Grief is not a linear process, and there is no correct way to mourn a loss. You’ll experience days where you find a bit of light and days where your emotions make it impossible to move forward. Both are part of the journey. And while there is no expiration date on your coping process, there are several grounding techniques for grief to make the experience a tad more bearable.
What Are ‘Grounding Techniques’?
Unfortunately, we never truly get over a loss, especially if that person is someone we deeply care about. The pain we feel leaves an imprint on our identity and impacts the rest of our life. But grounding techniques make it easier to navigate the loss, build acceptance, and manage the intense emotions experienced during grief. By assisting you to focus on the present moment, grounding techniques help you reduce the emotional intensity, focus on the world around you, and find solace during your healing.
5 Mental Grounding Techniques for Grief
1. Acknowledge your grief
Grief is an intense experience and creates a spectrum of emotions. As a result, you may find yourself avoiding how you’re feeling and resorting to food, shopping, television, or alcohol for short-term comfort. But over time, these coping tools encourage you to avoid the problem rather than confronting it with care. Therefore, take a moment to notice what thoughts, feelings, and sensations are present for you right now. Then label them. Naming your emotions and tuning into how you’re feeling ever so slightly invites peace and acceptance.
2. Visualize the painful emotions leaving you
After slowly confronting your feelings, engage in a visualization technique to cope with the intensity.
- Sit cross-legged and close your eyes
- Take a few deep breaths
- And gather all of your intense emotions
- Then start to place each emotion into a box
- The box symbolizes acknowledging how you’re feeling and transporting them to an enclosed space for relief
3. Journal how you’re feeling
Navigating the emotional roller coaster of grief is not an easy feat. Therefore, when the waves of overwhelm and pain hit you, journal through the emotional currents to help you stay afloat. To start, grab your journal and allow your pen to guide you. If you’re struggling to write the first sentence, here are a few prompts;
- I remember when…
- I wish I could…
- What I want to tell you is…
- My happiest memory of you…
4. Take a mindfulness walk
One of the best grounding techniques for grief is mindfulness. It allows us to connect to the present moment and receive a break from the pain we feel internally. While walking, whether at the park, neighborhood or in your backyard, notice how your body feels and connect your senses to the world around you. What do you smell? Flowers? What do you hear? Birds chirping, kids playing, cars driving? What do you feel? The warmth of the sun or the wind on your skin? Answer each question as you move your body.
5. Daily mindful tasks
Grief can make doing anything feel emotionally and physically exhausting. Cleaning your home, showering, working, or even walking feels like you’re moving through molasses. But try to connect mindfulness to even the simplest of tasks. For example, while eating a meal, focus on the meal in front of you. Describe the flavors, breathe in the aroma, and chew slowly. The best thing about grounding techniques is that we can apply their benefits to any task. It’s about creating a moment that allows us to connect with ourselves.
5 Physical Grounding Techniques for Grief
1. Compassionate self-massage
Grief often occurs in a ripple effect. We experience the primary loss then life hits us with adjacent losses like social connections, work, etc. Yet one way to find comfort through this web of pain is touch. Whether it’s receiving a massage from a professional or giving ourselves a bit of compassionate self-massage, touch can help us release both physical and emotional pain. If you’re giving yourself a massage, start massaging the top of your body and slowly working to the bottom. Focus on each muscle group, the warmth generated from your hands, and the self-comfort you’re providing.
2. Give yourself a butterfly hug
Another form of using our bodies to self-soothe is through a butterfly hug, a therapeutic exercise from Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR). You can use the butterfly hug if you’re struggling to fall asleep or whenever you need to cope with feelings of sadness and loneliness.
- Start by lying down in a safe area
- Cross your arms over your chest with your palms facing your skin
- Both of your hands should point towards the neck or your shoulders, making two wings
- Then flap your hands like a butterfly focusing on the warmth generated by your hands on your skin
- Close your eyes and breathe deeply
3. Breath through the discomfort
When we’re anxious or stressed, especially during periods of grief, our breathing is rapid and shallow. But a simple mindful technique called psychological sighing can reduce the overwhelm and help us regain a sense of peace…quickly.
- To start, close your eyes and inhale twice through the nose
- Then exhale twice out of the mouth
- Keep repeating until you feel an emotional release
According to its creator, neuroscientist Jack Feldman, this combination reduces blood flow to the heart and activates our parasympathetic nervous system – our body’s built-in relaxation system.
4. Carry and connect to an object
Life, unfortunately, doesn’t stop when you’re grieving. As such, you may find it challenging to cope with your grief in public. A great way around this is to carry an object meaningful to the person or event you lost in your pocket. For example, a piece of jewelry, an emblem, a crystal, or anything that reminds you of them. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, gently touch or massage the object and connect your body to your senses.
5. Sleeping tools
It can feel like grief hits us the hardest at night. Indeed, when you begin to unwind for bed, your mind replays every worry, fear, and emotion. Yet grounding techniques like rolling on lavender before bed, using a weighted blanket, practicing progressive muscle relaxation, taking a hot aromatherapy bath, or cuddling your animal baby can reduce the overwhelm and racing thoughts. Create a calming night routine with any of these suggestions to help you receive some well-deserved zzz’s.
When grieving a loss, it’s normal to experience intense emotions, including anger, guilt, and disbelief. But judging these emotions only increases their intensity and creates more negative consequences. Therefore, practicing grounding techniques for grief allows you to work through the feelings and embrace what is happening here and now. And while grief stays with us, you can discover ways to help you process your loss.
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