How to Deal with Intense Emotions in Meditation: 3 Simple Steps

As many of you know from a previous post, I lost my husband to suicide last August. If you have noticed me being a bit less frequent in my bunny photo posts since then, this is why. I am still very much grieving.

Photo: Witsanu Keephimai/Shutterstock

Photo: Witsanu Keephimai/Shutterstock

Meditation has helped me enormously—I have no doubt—in dealing with this devastating loss. What I find strange, though, is that memories of my husband don’t come up every time I sit. I would think there would be so many emotions and so many memories to sort through that they would come up in every meditation session.

Why don’t they?

Today, I think I found my answer. I am now at a point where the emotions aren’t hitting me at every single moment of every day. They hit me when I am over-stressed or over-tired and they hit me when something unexpectedly triggers a specific memory. When I cued up a guided 30-minute body scan meditation today, it unexpectedly triggered a specific memory.

At one point, the meditation began focusing on the chest and the heart and the lungs and these precious systems that support life. As soon as I thought about these systems, my mind was taken to the hospital, where I had watched for 90 minutes as 20 or more doctors gathered around my husband’s bed in the ICU and tried to restore his pulse and breathing.

Of course, tears came. I briefly panicked and awaited the full-body sobs. I thought for a moment that the whole meditation process was a wasted effort. But this kind of thing has happened to me so many times now that I have learned how to deal with it. The approach is always the same:

  • Acknowledge the memory and the emotion;
  • Try not to fight it and just let it be;
  • Gently return to the meditation, when you are ready.

For me, this meant seeing that hospital scene for a moment and reminding myself I was no longer there. The full-body sobs came and went, briefly, as soon as I allowed myself to feel. And then the task became gently turning my thoughts back to my breathing and the guided meditation.

As I write this, it sounds so easy. It sounds like I expect that every intense emotion can be handled in one sitting with three simple steps. But the fact is, it is not at all easy. It is incredibly difficult. I have been doing this over and over and over again since August. And I only know it is worth the trouble when I reflect on where I used to be.

When I read that post from September, I realize how far I have come. The fact that intense emotions don’t come up in every sitting is the result of working through the grieving process in the best way I can. I am fortunate to have made some progress.

To be fair, I think it is also important to note that I have had some fantastic professional help throughout this entire process. I would encourage anyone dealing with intense emotions to find a reputable therapist and to keep looking until you find one you trust. Meditation can help with intense emotions, but sometimes we all need a little more help. And there is absolutely no shame in asking.

Resources
Today’s meditation was one of the guided meditations included in the Insight Timer App. I am a fan of this app and often use it just for the timer and chimes, but today I used Elisha Goldstein’s 30-minute body scan meditation.

Elisha Goldstein’s 30-minute body scan meditation is also available online at ElishaGoldstein.com.

Image: Witsanu Keephimai/Shutterstock.

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Posted in Blog, Grief, Grieving, Meditation, Mindfulness, Yoga
10 Comments » for How to Deal with Intense Emotions in Meditation: 3 Simple Steps
  1. Marilyn Odeh says:

    So sorry for you loss. Wishing you ease in your practice, and compassion in your day.
    ~Namaste

  2. pm says:

    My deepest condolences, how incredibly sad. Beautiful post, beautiful soul. Thank you so much.

  3. Rebecca says:

    You are a beautiful soul.

  4. Theresa says:

    Thank you, we all need help sometimes. You and your book and blog are an inspiration to us all.

  5. jtglover says:

    Your loss is hearbreaking, but your bunniness is inspiration itself. Thank you for sharing your journey.

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