Mindfulness for Grief and Loss

Grief is different for everyone, and it can change over time. Mindfulness can support us in healing and self-discovery after loss and change.

Mindfulness for Grief and Loss - Illustration of an elderly man sitting across the table from the ghost of a loved one

Grief, often associated with the loss of a loved one, extends its reach into the broader spectrum of life changes, encompassing significant events such as job transitions, the conclusion of relationships, or even relocating to a new place. It’s a complex mix of emotions that everyone encounters, often including deep sadness, fear, and shock. We’re here to delve into how mindfulness can serve as a valuable companion during these challenging times.

We’ll explore the science behind mindfulness for grief, highlighting how intentional awareness can reshape our brains and provide a practical toolkit for managing emotions. We’ll discuss what grief entails, explore the ways in which mindfulness offers support, and share strategies for moving forward after experiencing loss or significant life changes. Additionally, we’ve curated a collection of guided meditations designed to provide moments of reflection and solace amidst the rollercoaster of emotions.

Navigating the path of grief is a personal journey, unique to each individual. It’s important to understand that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to this experience. Grief is different for everyone, and it can change over time. Sometimes, it might come back unexpectedly, even long after the initial loss. Think of this guide as a helpful tool on your ongoing mindfulness journey through grief. You can come back to it whenever you need support. We’re here to offer insights and mindfulness practices to help you through the varying emotions of grief, recognizing that everyone’s experience is different.

Mindfulness for Grief and Loss - Illustration of a woman walking from a dark environment into a light environment

What Is Grief

Grief is most often described as the pain of losing a loved one, but it’s also our natural response to big life changes, like getting or losing a job, ending a relationship, or moving. It involves stages like denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. 

Our minds, brains, and bodies all get involved in the grief process, reacting to and helping us recover from the punch-in-the-gut feeling that comes with change. While the emotions that arise during this time are the most-talked about grief symptoms, we may also feel physical symptoms like nausea, fatigue, insomnia, lack of appetite, and more. It can feel all-encompassing.  Our bodies are trying to figure out how to cope with something that’s wreaked havoc on our usual comforts, ways of doing things, and sources of meaning and connection.

Grieving is actually tied to our deep, ancient need for connection. Back in the day, sticking together in groups was a survival tactic, so when we lose a connection, it’s like an alarm goes off in our system.

Everyone’s grief journey is unique, and there’s no rulebook or timeline. We’re all just trying to navigate our own path through a big, messy maze of emotions. So, whether you’re dealing with the loss of a person, a job, or something else entirely, it’s okay to ride the waves of grief, however and whenever they come. This guide is designed to be a resource that you can come back to time and time again, whenever you need it. 

Common Ways Grief May Show Up:

  • Emotional rollercoaster: Grief often involves a range of emotions such as sadness, anger, guilt, confusion, and even relief. These emotions can come and go in waves, even long after we experience the initial loss..
  • Physical symptoms: Grief can manifest physically, leading to symptoms like fatigue, changes in appetite, sleep disturbances, headaches, or stomachaches.
  • Cognitive effects: Loss can affect concentration, memory, and decision-making abilities. It might be challenging to focus on daily tasks or make choices during the grieving process.
  • Social withdrawal: Grieving individuals may withdraw from social activities or isolate themselves as they navigate their emotions. The pain of loss can make it difficult to engage with others.
  • Spiritual impact: For some, grief raises questions about the meaning of life, existence, and one’s beliefs. It may prompt a search for spiritual or existential understanding.
  • Intense longing: A common aspect of grief is the intense longing for the person or thing that is lost. This longing can trigger moments of deep sadness and despair.
  • Changes in identity: Grief can alter one’s sense of identity.  People may question who they are or their role in the absence of what or whom they’ve lost.
  • Behavioral changes: Grief can influence behavior, leading to changes in routine, habits, or coping mechanisms—some more healthy than others. Some people might seek solace in new activities or withdraw from familiar ones.
  • Impact on relationships: The dynamics of relationships can shift due to grief. Communication may become strained, and people might struggle to connect with others who haven’t experienced a similar loss.

