One definition of mindfulness is awareness of the present moment. It is easy think of a mindful life as one that does not consider the past or the future. But this is not the case. Sometimes living in the moment means thinking about the past, while rooted in the present.

This is a major challenge in the grief process. The intense feelings that come with loss cannot be suppressed without negative consequences. But living in the past, living in the loss, without appreciation for the full reality of the present, is also a way to suffer and get stuck in grief.

I may have mentioned that I’ve recently started seeing a mindfulness psychologist, Bonnie. I sought out a clinical psychologist who specializes in this area and this one used to be a researcher at Fred Hutchinson’s Cancer Center at the University of Washington, doing research on mindfulness based stress reduction programs with cancer patients.

I’ve been seeing her every few weeks to keep my mindfulness practice going as well as to work on the grief of losing my dad last summer. Thanksgiving was the first major holiday we had without him. John and I hosted and I was fine until the first half of Thanksgiving Day. First I was stressed with the food preparation. When I asked John to keep an eye on the temperature of our grill for the turkey and he’d somehow let it get waaaaay too hot, I nearly cried when I looked at the burnt turkey. Then I just felt sad for a few hours.

It took me a bit by surprise. I had thought I’d been mindful of my needs. I talked to Bonnie about it and she asked, “Do you ever talk to your dad?” The suggestion caught me off guard. I hadn’t thought of doing that.

Then I was surprised that I hadn’t thought of doing that. Then I remembered that my dad was really more of a doer than a talker. I talked to Bonnie about possible conversation topics.

I visited my mom last week to help with Christmas decorations. As I was driving there, I looked at the scenery. This brought back memories of my childhood and since my dad knew these stretches of highway well, something to talk about.

“Wow, Dad. What are they building there. It looks like they are adding another highway entrance and two more lanes.”

“Remember when there used to be wetlands all along this highway? Look, there’s still a stretch over there. I see hawks in the trees over there sometimes.”It

“Hey Dad, remember that time we brought Britt [childhood dog] to the wetlands over here? She was so excited to run and swim through the water. She ignored our calling her for about 3 hours. Then she stunk to high heaven!”

“Here’s the hospital. I’m so glad you don’t have to be there any more.”

It really wasn’t as awkward as I expected it to be and it actually felt comforting. Remembering is not the same as living in the past, holding onto things and people who no longer exist. It is a way to deal with pain and a way to honor love.

Peace, friends.