Bereaved individuals often have “grief-bursts,” or a sudden onset of feelings of sadness or sorrow usually triggered by a reminder of their loved one – a song, picture, or memory. Grief-bursts are normal and expected, but as they can come on without warning they can be distressing and overwhelming.
Using a simple grounding exercise can sometimes help bring you back to the present moment. These do not need to be complicated or involved; just a brief pause to provide the distance and space necessary to collect your emotions and calm your mind. One option to bring yourself out of a difficult emotional state is to focus on your physical experience with a quick body scan. Check in briefly with your body from head to toe for 1-2 minutes. Notice without judgment how your body feels, where you are holding tension or discomfort, and where you feel release. You might also focus on your body’s experience of your external environment by doing a scan of your five senses. Take 1-2 minutes to notice one thing each that you can see, hear, feel, smell, and taste. Try to notice the little things you might not otherwise pay attention to. Bringing awareness to the sensations you are experiencing can ground you in the present time and place and help you ride the wave of the distressing emotions brought on by your grief-burst.
You can practice these simple exercises in your daily life so you feel more comfortable with their use during distressing moments. It can also be useful after a grief-burst to return to the processing of that memory or the emotions it elicited when you are feeling in a safer or more comfortable place whether on your own, with a therapist or trusted support person, or through a therapeutic outlet like journaling or running.