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How to Live When a Loved One Dies

Seeing Your Loved One within You

When someone we love passes away, we may suddenly feel abandoned or alone and may believe that we have lost them forever. We may experience anguish and feel disconnected from them. However, when we reconnect with ourselves, we reconnect with our loved one, with our ancestors, and with the whole stream of life. When we come home to ourselves, we can touch our loved one within us.

Thầy at Deer Park Monastery, September 2012; photo by Carlos J. Vázquez Berríos

Our parents are our closest ancestors. We know that, genetically speaking, all our ancestors are still alive in each of our cells. They have not died. But not only do we carry their genes, we also carry all their thoughts, beliefs, experiences, and aspirations within us. We carry their actions of body, speech, and mind into the future. You cannot take your loved one out of you, just as you cannot take your father or your mother out of you, even if you wanted to. Everything is in everything else. With the insight of interconnectedness or “interbeing,” you understand that you are your father, you are your mother. If you are angry with your father or your mother, you are angry with yourself. Likewise, if you are angry with your children, you are angry with yourself. Our children are our continuation, and they carry us into the future.

The same is true with our loved one. Even if we are not related biologically, they are in us and it is impossible to take them out. All our shared experiences and everything they have ever thought, said, or done, lives on within us and cannot be undone or taken out of us. To reconnect with them, we only need to go inward and reconnect with ourselves.

This short guided meditation can help us visualize the reality of our loved ones within us. We can also substitute with the words “mother,” “father,” “grandmother,” “grandfather,” and “all my ancestors” in order to feel the connection to all our ancestors in us and to receive their energy and support.

Breathing in, I see the presence of my beloved in every cell of my body.
Breathing out, I smile to my beloved in every cell of my body.
My beloved in every cell,

Breathing in, my loved one is breathing in with me.
Breathing out, my loved one is breathing out with me.
My loved one breathing in with me,
My loved one breathing out with me.

Breathing in, I am breathing with my loved one’s lungs.
Breathing out, our bodies relax.
Breathing with my loved one’s lungs,
Our bodies relaxing.

Breathing in, I am looking with my loved one’s eyes.
Breathing out, I am listening with my loved one’s ears.
Looking with my loved one’s eyes,
Listening with my loved one’s ears.

Breathing in, I see I am part of the wonderful river of life, flowing continuously for thousands of years.
Breathing out, I smile and entrust myself to this river of life.
River of life,
Entrusting myself.

This is an excerpt from How to Live When a Loved One Dies: Healing Meditations for Grief and Loss by Thích Nhất Hạnh, published by Parallax Press.

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What is Mindfulness

Thich Nhat Hanh January 15, 2020

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