It’s important to note that grief is a highly individualized experience, and people cope with it in various ways. There is no right or wrong way to grieve, and each person’s journey is unique. If you’re  struggling with grief, it may feel especially difficult to seek connection, but finding support from friends, family, or professionals can be beneficial. If someone you know is grieving, it can be helpful to reach out and let them know that you’re there to support them through this hard time.

Grieving With Mindfulness

Grieving mindfully means being aware of and accepting your emotions without judgment. It involves navigating the complex journey of grief with self-compassion and purposeful awareness. Try this:

1. Accept your feelings: Allow yourself to feel what you feel at any given moment, with a sense of self-compassion, and without judgment.

2. Express your feelings: Just as important as accepting your feelings is expressing them in a way that is helpful to you. Journaling, talking about the experience, scrapbooking, or dancing, for example, are helpful ways to process grief instead of allowing the feelings to stay stuck.

3. Reach out: During this time, it is important to reach out in multiple ways. Reach out for guidance from a spiritual counselor or a psychologist. Reach out to share stories of your loved one with others, andoffer support to other grievers. Find a balance between sitting with yourself and being with others, but ultimately, reach out—don’t isolate.

4. Continue to take care of yourself and others: Living life while grieving often feels like scaling a mountain. Grieving takes energy and can often feel draining. As much as possible during this tough time, continue to eat well, exercise, and maintain wellness practices.

5. Celebrate your loved one’s life: It is important through the grief process to keep the memory of your loved one alive in some way that both inspires growth, and reflects and honors your unique relationship. This can include donating to a charity, meditating in their honor, and even planting a tree.

Mindfulness for Grief & Loss - Illustration of a woman sitting in meditation.

How Mindfulness Can Help

Dealing with grief is a deep journey we all will likely face sometime in life. It comes with many feelings and difficulties, but practicing  mindfulness can help. 

Recovering from Loss and Change

Mindfulness can support us in healing and self-discovery after loss and change. Seek support from others, reflect on past challenges, and envision a new life ahead by exploring some of these suggestions from mindfulness teacher and psychotherapist Ronald Alexander:

  1. Reach out for Support: Don’t try to bear your challenges alone. Ask for assistance from your friends, spiritual leaders, support groups, and professionals.
     
  2. Sit Quietly and Reflect: No matter the severity of your trauma, sit quietly and ask yourself, “Historically have I experienced other challenges in my life and how did I navigate through them?” Now use these past experiences to tap into your internal courage and strength and explore if you can implement the same strategies again.
     
  3. Trust Your Inner Resources: Once you realize that you survived other traumas before now, trust in yourself to know that you have the ability to get through your present challenge.
     
  4. Learn to Keep Yourself Centered Through the Unbearable Feelings of Grief: When the waves of sadness and helplessness wash over you initially, feel the emotion and its depth but then start to breathe through the grief with slow deep breaths. This will help you stay grounded and bring you back to the present.
     
  5. Start Imagining a New Life: Even though you are experiencing immense grief, as you are ready, start to imagine and invent in your mind’s eye a new future for yourself.
     
  6. Practice Mindfulness: While doing grounding practices such as meditation, yoga, or even walks in nature, remember that your loss is cyclical like the seasons. The intensity may arise, then lessen, and arise again. Like the trees that weather the winter snow then bloom in the spring, this is part of the natural process of things.

Moving Forward

Life changes can feel like a sudden punch, throwing you into a tough situation. Imagine doing your usual thing, then, boom, you lose your home, your job changes, or someone you care about is gone. It really hurts! Things that used to feel familiar now seem strange. When that comfort is suddenly gone, it causes uncertainty. Grief makes sense in these moments. Grief might feel like a big challenge, even if you’ve faced tough times before. Here are some ways mindfulness can help us begin to sort through our experience and maybe even begin to move forward.

