When I cry, I experience two different kinds of tears. Either my tears flow like a fountain, cycling and recycling the same stale thoughts and emotions. Or my tears flow like a river, free and uninhibited and going somewhere. The first kind of experience is painful and strained, and I end up feeling just as tight and tense—or more so—when I finish crying as I did when I started. The second kind is painful too, but it offers the special space and vulnerability necessary to feel my emotions in all of their depth. This emotive experience doesn’t take the pain away; on the contrary, it helps me to feel the pain even more fully, and there’s a release that comes when I can be so present and compassionate for my own experience.
Sometimes, people try to move on quickly or to avoid the discomfort and depths of their grief after the loss of a loved one. But neglecting your authentic pain and sorrow can mean prolonging your grief process and opening new wounds. If you’ve lost someone close to you, it’s important to allow your feelings a life of their own and to follow the journey those feelings invite. After losing my father to cancer, I tried to busy myself and stay outside of my heaviest feelings. The people around me made that avoidance easy because they’d rather I was okay—positive, even. But although I cried a lot, my tears took me nowhere, and a year later I started to realize the importance of the feelings I was missing out on, however difficult they may have been.
I started to sit with my feelings and to let them have a voice. When I was on my own, sitting with the intention of self-care, other people’s worries and advice were on the sidelines. My feelings became my teacher, and this practice became a guided meditation on grief and loss. The levee broke and my tears started to flow along with my genuine sorrow. Each day started to feel unique, and I gained more clarity in my daily life as I gained more clarity in my feelings.
How to Use a Guided Meditation for Your Experience of Grief and Loss
The grief experience has been observed to pass through different stages, including denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. But we can’t expect to progress through these phases in a linear or measured fashion. More likely, we’ll bounce back and forth over time and even experience more than just a single stage at once. And, of course, everyone’s experience is different, so you may not relate to these stages at all.
Even though you are right where you need to be when feeling your feelings, it can be confusing and overwhelmingly painful. It’s important to be able to invite these feelings compassionately. Let me guide you through my own process of creating a safe space for grief and loss to unfold. Set aside about 10 minutes to sit in a quiet, comfortable place and close your eyes. Be sure to turn off your phone and prevent any other distractions. Then, just listen to this recording and be present for your experience.
Other Supportive Resources for Your Grief Journey
Whether the aging loved one you’ve lost was a partner, family member, or the other half of a caregiver relationship, it’s an emotionally challenging transition. And it’s important to know that there are resources available to support you. A grief counselor can serve as a compassionate and knowledgeable guide as you navigate your authentic grief experience. Especially if you think you may be experiencing bereavement-related depression, meeting with a counselor can be an enormous help.
Institute on Aging offers grief services through both individual consultations and traumatic loss groups with others who are also experiencing significant grief. Some groups occur in eight-week sessions, and others are available on a drop-in basis. Call IOA at 415-750-4111 for more information about group and individual grief services.
You will go through parts of this grief journey unaccompanied, but you don’t need to go through all of it on your own. When you are deep in your grief, it’s important to have reminders that you are not alone, and support groups can be welcoming spaces to counter isolation. They also give you the chance not only to receive support and advice, but also to give and to help others through their grief journeys as well. A big part of your transition and healing process will be reconnecting with and expanding the important relationships still in your life even after your loss.
To find out more about the programs, services, and resources for aging adults and caregivers at Institute on Aging, contact us today. We are committed to helping you live and thrive with the support you need.
If you’re interested to explore other guided meditations, you can check out
- A meditation to embrace transition and renewal this spring
- A meditation to encourage mindfulness in older adults with dementia