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.
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.
May I allow my bunny emotions to flow through me and not define me.
— Bunny Buddhism (@bunnybuddhism) February 7, 2015
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.
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.
10 thoughts on “How to Deal with Intense Emotions in Meditation: 3 Simple Steps”
So sorry for you loss. Wishing you ease in your practice, and compassion in your day.
Thank you. Wishing you the best as well.
My deepest condolences, how incredibly sad. Beautiful post, beautiful soul. Thank you so much.
You are a beautiful soul.
Thank you, we all need help sometimes. You and your book and blog are an inspiration to us all.
Thank you. I appreciate the kind words.
Your loss is hearbreaking, but your bunniness is inspiration itself. Thank you for sharing your journey.
Thanks for your kind words. Wishing you much bunniness!