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How Living in the Moment Can Help You Get Past Grief

Living in the moment

A few years ago, I was talking to a gentleman about a pre-retirement course for himself and his wife.  During our last conversation, I answered all his outstanding questions and left him to make the online course booking - which I fully expected him to do.  After a few days, when the booking still wasn't forthcoming, I assumed that he'd just changed his mind about the course - which was, of course, his prerogative.

About a month later, however, I received an email from the man, apologising for not making the booking and explaining the reason why - his wife had passed away, suddenly and unexpectedly.  She'd fallen downstairs on her way to the bathroom during the TV ad break, hitting her head and sustaining fatal injuries.

The couple had been weeks away from retirement and, just like that, all the plans they'd made were in ruins.

Many things have the potential to derail a retirement:

- a downturn in the economy
- the collapse of a company or corporate financial misdeeds
- ill health or a life-changing accident
- an unexpected redundancy forcing someone to retire before they're financially ready or
- divorce or the unexpected ending of a relationship.

If you've experienced your own derailment, retirement can start to look like a scary and unfathomable place, rather than the warm, chilled out, opportunity-filled future you had planned.

Eventually, like the gentleman who lost his wife, you will have to pick up the pieces and move on, through grief, to a different kind of retirement.  One that you've adapted to your changed circumstances.  After the immediate devastation and debilitation turns into raw grief and pain, however, you might find that mindfulness - or living in the moment - might help you get through each day.

When you're living in the moment, your focus is on that moment only. The past and the future can't touch you.

It can be a difficult task to put your feelings about the past or future aside. It's like when someone says, "Don't think of a pink elephant!" Did you think of one, just now?

Well, your grief is sometimes that pink elephant and it seems like there's nowhere to turn. In this situation, you can look for help from present moment thinking.

Remaining in the present takes practice. While you're learning how to live in the moment, remember that it gets easier as time goes on.

Using Meditation

You can work on controlling your thoughts, but one practice that's all about staying in the present moment is meditation. This simple exercise can also help you get through your grief.

Here are some meditation tips:

  • Make a meditation schedule - 30 minutes per day every day.

  • Go to a place where you can relax and be alone.

  • Sit in a position with good posture.

  • Take deep breaths in and out.

  • You can use a "mantra" or positive affirmation to help you focus.

  • When thoughts arise, acknowledge them, and then let them go.

The most difficult thing you might encounter when learning to meditate is calming your busy mind. Focusing on your breathing helps clear away extraneous thoughts and worries.

When you're grief stricken, it's an especially difficult time to keep a clear mind. Thoughts of the past will more than likely keep coming up in your practice. This is normal. As you continue practicing, it will get easier to focus on the now.

An important thing to remember is to avoid judging yourself. Don't punish yourself for thinking of the past when you're trying not to think about it. Realize that your mind is taking a turn you didn't intend, and then lightly nudge it back in the right direction. Be grateful that you were able to catch yourself in the midst of a negative thought, and then move on.

Keeping Up Your Practice

Once you've adopted a philosophy of present moment thinking, concentrate on keeping up with your practice. Rather than a mechanism you turn to only when you're in a pinch, consistent present moment thinking can bring you comfort on an ongoing basis

Moment By Moment

As your practice deepens, you'll fully realize that life is just a series of moments. It's not a definable measure of time, but you'll feel many moments in every minute. Little by little, you'll learn to recognize them.

You may find it difficult to remain in the present just because you must refer to the past and plan for the future in order to live. This is true, of course, but once the reflection is over, and the planning is put away, your goal is to remain in the moment as much as possible.

  • Refer to the past when you must, but avoid re-immersing yourself in the grief or daydreaming about what things could have been like.

  • Plan for the future, but don't obsess over it.

  • Simply look at what you're experiencing right now and immerse yourself in it.

When your mind is completely focused on the present moment, you'll be able to keep going, one foot in front of the other, until you feel ready to face the future again.


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