When Grief Comes Knocking

Grief can feel as though everything is crashing down around you, and maybe it is. You might choose to be curious about ways you could let grief in, without it knocking you out. When you are feeling that it’s all too much, and that grief has got you in its jaws, Elaine Smookler writes, sometimes it helps to:

  • Accept that grief does not follow a rule book—despite what you might have been told. Grief is like being in a state of shock. When grief picks you up you might suddenly start laughing at the most inappropriate moment or spend all day on YouTube watching monkeys throw their feces around. Please be kind to yourself. There is no one way to grieve
  • Accept that grief could show up uninvited anywhere, anytime: at the grocery store, in the middle of your workday … one minute you are busily running to keep up with the world’s frantic pace, and the next minute your legs give out, and you couldn’t run even if you wanted to. Welcome, Grief!
  • Be kind to yourself and to those around you. You might feel skinless and unintentionally lash out. You might need a hug, or a quiet moment. It’s not your imagination—everything is freaky-deaky. It is so important that you ask yourself what you need to help you stay as well as possible—and then to do your best to give yourself what you need.
  • Stop a moment—give yourself permission to pause. You need it.
  • Breathe—follow the breath all the way in and all the way out a few times. This can help you to feel grounded. What do you notice?
  • Connect to what you are feeling with as much kindness and compassion as possible. These are tough times. Give yourself a big hug and recognize you need a friend, and that friend is you.
Mindfulness for Grief and Loss - illustration of a brain with flowers blossoming around it

The Science of Mindfulness for Grief

Mindfulness is all about paying attention to the present moment without judging it. In grief, this means being aware of our feelings without getting overwhelmed or avoiding them.

Scientists have been looking into how mindfulness can help people going through tough times, and the results are promising. When we practice mindfulness during grief, it helps us accept the reality of the loss and be kind to ourselves as we navigate all those tough emotions. It’s like having a mental anchor, keeping us steady in the storm of sadness.

Mindfulness, particularly methods like Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), can significantly help those dealing with grief. One study looked at how mindfulness training (MBCT) helps people dealing with grief after losing a loved one. The study involved 19 people who participated in an 8-week mindfulness program. The results showed that mindfulness training led to changes in how different parts of the brain communicate when the mind is at rest. This suggests that mindfulness helps improve focus and reduces wandering thoughts. The study also found that these changes in the brain were linked to improvements in mindfulness, anxiety, and handling emotions. In simple terms, mindfulness training seems to help people navigate their emotions after loss by making positive changes in how the brain works during quiet moments.

Research also shows that mindfulness can actually change how our brains work. Activities like meditation or focused breathing activate parts of our brain that deal with emotions and self-awareness. This rewiring can make it easier for us to handle our feelings and stress.

So, when we talk about the science of mindfulness for grief, we’re essentially talking about using our inner resources to help us face and work through the pain of loss, giving us a more grounded and compassionate way to heal.

Mindfulness for Grief and Loss - illustration of a woman meditating and holding a heart icon close to her chest.

Guided Meditations for Grief and Loss

In times of loss, meditation becomes a powerful tool, offering a calm space to process emotions, find inner strength, and discover a sense of peace. These meditations can be your ally in navigating the challenging terrain of grief and loss.

A 12-Minute Meditation for Grief and Loss

By Judy Lief

Every goodbye is a moment of connection. Grief teaches us how very attached we are to everything. We don’t want to let go of anything, but through grief, we learn to love and appreciate what we’ve had and lost—friends, family, a way of life, a job, our youth, we grieve it all. Grief is heavy, painful, difficult, and powerful. We need to touch into it at all levels, really acknowledge it, before we can release it.

