- General

The Power of Mental Rehearsal When Mourning

“But the eyes are blind. One must look with the heart.”

Antoine de Saint – Exupery

Coping with loss and the many changes that accompany the experience is first and foremost an inside job. That is, the quality of our inner life, an open heart, and the willingness to be open to a different life without the physical presence of our loved one is a choice. These are the major inner factors in adapting to and accepting any great loss.

Accompanying these inner factors the process of adapting has everything to do with taking action and doing the difficult. This would include developing new routines, managing your environment, clarifying your purpose or dream, and becoming sharply aware of your thought processes. Sometimes it means changing beliefs about yourself and your future.

The guiding question in taking action is: Are you allowing more hurtful thoughts or more inspiring thoughts to stay in your mind each day? This is a crucial awareness since every thought or emotion has a positive or negative effect on your body and how you feel at any given time. One way we can balance thought processes to the plus side, and reduce negative thoughts that produce so much unnecessary suffering, is through mental rehearsal.

1. Mental rehearsal is simply using your imagination with eyes closed and “seeing” yourself dealing with a new skill, a new choice or a new way of thinking. Finding a quiet spot will set the stage for using this coping skill. The continuous repetition of the new choice will eventually lead you to what you want and how you wish to cope with your loss. This is detailed work and is a major part of your grief work as you move to accepting what cannot be changed.

2. Remember: where you place your attention is where you deliver your energy. The more heightened energy you direct toward various parts of your life without the physical presence of your loved one, and see yourself developing these new experiences, all the more will you be helping yourself deal with change. It is the constant inner focus on what you want that can be achieved if you keep rehearsing. Then carry through and do it when the situation presents itself.

3. You can also use mental rehearsal any time you wish to change from sadness or anger to kindness, appreciation, empowerment or gratitude (or a host of other positive emotions). For example, pick out things you are grateful for, that you still have, be they people, places or things and clearly see yourself enjoying them. There is nothing wrong with taking a break from sadness and visualizing yourself in a positive light. Again, this is healthy for your body and mind and you are not demeaning the memory of your loved one.

4. Start the first thing in the morning. See yourself as strong, vibrant, willing to face the day as difficult as it may be. Review things you have already accomplished that have helped you cope up to this point (here is where keeping a grief diary may give you great insight). Repeat your successes through mental rehearsal or actually doing them each day. This in no way means you stop expressing your emotions, not in the least. Simply set your goal to run your inner life by placing more good things within your mind while gradually letting go of the memories that hurt. Sure those memories will return but see the return as your signal to start your positive mental rehearsing program.

5. You can create what you envision. Get as much information about the kind of outcome you want. Now your brain has details to work with to strengthen your intention in order to reach the desired outcome. It remains that you give it your all. Don’t waste your energy and attention by lingering too long in the past. Mental rehearsal is about carving out your future. If you are determined, you can bring your body and mind together and adapt to the new conditions of life.

This method has been used in improving many other situations in life and you can master it to reduce unnecessary suffering and grow into your new circumstances of change. Be patient with yourself and start with the heightened emotional expectation of success each day. Nothing changes when mourning unless your inner life changes. Choose life.