At some point or another, we will all experience tragedy in our life. Whether this is the loss of a loved one, a traumatic experience such as sexual assault, the breakdown of a relationship or anything else. These times can be incredibly challenging and take a toll on our emotional health; sometimes our physical body suffers too.
However, while there are other excellent ways to help with grief and trauma, meditation and mindfulness practices can have a profound effect on your recovery.
In this article, we are going to be looking at some of the reasons that meditating can aid the healing process and help you to understand and control your emotions.
What Are 5 Benefits Of Meditation For Grief And Tragedy?
We all know that meditation and mindfulness can be hugely beneficial for our overall well being. The concept of the practice was largely introduced to the west in the early 90s by a man named Jon Kabat Zinn who used the practice with people trying to deal with physical pain.
However, the practice has been employed by many other doctors and counsellors as a way for patients to work through their trauma and in many cases, this works excellently.
While everyone is different and will use meditation in varying ways, one thing is for certain; mindfulness meditation can reduce trauma symptoms in many ways. Let’s take a look at these.
Improves Your Awareness
All of us, regardless of our traumatic experiences end up believing that we are our thoughts. According to the official definition of psychological trauma, trauma is not the event itself but rather the way that we process it with our thoughts and emotions.
But just because you have certain thoughts or a high degree of traumatic stress, this does not mean that that is who you are.
One of the ways that meditation can aid you is that it allows you to gain greater self awareness by realising that you are not your thoughts but simply the person thinking them.
This translates into an ability to only interact with the thoughts you wish to interact with. Many trauma survivors will experience flashbacks and spend a lot of time thinking about the things that the went through and the memories of them.
Some people feel like they are now a different person because of what they have been through in their life. But you are still the same person and when you use meditation, you begin to see that these thoughts are not controlling you and you will much more easily be able to let go of them.
Helps You To Shift Your Focus
When we lose a family member or go through a traumatic experience, it can be very easy to change the way you look at the world.
Not only might your be dealing with troubling flashbacks, distressing memories and heightened emotions, but you might also be seeing the world through different eyes.
But this can affect your experience of life in a negative way. Part of the beauty of meditation is that it allows you to start seeing the good in your life rather than the bad. Instead of placing your focus on everything that is wrong, you will begin to notice the good feelings you have, the positive influences in your life and everything that makes it worth living.
Improve Your Physical Health
It is a fact that meditation can help to improve your physical body as well as your emotions and mental well being. Whether you engage in a group meditation practice at a meditation center or sit in one of your favorite quiet places with your headphones and a guided meditation, all of these practices have one thing in common; they lower your stress levels.
When we experience stressful feelings this can play a huge part in the demise of our physical health. People who have been through the trauma of a frightening accident, assault or rape, a relationship break up or whatever else may find that these feelings take over their lives and cause physical symptoms such as headaches, nausea, fatigue and much more.
Meditation counteracts this and brings on a much calmer state of mind. As a result of this, your physical health will benefit.
Grow From Your Experience
Many meditation practitioners will tell you that the ability to meditate doesn’t just cause you to feel calm and relaxed but can also give you a greater insight into certain things.
Zen meditation is used by those in the Buddhist tradition to focus on the present and as a result, gain greater insight into the mind.
While the trauma you went though likely wasn’t your fault, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t things you can learn from it. Meditation allows you to look deeper into an experience and take something positive from it, no matter how negative it is.
For example, if you have lost a parent, your initial feelings will be of sadness, heartbreak and possibly anger. However, as we meditate on this loss, we begin to understand that while we are hurting, we are left with the memory of this person which is something that we can take with us through life and that nobody can take away.
Let Go Of The Hurt
The images and memories that are often conjured up after a trauma can be very consuming. People may spend a lot of time trying to avoid these. However, through your practice of meditation, you will be able to confront your emotions and allow yourself to heal.
It may be a deeply emotional moment, there may be tears and heartbreak but allowing yourself some self compassion to experience these emotions can go a long way in helping you move on from them instead of holding onto them.
Why Can Meditation Be Dangerous?
While the meditation experiences for many people can be something positive, there are some trauma survivors who may find that this type of mindfulness practice could do more harm than good.
it is easy to believe that meditation and mindfulness would be the perfect counterbalance to trauma. Trauma creates stress whereas meditation reduces it, so one might think that the ideal solution to the stress of traumatic experiences like rape, death of family members or a terrible accident would be meditation.
However, many of the survivors of traumatic experiences are left with serious mental health conditions such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and this can be exacerbated when meditation.
The reason for this is that a mindfulness meditation practice asks meditators to focus on the present moment and observe their thoughts. That’s all well and good for some people but for others this can increase their anxiety and cause them to relive their trauma.
There have been scientists who have done work on the subject, one notable study was done at Brown University by Willoughby Britton and talks about the negative or difficult aspects of meditation and this couldn’t be more fitting than when applying the mindfulness experience to trauma survivors.
People have been shown to attempt a meditation practice only to find that they have terrible flashbacks or overwhelming emotions as a result of zooming in on their trauma.
Conversely mindfulness in itself can be a very therapeutic practice for trauma survivors and may have many benefits. But a lot of the time, those suffering with things like PTSD or anxiety after a trauma will also need the help of a trained counsellor or psychiatrist to help them work through their troubling emotions.
This isn’t the case for everyone but something that meditation practices may induce for some. If you do try meditation and find that it does have this negative effect, there are other things you can do.
Mindfulness practices involve keeping yourself present and this can be done without the help of meditation. You might try a calming activity that keeps your mind focused on what is happening in the now. You could try walking through nature, cake decorating or yoga, for example.
Meditation and mindfulness are now deeply ingrained into the lives of many people. The practice is designed to help you stay in the present moment and benefit your body and mind. For those who have been through some sort of trauma, meditation can be extremely advantageous.
It may allow you to remove stressful emotions, aid you in confronting the situation and can even have a positive effect on the physical body.
However, it is important to keep in mind that meditation might not be suitable for those who have experienced mental health problems like PTSD after a trauma as it might cause painful flashbacks or difficult emotions.
If you have tried finding a quiet space, sitting down and meditating but discovered that it causes more harm than good, you might try a mindful activity where the eyes remain open and you concentrate on what you are doing in that moment. This can have just as profound an effect without being harmful to your mind.