When Grief Closes Your Heart, Open it with Slow Mindful Breaths

Giving Your Grief Space to Breathe

Mary Clymer
7 min readJun 9, 2021


The connection between Breath and Grief is not talked about often enough. In a society that doesn’t value vulnerability, how are we to grief properly? Grief needs space to heal, yet most of us push grief down not wanting to face the hurt and pain that it brings. The problem is without that release our breath becomes shallow. Breathing into tight areas of our body opens us up for healing, but we must be ready to face the pain that comes with it.

Most of us, most of the time, are not breathing properly. Add poor posture from sitting all day long slumped over in our seats to the mix and big problems start to ensue. Staring at a screen and getting lost in online dramas is one of the ways we numb out to protect ourselves. Not wanting to feel the hurt and pain we turn towards more violent reactions to even the smallest remark or detail. Now, add grief on top of the list of unhealthy coping mechanisms and it starts to paint a picture of why we curl into a ball to protect our hearts from any more attacks.

If you are grieving, life may feel chaotic. You might notice that you are breathing shallow, holding your breath, or not breathing at all. Occasionally finding yourself gasping for air. These are all common breath patterns one might experience while grieving.

We all experience grief at some point in our life. It comes in many forms and affects us all in different ways. It could be…

  • The death of a loved one
  • The loss of a job
  • The end of a relationship

These things affect us all, and that includes your breath. Let’s talk about how breathing through grief can help your overall health.

Conscious breathwork is vital for releasing grief and sorrow from the body. Not only is conscious breathwork a great release, but it also strengthens the lungs and helps you connect to your inner wisdom.

Slow focused breathwork allows you to guide your energy to the spaces inside yourself that feel stuck. You can honor the grieving process by giving it space to open up and be seen.

We all hold a tremendous amount of pain in our bodies. It plays out in many different ways. One thing it always does is cause stress in the body. Any deep-seated emotions that are not dealt with make a home in our bodies. We limit the amount of air that travels to these unloved areas as a way to combat having to feel the pain.

Strengthening your lungs opens up new space for air to flow. This can help release the pent-up grief stored in our cells. Releasing this stagnant energy is how we heal.

Deep conscious breathing stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system. Moving you into a calm and relaxed state. From here you begin to feel more open and receptive to clearing out stuck energy in your body. Nothing can be released until you decide to feel it first.

Gentle and powerful breathing awakens your lungs and strengthens the mind-body connection. By doing this you can slowly release stored pain and sorrow caused by grief.

We are used to masking our pain with prescription drugs, drinking, tv, video games, and social media. When you create space to honor your grief you must be willing to set these vices aside and get present with yourself. This takes courage, but the rewards are great.

  • Improved immune function
  • Reducing feeling of stress and anxiety
  • Deeper mind-body connection
  • Balanced nervous system
  • Better sleep
  • Healthy digestion
  • Lower inflammation

Like any new healthy habit, it’s formed by dedicating time to do it. It can be a powerful healing tool done in 5 minutes a day. All you need to do is find a quiet place to simply relax and breathe. Even if you are not currently dealing with any grief, developing a breath routine will help release some stored-up trauma that we are all carrying around.

Routine is key to keeping consistent.

  • First thing in the morning while the coffee is brewing
  • At a stoplight
  • Inline at the store
  • During your lunch break

Sneaking breath into your routine serves as a reminder to connect with yourself. We are so busy moving from one task to the next that we forget we are a living breathing part of the process. These quick check-ins with your breath will combat stress levels and help bring presence to the moment.

Getting comfortable connecting with breath is the first step towards healing the sorrow you hold. Practicing simply mindful breathing techniques throughout your day opens you up to more calming energy. This allows you to be able to deal with the emotions of grief as they arise. Instead of lashing out at your family or a co-worker or diving headfirst into your next panic attack, you can turn to your breathing techniques. You will notice as your awareness of breath grows so does your capacity to feel.

From a more mindful place you have better control. Allowing you to work through the chaos you feel from a more stable footing. The more you can connect with that sense of feeling the more you will notice patterns in your thoughts. You will see how it affects your body and how you respond to the world around you.

When you are breathing properly, from a mindful place, you can remove the mental fog and fatigue caused by grief. At first, it may feel impossible to breathe deeply. Deep breathing can intensify your feelings of hurt and pain, but working through this is part of releasing grief from your tissues.

Below is just one of many techniques that can be used to counteract some of the symptoms of grief held in the body.

5x5 Breathing

This practice can be done sitting, standing, laying down, in-line at the store, or anywhere on earth where you find yourself needing grounding. For today, let’s settle into a comfortable seated position, either cross-legged on the floor or sitting at the edge of your seat.

  • Relax your hands down either in your lap or resting on your thighs.
  • Close or soften your eyes and relax your jaw.
  • Breathe normally in and out of the nose for a few rounds. Paying attention to the rise and fall of your belly. Your chest shouldn’t be moving much at all.
  • Inhale your shoulders up towards your ears, and roll them back and down on the exhale. Allowing them to settle into a relaxed state.
  • At your own pace, breathe in for the count of five. Let the breath start in your belly and move up into your rib cage and chest. Taking a natural pause at the top of your breath.
  • Exhale the breath out slowly from your nose to the count of five. Move the air first out of the chest, then the rib cage, and finish by hugging your belly button towards your spine.
  • Hold empty for two counts
  • Inhale slowly again and continue in this sequence for 5 to 10 rounds.

This is one of the most effective breathing techniques you can practice. It’s as simple as it is effective. If you find your mind wandering away from the breath, simply move your focus back by focusing your attention on the tip of your nose and following the breath in and out from the belly, to the rib cage, and up into the chest.

Many find it effective to focus on the area in your body that is asking for love and attention. Doing this allows your mind to take a break from all the conversations it is constantly having and puts you into your feeling body. There is a tremendous amount of healing that comes from this form of mental imagery.

As you continue to grow in this practice you will find it easier to fall into a deep breathing pattern without having to focus on it. Not only can this practice awaken the mind-body connection, but it can open the door to nourish your soul in the depth of all the grief you hold.

If you have any questions or breakthroughs while getting involved with the breath practice OR are interested in learning more about the connection between breath and grief, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at mary@heart-lightstudios.com



Mary Clymer

Breathwork Coach, Pulmonaut Explorer, & Content Creator. Taking it one breath at a time. Join me at https://breath-mindset.mykajabi.com/breath-mindset