Self-compassion can be a potentially valuable skill for bereaved people to consider, and I believe I've found a simple exercise that I hope -- if it appeals to you -- will open the door to practicing self-compassion in a way that contributes to your healing.
The exercise -- the "Self-Compassion Break" -- can be found on Kristin Neff's website both as a written instruction and in an audio version. Clear, brief, step-by-step guidance is given on the website, which outlines three basic steps to pausing in the midst of a painful experience to invite self-compassion into the situation:
- Be still for a moment and observe that you are suffering.
- Recognize that your suffering is painful -- and also is part of being human.
- Declare that being kind to yourself is your intention.
Why do I think this self-compassion exercise might be helpful to people who are grieving? Because there are times when the pain of loss touches us so deeply that it is not possible -- at least for a time -- to squelch our pain or to escape from it. And I hope that, if we are able to bear the pain and at the same time to be actively compassionate toward ourselves, we may begin to experience something meaningful beneath the pain -- or beyond it.
Please try the "Self-Compassion Break" -- perhaps beginning not with the most troublesome pain you feel but instead practicing with any kinds of difficult or stressful situations -- to see if it might hold value for you.
If self-compassion is an concept that resonates with you, here are some additional resources from Neff:
- "Self-Compassion Guided Meditations and Exercises"
- "The Three Components of Self-Compassion," a 6-minute video presentation (from which the illustration above is taken)
- "Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself," a 50-minute video interview with CJ Liu, about Neff's book on self-compassion
- "Why Self-Compassion Trumps Self-Esteem," an article from Greater Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life
- Self-Compassion on Facebook