It is not suprising that breath becomes challenging with grief. Our empathy with our beloved's absence of breath may effect our breath on some primitive level. It worked that way for me. Since Brian died, I have struggled with my breath.
I have been observing that breath is critical skill to work with in my grief.
I decided that, like the old proverb of saying "you are eating for two" when you are pregnant, that I'm saying that "I am breathing for two now" - for myself and for Brian who cannot breathe any more.
I want to encourage all grieving people to breathe better.
Understand, first, the mechanics:
Imagine the diaphragm as a large, sheet that lies underneath the lungs. It works like a bellow that stokes a fire, expanding with the intake of air (inhale) and expelling air (exhale). The inhale expands the abdomen, moving the diaphragm down and massaging the abdominal organs; while the exhale contracts the abdomen, moving the diaphragm up and massaging the heart.
Grief can cause two results in our breathing - one is shallow breath where a lack of oxygen is very hard on the body - it can result in a low level of vitality and our lack of oxygenated blood contributes to anxiety states, depression and fatigue. The other result is feeling like you are not getting enough air - no matter how hard one is breathing. This has been called "chronic breathing" or "over-breathing" can contribute to feelings of anxiety, panic and fear.
To see where you are with your breath, find a time when you are alone for about 10 minutes. Count your breaths for 1 minute. Our breath is healthy at 6 to 10 breaths a minute. Are you breathing fast or slow? Observe the movement of your chest and abdomen as you breathe. When your chest moves more than your abdomen you are over-breathing.
The Autonomic Nervous System is deeply affected by breath.
Stretch the neck muscles to aid your breathing practice. Slowly move your left ear to your left shoulder while keeping the spine straight. Extend your right arm down reaching your fingers toward the floor. Switch sides. Practice breathing as you perform this exercise.
Now, sit comfortably and place your hands on your chest, thumbs inside the armpits, middle fingers touching at the chest's center. The middle fingers should move slightly apart upon inhale. Exaggerate that movement by deep inhales for two or three minutes at a time.
You might visualize liquid being poured into a glass, you will imagine the bottom (diaphragm) gets full first, taking time in pouring, into the middle of the glass (lower lungs) all the way up to the top (upper lungs).
There are three steps to full breathing: Inhalation (to a count of four); Retention/Holding (to a count of four); and Exhalation (to a count of eight).
Breathe through the nose. This warm air helps the body use more oxygen.