Meditation 101

How To Scan Your Body To Learn Where, Exactly, You’re Feeling Grief (and What That Means)

Mary Grace Garis

Photo: Getty Images
While the word "loss" implies that something was taken from us, what often accompanies grief is actually additive. The added weight of emotional heaviness that grief can bring manifests in how we behave—raging one minute, crying another, completely stone-faced the next. And sometimes, those heavy emotions associated with grief have literal physical counterparts that you can soothe to facilitate healing. If you're unable to identify a sore spot on your body where your grief may be showing up, though, a body-scan meditation for grief can help you pinpoint the problem.

The benefits of a body-scan meditation—a form of the Somatic Experiencing mind-body technique for healing that identifies how trauma is stored in the body—are inclusive of what you'd get from other forms of meditation, such as reduced stress and racing thoughts. And according to Molly Nourmand, LMFT, a psychotherapist and somatic experience specialist, a body-scan meditation for grief can be especially effective..

"When I see clients' emotions shift in session, I’ll ask, 'Where do you feel that in your body,'" Nourmand says. "If it’s something they are grieving, then they might feel a constriction in their heart, throat, or belly. I’ll invite them to put their hands on that part of their body and to see what the sensation wants to do. Oftentimes the discomfort they are feeling in that part of their body will move and provide some sense of relief for them."

Living through a pandemic predisposes a great many of us to sensations of grief, which may result in sustained emotional trauma. With that in mind, remember that a body-scan meditation for grief can be effective for healing all forms of loss. Here's how to practice it.

How to do a body-scan meditation for grief

"A body-scan meditation is like slowly shining a flashlight to all parts of your body, from head to toe and observing what you find," Nourmand says. That means you'll be feeling out areas all over your body and letting them dispel the tension stored inside. Ultimately, it only comes down to a few super simple steps.

1. Find a quiet place to lie down on your back

Make sure that you're comfortable enough to relax.

2. Deepen your connection with the surface

"Feel all the places of the body making contact with the ground," says Nourmand. "Allow yourself to feel the embrace of Mother Earth, and allow yourself to feel held and supported."

3. Breathe deeply, and begin to do your scan

"Begin to use your senses and your breath to become more present," says Nourmand. "Then, starting at the crown of your head, slowly go through each part of your body as if you’re shining a flashlight inside yourself." This means you want to move your hands on all different parts of your body, and see look for points of tension. Take a few minutes to do this.

4. When identifying points of tension, listen to how your body wants to move

"Pause when you get to an area of your body that feels tight or heavy, and see what it wants to do," Nourmand says. So if you find your stomach clenched up, release those muscles. If your head feels tight, maybe release your ponytail and do some neck rotations. Do whatever feels good to you.

5. Do this until all your points of tension feel relaxed

"Once you have scanned every part of your body and the exercise feels complete, gently roll to one side and come to a seated position," Nourmand says.

6. Do a final self-check to gauge where your mind and body are

"Keep your eyes closed and perhaps bring a hand to your heart and a hand to your belly," Nourmand says. "See how you feel." Chances are, you'll feel lighter for having released those grief pangs—and can move through the day feeling a bit less burdened.

Grief keeping you awake at night? Below, MamaGlow founder Latham Thomas shares her meditation for better zzzs.

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