Mindfulness and Grief


BY: Diane Snyder Cowan
CATEGORY: Grief and Loss

Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally. — Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D, Wherever You Go, There You Are

Mindfulness is a buzzword these days but what exactly is it and how does it relate to grief? Mindfulness is the practice of purposely focusing your attention on the present moment and accepting it without judgment. Practicing mindfulness has been proven to improve both mental and physical health. As such, it can be a great tool to use during the grieving process when you find yourself both physically and mentally exhausted.

Mindfulness can ease your physical symptoms of grief, help calm your mind, regulate difficult emotions and improve your ability to focus on the present. It can increase compassion toward yourself and others and help you make meaning of the loss.

There are many ways to practice mindfulness. All are a form of meditation. Some folks learn to meditate on their own by following instructions in books or recordings and others benefit from the support of an instructor or group. It takes practice to become comfortable with these techniques. If one method doesn’t work for you, try another.

Learning to stay in the present is a less formal approach to mindfulness. You can practice during any activity. Here are four helpful tips:

  • ​Start by bringing your attention to the sensations in your body.
  • Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth.
  • Proceed with the task at hand slowly and with intention.
  • Engage all of your senses. Be aware of sight, touch, smell and sound.

When you notice that your mind has wandered from the task at hand, gently bring your attention back to the moment, focus on your breath and sensations.

The goal of any mindfulness practice is to achieve an alert state of focused relaxation by paying attention to thoughts and sensations without judgment. Accept whatever arises in your awareness at each moment. Most importantly, mindfulness involves being kind and forgiving toward yourself.

Grief is a powerful emotion and can be overwhelming. Mindfulness can help navigate the vast feelings of grief. You may find that you can allow the grief to rise up, observe it, hold it intentionally in awareness and notice that grief ebbs and flows.

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About Diane Snyder Cowan​
Diane Snyder Cowan is the director of Western Reserve Grief Services.

She oversees the hospice and bereavement programs and expressive therapy. Diane is a Certified Hospice and Palliative Care Administrator and a Board Certified Music Therapist.

She currently serves as the Section Leader for the Bereavement Professional Section of the National Council of Hospice and Palliative Professionals and previously served on the Board of Directors of the Certification Board for Music Therapy.

Diane has presented on music therapy and grief and loss throughout the country and has written for many publications on music therapy and on grief and loss.

She strives to provide support and education to grieving individuals and those who work with them.