A Mindfulness Practice for Grief and Loss
  1. To begin, take a comfortable seat and rest. Slowly, breathe deeply, in and out. Relax and settle, coming into a present-moment experience. What is really happening to you here and now?
  2. Now bring to mind a personal loss. This could be the recent death of a friend or relative or a loved one; it could be a loss you’ve been carrying as a burden for a long time. It’s not something you’ve read about or something at a distance or abstract, but something personal, a person or experience or aspect of your life.
  3. Start with your body and your immediate somatic experience. What bodily sensations do you notice? Do you feel grounded? Spacey, tight, hollow, full, edgy, dull, squirmy? What do you notice? Don’t interpret, just feel. What is your body saying to you right now?
  4. Now, bring yourself to your heart, in the middle of your chest, and simply feel the heart holding the grief, being filled and heavied by that grief. Your raw, tender, loving, vulnerable, beating heart. And rest with that.
  5. Now rest in your throat center. So often the throat is connected with grief. And it wells up in tightness and has a kind of ache that can arise when we’re about to cry, when we’re shocked or have a sense of loss. Notice where else your grief is being held in your body—it could be your heart, your throat, your stomach. They all hold something, they are processing something— without words, without direction, naturally, the body knows.
  6. Then direct your attention to what emotions are arriving. Sorrow, anger, a quality of love, disappointment, there could be a sense of intensity or a sense of just being dull. Note what emotions are arising; don’t be embarrassed or afraid to feel whatever you’re feeling. Don’t judge what you’re feeling. Just feel. Let your emotions manifest. Welcome them. Don’t suppress them and also don’t feed them. Emotions are the energy of our grieving. And they change. They’re always changing, like life itself. Be gentle. If you start to feel overwhelmed, take a break, rest, breathe. Resettle. Allow yourself time to rest in your present-moment bodily emotional experience.
  7. Just rest, just feel, just be. Let grief do its work. Let it heal you. Don’t push. Don’t be impatient. Let yourself grieve. Process this change in your life. Let it teach you.
  8. Reflect on grief in your life, on the losses you’ve had and how your losses connect you with so many others. Just bringing your attention to that fact can be so healing. It happens to everyone. It’s hard to accept change. It’s hard to say goodbye. But when you stop fighting the inevitability of loss and change, a new and deeper love and appreciation is possible. We no longer take our friends, our loved ones, or our life all together for granted. We liberate our love, liberate our joy and appreciation in a very powerful way, through this difficult journey, through loss, through grief, through sorrow, with a vulnerable and tender heart.

The RAIN Meditation

By Tara Brach

Self-compassion is essential throughout the grieving practice, and it fully blossoms when we actively offer care to ourselves. Self-compassion depends on honest, direct contact with our own vulnerability. Coined by Michele McDonald, RAIN is an easily memorable mindfulness tool that involves four sequential steps:

