This blog post was written by Marquina Watts, MSN, who is a Nurse Resident at Independence Plus.
Not until witnessing many of the people surrounding me experience deaths in their family and recently experiencing a patient death of my own, did I understand how powerful grief can be. It also brings to my attention various stressors that are affiliated with the passing of a patient or loved one.
Families may have grief-related stressors related to finances and/or changes in family dynamics, whereas, nurses may have “nurse’s guilt” and have stressors related to constant thoughts of “would have, should have, and could have.” If individuals are experiencing stressful situations in multifaceted areas of their life (professional, social, etc.), these stress levels are likely to increase after a relevant death occurs. Stress affects our bodies in the way we eat, think, and sleep. Physical issues such as headaches, heart problems, and unhealthy weight gain can occur if stress is not properly handled.
Now that we are aware of the increased risks associated with grieving, what can we do about it? One healthy method to manage grief-related stress is mindful meditation. Mindfulness involves being aware, engaged, and present in the current moment and accepting our experience, thoughts, and feelings for what they are—without analyzing, judging, or resisting. Meditation is simply, mind relaxation. Dr Jon Kabat-Zinn defined meditation as an invitation to wake up, experience the fullness of your life, transform your relationship with your problems, your fears and any pain and stress in your life so that they do not wind up controlling you and eroding the quality of your life and your creativity.
Additional techniques for mindfulness involve breathing, listening, and walking.
Being mindful in stressful situations may be especially difficult due to the degree of resistance one may feel. Resistance occurs when we are fighting rather than accepting situations for what they are even if they contribute to emotional discomfort.
Coping with death is typically not easy and everyone is affected and grieves differently. Grieving is not a linear process and it takes time to heal. During times of potential heartache, regret, confusion, denial, etc., our stress level can unknowingly increase and contribute to physical symptoms. By being mindful and accepting our thoughts, emotions, and stressors, we remove unnecessary distractions and then see situations for what they are. Then we have the potential to grow through them rather than simply go through them.
Mindful meditation is not an easy practice. Distractions may occur and your thoughts may wander, which is normal. What is most important is that you practice; three minutes are better than none. Your mental health impacts your physical health and if your mind is not well due to stress, you will eventually witness a physical toll on your body. At the end of the day, we have one body and we must do what we can to actively reach towards inner peace and positive health—physically and mentally. The next time you feel your mind is full, become mindful.
In honor of Stress Awareness Month (observed in April), below is an example of mindfulness that can aid in alleviating stress related to grief and loss:
“I love to play the piano and I’ll play a classical music song so I can just focus on the notes. It’s a way of being mindful and if you are so involved in the moment—how your fingers feel on the cold ivory keys, the clarity of every note, the vibration of the pedal as you blend the sounds together, & the melody as it flows from the paper to your mind and out of your fingers—then the stress seems less available to focus on and you relax.” – Dr. Stefani Motkar, DNP ACAG-BC
What are some ways that you practice mindfulness? Does it work to alleviate your grief-related stress? Please share with us below! Additionally, IPI Nurses who would like to learn more about the topic of Meditation and Mindfulness, please join us for IPI Connect on Thursday, April 21 from 6 to 8 p.m. We will discuss how to incorporate methods of mindfulness and meditation into each aspect of our lives. You will also learn tools that will help you develop your personal care plan, guiding you to your personal happiness.
Email us to RSVP!