside. Acknowledge any guilt, accept it, and let it go. Or reframe it. For example, I know my loved one would want me to enjoy my life and not feel guilty.

Extend love and compassion to yourself. If you saw a friend experiencing what you, yourself, are experiencing, what advice, compassion, or grace would you extend to them? It would be a safe bet that you would have nothing but love, patience, and acceptance for them. Don’t you deserve to treat yourself with the same kindness that you would extend to someone else? Self-criticism can inspire negative thoughts that we are doing everything wrong. Self-affirmation is a very powerful tool. Tell yourself that you are doing the very best that you can.

Finally, give yourself time. Everyone’s timetable is different. Give yourself the freedom to take as long as you need, and release any expectations about taking too long or not long enough.

Mindfulness can be helpful in navigating the grief process. Remembering impermanence, trying to stay in the present moment, and allowing yourself to feel what you feel while staying centered can help. Different mindfulness strategies work for different people. Explore several and find what works for you. And finally, remember everyone grieves differently; be authentic with your grief experience.


1. “Mindfulness and Grief: Spending Time in the Present,” whatsyourgrief.com

2. Danny Penman, “Should You Try to Get Over Grief or Accept it with Mindfulness,” franticworld.com

3. Megan Devine, “You Aren’t Here Now: How Grief and Mindfulness Don’t Mix,” huffpost.com

4. Monica A. Frank, PhD, “Step 5 Mindfulness and Grief,” excelatlife.com

5. You Are Not Your Pain

6. Ronald Alexander, “6 mindful Strategies For Recovering From Loss,” mindful.org