  1. Recognize what is going on
  2. Allow the experience to be there, just as it is
  3. Investigate with kindness
  4. Natural awareness, which comes from not identifying with the experience.
Practice the RAIN Meditation with Tara Brach
  1. I invite you to take a moment if you need to adjust how you’re sitting. Make yourself comfortable, be at ease. When you settle, you might just begin the simple practice of breathing, so you breathe in and fill the lungs a bit, and when you breathe out, just consciously letting go of it with each breath. Just notice if there’s tightness or tension in your body that is ready to be released. Breathing and feeling yourself right here. Honestly and gently finding your way into this moment. 
  2. What we’ll be doing is practicing with someone where there’s some difficulty and then I’ll ask you to do some journaling. So, for now, let your attention go to a relationship that matters to you, in which you feel some tension, conflict, resentment, separation. Not a relationship where there’s trauma. And sometimes when we’re invited to do these kinds of exercises, our mind starts scrambling around, trying to figure out the best person to work with. Don’t worry about that. You have plenty of time in this lifetime to bring this practice to other people. Just think of someone where there’s some tension, tightness, reactivity. 
  3. To get more in touch, you might bring to mind a situation that really shows this, when you do get triggered. You could see the setting you’re in. If you’re inside, see what the room looks like. Remind yourself what’s going on. If it’s a person you’re not with in-person, remind yourself in terms of the online or Zoom relationship or however you’re in touch. What goes on? What gets communicated? If you’re seeing the person, what does their face look like? 
  4. Notice what comes up with the primary response that you’re aware of in you—anger, dislike, judgment, blame. And let it be there. You’re really doing the basics of mindfulness here. You’re noticing it, you’re allowing it. Recognize and allow so you can make that U-turn, you can bring attention to your own experience. Bring it with some interest and some gentleness to begin to investigate. And again, you might sense what the worst part of this is for you. What most set you off about this? What’s most disturbing or upsetting? And you might even be noticing what you are believing when this is happening. That this person, if they cared, they wouldn’t be acting this way, or they don’t understand, they’re not seeing me. They couldn’t respect me. Or whatever it is. That they’re going to hurt themselves, that they’re causing harm. 
  5. Check your body and sense the strongest feelings. Often, it’s more than just one feeling. You might have anger and dislike, but there may also be hurt or despair or shame or just a sense of powerlessness. And you might just ask yourself: What’s the feeling that’s most difficult to feel, or that I’m most unwilling to feel, but that’s really here and wants attention. What most wants your attention? Feel your body, your throat, your chest, your belly. I find it helpful to put my hand on my heart or wherever the feelings are strongest to keep the attention on the body and also begin to offer some care. 
  6. Continue to investigate. What’s the unmet need here? Ask yourself, what were you hoping for? What were you wanting to experience that didn’t happen? What needs can you identify that are unfulfilled? Is that the need to be seen? To be understood? To be safe, respected, cared for, or loved? 
  7. Begin, as you sense whatever the need is that’s the strongest, to really call on yourself, the most awake part of your heart, and offer compassion to yourself. Again, having your hand perhaps on your heart, and sending whatever message of care would be most healing. It’s going right to the part of you that feels vulnerable. For some, it helps to whisper out loud to themselves, even using your name. It’s OK, I’m sorry and I love you. Trust your goodness, trust you’re loved, you belong. Whatever begins to soften and open, let it in. 
  8. Take some moments to notice the increased presence that’s here in whatever way it shows up for you, maybe some more space or clarity, you might feel more connected at home in your own being. And if not, if you feel stuck in some way, it’s fine to keep offering that compassion to whatever is here. 
  9. If you feel some openness, some tenderness, this can be when you shift your attention to the other person. From this kind of open tender presence, begin to look at this other person to deepen your understanding. You might see the situation that has come up and imagine how they would be experiencing it. How would they describe what’s happening? What would it be like for them? And the way to do it is just to start imagining, what was that person feeling that was difficult? What were they wishing was different, hoping for from you? What painful belief might they have been running through their mind? 
  10. Sensing into this other person’s unmet needs, what do they need to feel more safe in those moments? More respected? Loved? Important? Understood? And as you sense that person’s vulnerability, where their wounds are, their needs, you might feel your own heart’s care. Just open to whatever response feels natural, offering some wish for that person. Sense your heart as a field, a heart space, that can include, in a tender way, this other person. 
  11. You might take a moment to imagine that person’s feeling that their needs are met. If that person’s needs were met, how might they behave and be different? Taking some breaths now, just feel your own presence and sense of who you are when you are here and present when your heart includes another. You might be interested to sense what other choices might open to you, what else might be possible in engaging. 
  12. You can continue to reflect and take two to three minutes to journal, writing down for yourself whatever feels important here, what’s difficult in this process, and what you’re learning, what you want to remember.

A Guided Meditation to Help You Let Go and Accept Change

By Kimberly Brown

Explore this loving-kindness practice variation to cultivate more ease and openness within the moment-to-moment unfolding of life.

One of the hardest parts of life for many is that it’s always changing—and sometimes in unpleasant, unpredictable, and unplanned ways. Part of the reason for this upset is because so little is in our control. 

Paradoxically, when we can accept that everything is not up to us, and we stop trying to control what we can’t change or trying to predict what we can’t predict, then we can feel a lot more at ease and more open to the moment-to-moment unfolding of our lives.

