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Friday, February 8, 2013

Grief and Mindfulness--Part One

I was able to use mindfulness techniques in order to help me through with my grief.   I am so grateful that I was exposed to these easy to use techniques early in my grief journey.  What I learned about mindfulness meditation helped in those early months and continues to be something I use during times of stress and difficulty.  In this first part I will introduce you to one of the pioneers of mindfulness and medicine in the United States and then I will begin to explain why mindfulness can help the grieving person.  In the second part, I will explain some of the techniques that can easily be employed and used wherever you are.  I have added links to the author’s books for those who want to learn more about the subject.

Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D. is the founder of the Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society Center at the University of Massachusetts School of Medicine.  He has written numerous books on the subject of mindfulness.  One of the books that he wrote with a group of co-authors is called “TheMindful Way Through Depression” and has been highly successful and well received.

Kabat-Zinn is a scientist, with a degree in molecular biology from M.I.T. so he is not someone who is what you would consider a “New Ager” or into pseudoscience.  This guy has a brain and has studied the impact of mindfulness on the brain and the immune system.  He is considered one of the top experts on the subject.

Kabat-Zinn has been practicing mindfulness meditation since the mid-sixties.  In the late 70’s he started the Stress Reduction Clinic.  He reason for beginning this clinic was to bring Buddhist meditation into mainstream medicine sans the Buddhism.  Kabat-Zinn explains mindfulness as an act of self-compassion by paying attention to yourself in the moment.  Kabat-Zinn stated that he considers healing as “coming to terms with things as they are.” 

One of the few books that I found that combines mindfulness and grieving is “Grieving Mindfully” by Sameet Kumar, Ph.D.  Dr. Kumar is a Buddhist and a psychologist who works a cancer center in Miami, Florida.  Unlike Kabat-Zinn who takes the Buddhism out of mindfulness meditation, Kumar as a Buddhist comes from the Buddhist origin but he also states that as a psychologist he believes that the ideas of mindfulness can be successfully translated into the psychotherapeutic world.

Unlike some grief therapy methods that suggest that the grieving individual try to do everything they can to not think about the pain and sorrow they are feeling and to re-direct their energy, mindfulness asks that the griever tune into the pain of what Kumar calls the “intense pain of love after loss.”  Instead of denying the grief, mindfulness requires you to come to full awareness of the grief in order to really feel and experience the pain in order to soften the pain by living only in the moment.  Mindfulness allows the griever to mourn and experience the grief and learn from it in order to grow and be able to move away from the misery and make meaning of the pain.

Kumar notes that grief can be more difficult when we try to numb ourselves of the feeling and try to rush the grieving journey.  He states that often people around the griever will encourage the individual to move forward, get over it.  Kumar says that gives the griever the message that they are doing something wrong.  Kumar says that when we look at grief as an extension of our love than we can understand that there is nothing wrong with grieving.
Next--Part Two- Easy Mindfulness Techniques for the Grieving Heart

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