Grief can be hell in the morning! Take control over the start of your day
It was not a dream. My mother was dead.
This truth bulldozed me every morning when I woke up because sleep would offer me some hours of respite from all the sadness and endless tears, but after that slim space of disorientation in the morning, the reality of the loss came crashing around me.
Grief can be hell in the morning! and if you are one of those grievers who wakes up in tears, has full-blown anxiety attacks, or your mind is crowded with scenarios about what you could have done differently, this article is for you.
There are hundreds of articles on morning routines for productivity, happiness, and any other permutations but when it comes to dealing with the anxiety, the emotional overwhelm, the heaviness, and the depression of grief, there are no articles to help you contain the terrifying feelings of grief.
In this article series, I provide you with 10-morning rituals to help you cope with some of the most common grief reactions so that you can start each new day feeling grounded, centered, and armed with the resources to handle whatever stressors await you during the day.
Grief Morning Rituals Overview
In this article, I cover 4-morning rituals to support you if you were experiencing some of the more physical and emotional reactions of grief in the morning like anxiety, emotional overwhelm, grief brain, and mental ruminations.
In upcoming articles, I will provide you with 6 additional rituals created specifically to support you when your mornings are overshadowed by the more psychospiritual aspects of grief:
- The weight of exhaustion & fatigue
- The coldness of loneliness and isolation
- The unbearable yearning and ache in your chest to hug your loved one
- When nightmares steal your peace
- The greyness of apathy
- The hopelessness of depression
These rituals will not only provide you with containment but will also imbue your day with hope, healing, and equanimity and help you feel more balanced, connected, and in control especially on those days when you need to feel validated and honor where you are with self-compassion.
4 Morning rituals to bring light to your day
Before we jump into the rituals, here are a few things to keep in mind.
- Try to get up at the same time each morning. The starting times here are for demonstration purposes only
- Spend as much or as little time as you need on the different activities. For example, you might prefer 10 minutes of light stretching instead of a 1-hour sweat session.
- Setting your intention for the ritual is a very important step in the process because it serves as a declaration of the time of day you want to have. You can use the ones I have included or come up with one that resonates with you
- Your morning starts the night before. Make sure you get good sleep and plan for the next day.
Experiment with these 4 rituals and imbue your day with stability.
Morning Ritual 1 - Emotional overwhelm
Every morning starts the same for you.
As soon as you open your eyes, the tears start flowing. The sadness descends upon you and the thought of getting out of bed might seem overwhelming because the day and the world are waiting for you with pain and emptiness.
Here is a morning ritual to nurture and soothe you while also offering you a safe space to process and express your emotions without feeling as though you will be consumed by them.
Ritual – May it Be
Total Time: 30 – 90 minutes
Intention: I give myself time and space to feel my feelings and sit in the ocean of compassion of my heart where I am loved, supported, and nurtured
7:00 A.M: Take your time waking up and then spend a few minutes reflecting on how you feel today
7:10 A.M.: Say out loud your intention for your day. It could also be a mantra, an affirmation, or a quote that will help you feel more stable and nurtured
7:15 A.M.: Press play on this playlist and lying down, do this conscious breathing practice:
- Begin by bringing your attention to your breathing and allowing your entire body to relax
- Breathe in and out through your mouth connecting your inhale to your exhale in a circular motion
- Take a few moments to notice your body and sensations or emotions that are present. Settle into a state of soft attention.
- Allow any emotions present to bubble up and find expression perhaps through tears, movement, or sound. Let your body move in any way that it needs to move
- Continue breathing in a circular fashion sending your breathe to any area of heaviness.
- When you feel complete, offer yourself some somatic self-compassion by wrapping your arms around your body in a hug
7:30 A.M.: When ready, journal about your feelings, and allow them to speak through you. Write at least one page without censoring yourself
7:45 A.M.: On your bed, perform some light exercise or do a 15-minute yoga full body stretch to connect even more to your emotions and release them
8:00 A.M.: Take a steamy shower, rub lavender essential oil on your wrists to invoke calm and dress in clothes that feel soft against your skin
8:15 A.M.: Drink a soothing and invigorating tea like peppermint and make a warm and rich breakfast. Banana pancakes or oatmeal with sliced walnuts, berries, chia seeds, cinnamon and cardamom are great options.