A 12-Minute Meditation to Make Peace with Change
  1. First, find a place where you can just sit down and be still. Turn off your devices, close your eyes, and just take a few breaths. Noticing your feet, your seat, your belly. Bringing your attention to your forehead, your cheeks, your jaw, allowing sound to enter your ears, allowing taste to enter your mouth. 
  2. Put your hand on your belly. Just notice how you feel your belly inflates as you inhale and how it contracts when you exhale. 
  3. Call to mind someone you know who’s struggling right now. You could maybe imagine that they’re here with you, visualize them, or just have a sense of their presence. If you like, put your hand on your heart and silently offer them this phrase: May you be at peace with the changes in life. May you be at peace with the changes in life. May you be at peace with the changes in life. Continuing silently repeating this, as though you’re giving a gift to this struggling being. 
  4. Notice: Where is your attention? If you’ve lost the connection with this struggling being, reconnect, begin again. May you be at peace with the changes in life. 
  5. Let go of this connection with this other being. Noticing your feet, feeling your seat, relaxing your shoulder blades, bringing your attention to your breath, to the light entering through your eyelids. 
  6. Next, put your hand on your heart and connect with yourself. You can imagine that you’re looking in the mirror, imagine yourself as a child, or just connect with your beautiful presence. Give yourself the same wisdom: May I be at peace with the changes in life. And continue here just for a minute or two, giving yourself this compassion and wisdom. 
  7. Notice where your attention is. If you’ve lost your connection to yourself, and gently come back, reconnecting. May I be at peace with the changes in life. Just for one more minute, giving yourself this kindness. May I be at peace with the changes in life. 
  8. Keep this connection with yourself, and now include that first being and perhaps everyone that you know and love. May we be at peace with the changes in life. May we be at peace with the changes in life. 
  9. Expand the phrase to include all of the beings. All of the living creatures in this ecosystem we call Earth. All of us struggle with change, with loss, with impermanence. Giving your wisdom and your kindness and your good heart to all of us, including yourself. May we all be at peace with the changes in life. May everyone be at peace with the changes in life. 
  10. When you’re ready, conclude your meditation. You can close your practice by thanking yourself for your good intention, for your beautiful heart, for these joyful efforts. 

Remember that you can practice in this way whenever you need to. Stop, feel your feet, put your hand on your heart, and say to yourself, May I be at peace with the changes in life. If you’re struggling with an unexpected loss, be sure to be patient and kind with yourself, and check in with your good heart as often as possible. 

12-Minute Meditation: A Guided Practice for Moving On

By Holly Rogers

We can’t ignore the hard stuff. Here’s a 12-minute mindfulness practice for navigating—not resisting—everything life throws our way.

Acceptance is not about liking something or agreeing with something—It’s simply about acknowledging what is happening, what is true in this moment. The more we can accept each moment as it is, the less we suffer.

In those moments of acceptance, acknowledging what is true without adding on layers of “I don’t want this to be true,” “It’s not fair,” “I don’t like this,” “Why did this happen to me,” can help us get through these difficult times with more ease. We have a better chance of developing wisdom about the possibilities in this moment when we see each moment with clarity.

