Dear Andy,

I have been using the Headspace for a few months now. It was recommended by our bereavement counselor soon after the death of our middle son, aged 31. His death was a devastating shock, as this happy, successful and extremely popular young man jumped from Tower Bridge after a stupid tiff with his girlfriend. We will probably never know why.

I have found Headspace very helpful, in general terms, though I have a sense that the intensity of my feelings of grief, coupled with the seemingly endless list of practical consequences and tasks that we have to deal with since his death have made it hard to give Headspace the full attention it deserves, or get the most out of it.

In particular, the sense of “blue sky” you speak about, and for example the “warm feeling of sunlight and space” in the Stress visualization, do feel colored and shaded by sadness. I don’t see the world as a sunny place very much any more. Indeed, I’m not sure I want to – it feels like a betrayal in some way.

I know that it was personal grief that started you, to some extent, on your Headspace journey – and yet there does not seem to be a Headspace program on specifically on that topic. Having done the foundation program, I am currently working my way through the Stress program.

Andy’s answer:

Thank you so much for writing. I cannot even imagine how you have coped with such a tragedy. I was deeply saddened to hear of your loss and please know that all here at Headspace HQ are sending their love and support to you and your family in what must be a devastating time.

In this situation it is almost impossible to imagine that the essence of mind is blue sky and, as you say, it can feel like a betrayal to even want to go to that place. In some ways this is a very common misunderstanding of the blue sky analogy.

The blue sky is not so much our “happy place,” but rather our place of perspective, a place of awareness, where we see with more clarity. What we see may actually be extreme sadness, pain, heartache and grief, and we may well feel it with great intensity, but it is seen, witnessed and observed with a greater sense of perspective.

There are no fitting analogies to match such a heartbreaking situation, but please bear with me as I try to find a way of looking at this. It is perhaps the difference between being out in a heavy storm and constantly wishing we were inside, that it was different, that the clouds would disappear, and instead just sitting in the rain, content to just sit there, to feel the full force of the fierce storm, but without adding layers of mental commentary on top.

There is no intention to avoid the pain, to escape the grieving process, instead we are looking to embrace that process, to accept it wholeheartedly, with all of the heartache, anger, sadness and grief that come with it.

But it is enough that we have to experience this sorrow. To then add layers of additional stress and suffering on top of that by thinking repetitively about the situation is to lock ourselves in an internal prison with no hope of escape. We cannot stop the inevitable flow of thoughts which will question why such a thing occurred, but we can choose not to engage those thoughts when they arise.

In terms of a specific pack on bereavement and grief, yes, we will be releasing that as part of a wider roll out of new content over time. As for which pack to look at right now, I would agree that the stress pack is not really that well suited to your personal situation. In fact I would suggest you do Headspace Pro, possibly bringing in the Acceptance Pack after Level 1 and the Relationship Pack after Level 2, before then continuing with Level 3.

I hope that’s helpful in some small way and once again, my thoughts are with you and your family.

Warm wishes,