8:30 A.M.: As you make breakfast or while you eat, listen to an episode from the Grief Mourning grief podcast where people share their experiences with grief, along with coping tips. Sometimes it is helpful to know you are not alone. You can also call a family or friend to connect.
8:45 A.M.: Before stepping, out of the door to start your day, place your hands on your heart and connect to yourself and just breathe in and out as if there is a nose on your chest. Send love to yourself, and love for the day. Create a bubble of white light and repeat your intention or mantra for the day. Come back to this throughout the day when you begin to feel overwhelmed.
Mantra for the day: I embrace all emotions with the compassion of my heart
Morning Ritual 2 - Physical anxiety & panic
Rather than feeling emotional overwhelm, you might wake up in the morning with your stomach in knots and an elephant sitting on your chest. Your body feels tense and there is a restlessness within. Anxiety has taken you over from the top to the bottom. From the get-go, your breathing is rapid, and you can feel the tension in every muscle as your heart races.
You feel the panic growing and sometimes it morphs into a full-blown panic attack. Please remember that it is normal to feel this way because when something like death comes seemingly out of nowhere and disrupts your life, you realize you are not safe, life is inherently uncertain, and you are not in control. Anxiety and panic attacks are results of this fear.
Here is a morning ritual is which is meant to ground and stabilize you by calling forth the calming benefits of your parasympathetic nervous system and create a sense of safety in your body. It also works by releasing dopamine which is released slowly to sustain a cocoon of safety and calm in your body throughout your day.
The Ritual Flow – Rooting Down
Total Time: 30 – 90 minutes
Intention: I am grounded and centered in my heart where I am always surrounded by love and support
7:00 A.M.: When you wake up, allow your awareness to settle in your body and when you feel ready, say your intention for the day
7:10 A.M.: Press play on this grounding playlist and perform the exercises below
- Perform this grounding3-3-3 boxed breathwork for about 5 – 10 minutes to calm your nervous system
- Place your right hand just above your pubic bone and your left hand on the base of your ribcage to hold yourself with compassion.
- Close your eyes and slowly inhale through your nose for a count of three, hold your breath for a count of 3 and then exhale for a count of three.
- You can also visualize golden light filling you up with each exhale and visualize all the anxiety leaving your body with each exhale.
- As you breathe, place your hand on your body wherever you feel anxiety or any pressure and send breathe there.
- Once you complete your breathwork, offer yourself some somatic self-soothing. Using your four fingers, tap your forehead, underneath your nose, collar bone, and the center of your chest about 5 times while repeating the mantra, “I am safe in my body.”
7:30 A.M.: Next, spend 5-15 minutes doing these yoga poses to ground yourself. Massage your feet to get the blood flowing in your body at the end of the exercises. If you can attend a full restorative yoga class or workout, even better
7:45 A.M.: Hop in the shower and finish the last 30 seconds with a blast of cold water if you can – these grounds you into your body
8:00 A.M.: Try one of these Ayurvedic breakfast recipes with a grounding effect.
8:30 A.M.: Center yourself for the day by doing 2-3 rounds of the box breathwork from above.
During the day, when you begin to feel anxiety feel your body, bring your awareness to your feet, and repeat your mantra.
You can also ground yourself by doing performing the boxed breathwork or listening to music. Check out these articles for grounding practices and rituals to help you cope with anxiety and panic attacks when you are ambushed by grief during your day.
Mantra for the Day: I am safe in my body.
Morning Ritual 3 - Grief brain
Most people have never heard of grief brain – the brain fog, disorientation, disorganization, forgetfulness, and overall impairment in cognitive skills that are present after loss.
You expect sadness, rage, and other emotions, but what comes is an almost complete shutdown of your ability to function within schedules and regular timelines. You find yourself getting lost in the middle of conversations, cannot form coherent sentences, forget appointments and conversations, and any activities you used to enjoy in the past like reading seems to be a mirage.
The way you start your day will help you cope with the disorientation, forgetfulness, and cognitive impairments that occur in grief especially if you have to show up to a job that expects you to be at the top of your game. Use this morning ritual to boost cognitive functioning, increase productivity, and encourage focus and attention during your work day.
Ritual - Focus, and Flow
Total Time: 30 – 90 minutes
Ritual Intention: I give my inner intelligence permission to regenerate and heal me restoring my entire being to original frequencies
7:00 A.M.: Allow yourself to wake up slowly and then say your intention/mantra or affirmation out loud.
