Dealing with Job Loss or Death of a Loved One? Being in the present moment is the key to inner peace and happiness

Saturday, March 13, 2010 12:26

By Ellen Brown

When we’re dealing with difficult life transitions like job loss or the death of a loved one, it’s not uncommon for us to focus a little too much on the past and the future. We may ruminate about the day our supervisor delivered the bad news. Or we may obsess about how we’re going to make ends meet without the help of our life partner.

Experiencing these feelings is natural, and I certainly wouldn’t suggest that we try to bury them. But there’s something to be said for balance and bringing ourselves back to the present moment, and being with “what is” today. At a workshop I recently attended on Complicated Grief, the featured speaker, a grief counselor for the Hospice of the Western Reserve, highlighted that point.

The presenter talked about how people who are faced with the sudden death of a loved one, experience a great deal of pain, and need to learn how to live with the pain, rather than pushing it away or self medicating themselves with alcohol or drugs. She recommended a number of helpful strategies, including staying in the present moment, which she said helps ground us in our current reality and is the key to bringing more joy into our lives.

What she described really resonated with me and surprised me.  While I’ve been practicing the art of living in the present moment (sometimes known as mindfulness) for years, with the help of books by great spiritual teachers such as Eckhart Tolle and Thich Nhat Hanh, I hadn’t really thought about the connection she was discussing. I hadn’t really considered how we often live more in the past and future, when we’re navigating difficult life transitions. But it’s true, and I’ve certainly witnessed that tendency in myself and in many of my coaching clients.

It’s understandable that many of us feel anxious and in pain when we focus on our regrets about the past and our fears of the future. But when we shift our attention back to the here and now, and listen, really listen to the Robin singing just outside our window or allow ourselves to savor the delicious meal set before us, we often feel more peaceful and happy.

By the way, I’m not suggesting that mindfulness is a happy pill. But it can be a helpful tool to have in your toolbox. So, if you’re dealing with a difficult transition and notice yourself slipping into the past or future a little too often, you may want to try this exercise to help you return to the present moment:

Take a few deep breaths, noticing the rise and fall of your belly. Feel your feet against floor. Look around you. Notice what you see. Reach out and touch something and notice how it feels.  Become aware of the sounds around you. You’re now in the present moment.

Please keep in mind that learning to live in the present moment is a process, so be gentle with yourself, when you notice your mind drifting. Then take a deep breath and bring yourself back to the here and now.

If you’re going through a tough time, in what way would it be helpful for you to live in the here and now more often?

How has mindfulness helped you in your life?

I’d love to hear what you have to say. Please leave a comment here on Stepping Stones by scrolling down.

Are you dealing with job loss, the death of a loved one, or another challenging life transition? If so, I’d love to help out. Visit my website at to sign up for an introductory coaching session or a coaching package that’s right for you. Since coaching sessions are conducted by phone, I can work with clients anywhere in the world.

Ellen Brown is a certified professional coach, based in Cleveland, OH.

You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

7 Responses to “Dealing with Job Loss or Death of a Loved One? Being in the present moment is the key to inner peace and happiness”

  1. Learning to Speak Alzheimer’s: A Groundbreaking Approach for Everyone Dealing with the Disease says:

    March 13th, 2010 at 12:52 pm

    [...] Stepping Stones » Dealing with Job Loss or Death of a Loved One … [...]

  2. Stacy Brice says:

    March 14th, 2010 at 12:42 pm

    Hi, Ellen…

    I’m not sure if anyone shared this at the event you attended…but it’s helped me hugely help grieving clients. it’s that all suffering associated with grief is found in the past (what was that is now “lost”) and the future (what no longer has the possibility of being). There’s simply is no suffering in the present moment. That’s why staying fully present allows a person to move through grieving, not without feeling, but feeling what’s most appropriate and healthy, and without getting stuck.

    With great respect,

  3. Ellen Brown says:

    March 14th, 2010 at 12:47 pm

    Hi Stacy,

    Thanks so much for your wonderful insight. The grief counselor who was leading the workshop touched on being in the present moment, but didn’t describe what you stated. I can see the need to visit the past and consider the future. And I totally understand how people can get caught up in both. But I agree that there isn’t suffering in the present moment. There can be pain, but not suffering. At least that’s my experience. Thanks, again, for sharing your thoughts.


  4. Patricia - Spiritual Journey Of A Lightworker says:

    March 28th, 2010 at 2:55 pm

    One of my best friends died suddenly of a heart attack in the middle of the night 4 1/2 years ago. I know how long it has been because my youngest grandson was born 2 weeks before this happened and he will be 5 in November. I grieved for about 2 years, not continuously. I let myself feel the grief whenever it came up without wallowing in it. I have never done grief like this before.

    Most of the time in the past, I would have refused to feel the grief for more than a day or two maybe a week at the most. Then I would shut it down and just refuse to do it. I think that is why grieving my friend’s death took so long. I felt it all from all of the previous grieving that I had never done. I found myself revisiting the death of a close friend that had died over 15 years ago. What we don’t do with grief does come back over and over again until you feel it.

    I am currently in a grieving class to find out if I have any grief work to do from being an incest survivor. Surprisingly, to me, I have found some areas of grief that I was still holding on to.

  5. Ellen Brown says:

    March 29th, 2010 at 7:35 pm

    What you say about grieving makes so much sense, Patricia. Sometimes, we’re grieving a number of losses at one time because we never really dealt with them at the time. The good news is that we CAN move through our losses even if we’re a little “behind” in the grieving process. Thanks so much for sharing your experience with us.

  6. Lorna says:

    April 12th, 2010 at 10:04 pm

    Hi Ellen,

    Your advice helps, although I wouldn’t call it “iron-clad.” I lost a relative unexpectedly and while I try to be mindful of the present, the overwhelming baggage of what happened and what won’t happen is at times oppressive.

    Yes, I try to remain grateful for what I had, but it’s not enough to help me shoulder the massive responsibilities I face. Thanks for listening. — Desiree

  7. Ellen Brown says:

    April 13th, 2010 at 6:55 am

    Hi Desiree,

    First of all, I am so sorry for your loss and what you are experiencing. When someone we dies unexpectedly, it can often be even more difficult.

    I totally agree that there isn’t a magic bullet for dealing with grief … Being in the present moment helps. So does expressing your feelings to someone you trust. It also helps to write about it sometimes.

    Thank you for sharing your perspective. My thoughts are with you, as you deal with your loss.


Leave a Reply