My Story of Losing My Brother and Continuing to Row

This is a guest post by Per Kjellsen

Read Time: 3 minutes

2016 was by far the worst year in my life, and also the year I got serious about meditation.

Early last year I lost my brother in a car accident. This event sent me into a period of grief that I wouldn’t wish upon anyone. To give you an idea of what it was like, picture this:

  1. One of the people you love most in your life dies suddenly and unexpectedly. No serious life-threatening illness, or anything else that could have prepared you for their death. One moment this person is alive, and the next they aren’t.
  2. Now try feel the emotions you are getting. Maybe for a minute or two.
  3. Imagine these emotions maturing and influencing your every waking moment for the next three months. After that they gradually cease to influence you.
Death and grief are an inevitable part of life. Click To Tweet

Death and grief are an inevitable part of life. You will at some point in your life have to deal with someone close to you dying. That is reality. I always knew this, but I did not expect it to happen to me. “It might happen to others but not me” kind of thinking. Now, I’m not advocating that you should necessarily prepare for these kinds of incidents. I think the rational way to go about it is to handle it if you are so unlucky to experience it. If it doesn’t happen – don’t bother.

The concept of luck is underestimated. There are so many things in life which you have absolutely no control over. Where you are born, who your parents are, what kind of childhood you’ll get etc. I’ve been lucky to be born in Norway where there is a welfare system which gives you time to process these kinds of unfortunate events. For that I’m very grateful. I don’t know how much longer the grieving process would have lasted if I didn’t have a chance to get a tactical time-out from life.

Meditation for managing grief

I’ve always been curious about meditation and I’ve thought it would be something nice to have as a habit. But it wasn’t until I listened to the episodes of the Future Thinkers Podcast on enlightenment featuring Vinay Gupta that I realized that meditation might be a good strategy for me to handle my grief. The way Gupta talked about meditation passed my internal bullshit-filter. What he said about meditation actually made sense. You will have to do a lot of it and it will take a long time before you see any results. Hard persistent work. I was also happy to hear that they were going to launch an app for meditation geared towards enlightenment. I don’t know if I’ll pursue that goal but I certainly want to walk on the path.

I’ve now meditated a total of 89 hours using the app, and I’ve done it more or less every day since “The Cutting Machinery” was launched. I like the fact that the mediation is divided into 10 minute sections; changing from mantra, to open awareness, and then emotional feeling and release. I find it easy to maintain focus in each section for 10 minutes, and doing six sections makes the hour get by pretty quickly.

I’ve heard about mantra and open awareness or mindfulness meditation before, but the emotional meditation was new to me. I also think this is the kind of meditation that helped me the most in processing grief. I think of these 20 minutes each day as the time that I am allowed to feel every hard emotion that is bothering me. At the start it was a lot of grief, but now I’m starting to focus on hard emotional problems that occur in daily life too. I believe this is serious progress.

As for the mantra, I’ve chosen the Norwegian word “ro” which best translates into “calm” and also “row”, as in “row a boat”. I picture myself or someone else rowing a boat, and at the same time thinking about the kind of calmness you get from doing this activity.

Recently I’ve been more aware of my posture and got myself a meditation pillow. I’m going to get serious about yoga this year, and hope that it will further help my healing and make my meditation posture better. I’m interested to see how the meditation will aid me in the coming year. I’m sure glad I’ve got this new habit. And I highly recommend getting into it.

Engineer currently using meditation as a tool to recover from grief
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