7:10 A.M.: Perform “Bee’s breath”to calm and focus your mind
- Lying down or sitting cross-legged, put your index fingers into your ears
- Inhale deeply and make a loud humming bee-like sound as you exhale, while pressing down gently into the cartilage
- Repeat this 3-5 times or for about 5 minutes
7:15 A.M.: Put on this classical playlist that helps you get into a flow state and stimulates brain power. As you listen to music, journal for about 5 minutes or 2-3 pages to empty any scattered thoughts and synchronize your mind in preparation for the day
7:30 A.M.: Perform a HIIT exercise for 10-15 minutes to energize your body and create focus. If you can do a full workout for 30 minutes or more like yoga, running, or biking - even better. You can also try yoga inversions like child pose and forward bend to increase blood flow to the brain.
7:45 A.M.: Jump into the shower and make it as cold as you can handle for the last 30 s to stimulate deeper breathing and increased focus.
8:00 A.M.: Try some brain boosting and energizing breakfast options to increase cognition. Some favorites are oatmeal topped with blueberries and walnuts or an egg sandwich with greens and avocado. Don’t forget to take your shot of caffeine if it is your thing!
8:15 A.M Listen to a motivational video that is inspiring for you or just continue listening to music as you make and eat breakfast.
8:30 A.M.: Review your plan for the day and have a productive day!
Daily Mantra: I am calm, organized, and focus on what matters most to me today
Morning Ritual 4 - Mental ruminations
Perhaps you are struggling with mental ruminations and the if-only loops that are so popular in grief. From the moment you get up, the thoughts of your person’s death and absence start racing through your head.
The different scenarios of what you could have done should have done to prevent their death replay through the screen of your mind in an infinite loop. Images continuously flash in and out of your awareness with no discrimination. Your mind feels like a washing machine stuck on the spin cycle and you are getting worn out!
It can be a very isolating feeling to feel trapped in a mind that seems out of control.
This morning ritual will help you calm down these thoughts and bring you into a place of mental quiet.
Ritual - Peace be Still
Total Time: 30 – 90 minutes
Intention: Intend to quiet my mind and rest in the present moment for the rest of the day
7:00 A.M.: When you are fully awake, start the day with this playlist that will stimulate alpha brain waves and quiet the racing thoughts
7:10 A.M.: As you listen to the music, repeat your intention out loud a few times until you begin to feel more settled
7:15 A.M.: Take the next 15 minutes to journal and empty your mind
- Give yourself permission to write down the different scenarios of how things could have gone and all the alternate endings. Allow the should have’s, could have’s to find expression on the page with no self-judgment or recrimination.
- Imagine that your journal is a safe holding vessel in which you can pour out any feelings of regret, rage, blame, or guilt.
7:30 A.M.: Once, you finish journaling, spend the next 10-15 minutes vocal toning. Either chant the mantra OM pronounced AH-UH-MM or hum the sounds of the different vowels, or simple songs like “twinkle twinkle little star” or one of your favorites. You can also listen to this 11-minute vocal toning and humming meditation
7:45 A.M.: Perform a 15-minute exercise routine that gets you out of your head and into your body. Any HIIT exercises like pushups, sit-ups, jumping jacks, biking, and running will do. If you can, a walk-in nature might also be very grounding.
8:00 A.M.: Hop in the shower and finish the last 30 seconds with a blast of cold water if you can – these grounds you into your body
8:15 A.M.: Drink ginseng tea to increase focus and make one of these breakfast recipes that have a grounding effect
8:30 A.M.: Spend some time on gratitude – you can commit to writing three things or even a whole page if you feel up to it!
9:00 A.M: Have a calm and centered day! When you feel the volume of your thoughts begin to rise, take a moment to perform some vocal toning or deep breathing to ground awareness in your body.
Mantra for the Day: I trust my capacity to heal and move forward
Things will get better
I am sorry that you are going through this difficult period. Please know that things will get better. In the meantime, you can use these morning rituals to provide a foundation of safety and stability as you start your day.
To get started, just pick one ritual that resonates with you and try it for a week. It is my hope that through these rituals you can start your days feeling more supported and grounded.
In the next article in the series, I will provide you with a ritual to support you when you are weighed down by the exhaustion and fatigue that grief causes.