A 12-Minute Meditation for Moving On
  1. First, find a comfortable seat in a chair or on a cushion. Let your back be tall but not stiff. Hold your head so your ears are above your shoulders with your chin slightly tucked. Drop your shoulders, rest your hands in your lap.
  2. Then, notice the feeling of breathing. Become aware of your body breathing, settling your attention on the place in your body where you most easily experience the sensation of the breath flowing in and out. Let your breathing be normal and natural—no need to try and change it or shift it. See if you can let your awareness be open and relaxed. As you watch your breath, you create a sense of spaciousness, not a tight or clamped-down feeling. Spacious awareness: Allowing your breath to come and go.
  3. If you’ve noticed your mind has wandered, come back to the breath. When you notice your attention has wandered, bring your attention back to your breath without criticizing yourself or your wandering mind. Accept in the moment that that’s what our minds do: they wander and we can work with that by being willing, without judgment, to simply begin again.
    As you sit in meditation, you will likely have some moments where you feel focused, or relaxed, or at ease. It’s easy to accept those moments without trying to struggle with or change them. Other moments may seem unpleasant: you may feel restless, have some discomfort, an itch. See if you can hold those moments with some unpleasantness with the exact same quality of open curiosity as those moments that are more naturally easy. Just allowing each moment to be as it is, developing curiosity about it, watching the changing nature of your experience.
  4. Now, shift your attention to any thoughts you are having at this moment. Notice what your thoughts are doing if you’re having thoughts about not liking something, wanting it to be different. Maybe there’s a conversation in your head where you’re trying to convince somebody to think or do something different. See if you can just notice your tendency to try to judge and change these situations.
  5. Then, explore if you can let go of those thoughts. See if you can summon the willingness to let it be as it is. Perhaps even saying to yourself: “It is what it is,” and coming back to your breath, noticing that some of our discomfort is related to the way we struggle, the way we fight, and then maybe it’s possible to let at least some small part of that be. Come back to your breath, relaxing into the spaciousness of your present moment experience without judgment, with curiosity, with acceptance.
  6. Once you feel ready, allow your eyes to open.
Mindfulness for Grief and Loss - illustration of a woman with her hands over her heart and in the background there are two other images of her hugging a ghost silhouette.

Mindful Endings

6 Mindful Questions to Ask Yourself About Death and Dying

Mindful endings mean facing the changes and challenges we encounter with conscious awareness and purpose. Using mindfulness involves staying present, acknowledging emotions, and finding peace through practices like meditation. It’s about approaching the end with a calm and centered mindset. 

When it comes to death and dying, there are steps we can take to feel more prepared and assuage our fear and uncertainty. Every one of us will one day experience this mysterious part of life. Accepting this fact can help us and our loved ones approach death and dying with more peace.

What is a Death Doula?

One way to prepare for death and dying is to connect with a death doula. A death doula is a non-medical support person who serves a dying individual, their loved ones, and/or their caregivers. Prior to medicalization and the emergence of professionalized death care, most people died at home where members of their community or family would tend to them and serve as a peaceful presence. Many people today state they want to be at home, but instead die in hospital beds, their caregivers unequipped to meet their needs or feeling incapable, intimidated, or overwhelmed. Death doulas can help with the logistics of navigating the healthcare system, be part of the team that makes a dignified home death possible, and help the dying person and their loved ones cope emotionally by setting some mindful groundwork. 

6 Questions a Death Doula May Ask

In a society where we often struggle with facing end of life issues head on, death doulas ask questions that others might not think or know to ask…

  1. What sounds would you like to hear during your dying process? Would you like it to be quiet, or would you like ambient sound? Perhaps you like rock music. Would you like conversation to happen around you, or would you prefer peaceful contemplation?
  2. What is a memory that brings you strength, or showed you your own strength? When in your life did you feel most strong and capable?
  3. If you died today, what would you want your epitaph to be? If you don’t want an epitaph, perhaps consider what sort of ‘closing statement’ you would like about your life and legacy.
  4. Is there something you’ve always wondered or wanted to ask, but didn’t? Would you like to ask it now? Why or why not? What’s complicated about the asking?
  5. How do you want to be remembered after you die? If you feel inclined, choose three adjectives that you hope those who know you will use to describe your memory.
  6. What is the best advice you’ve ever received? How did you put it into action (or didn’t you) in your life?

Engage with these questions as you feel comfortable. You can journal, simply sit in contemplation, or perhaps use these questions to spark conversations with friends and family. Just be sure to check-in along the way and show yourself kindness as you reflect.

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Mindful Staff editors work on behalf of Mindful magazine and Mindful.org to write, edit and curate the best insights, information, and inspiration to help us all live more mindfully.