Like many of you, I miss my loved one this holiday season and like many others of you, I am still missing my child, my 21-year-old daughter.

When we are grieving, we tend to hold our breath or take rapid shallow breaths. Additionally, our bodies secrete the stress hormone, and when the stress is elevated over time, as it is in grief, the immune system is compromised. This increases our susceptibility to colds, flu, and other illnesses. Add to our grief the busyness of the holiday season and we experience a double whammy. In our busy lives, intentional breathing can provide a sense of peace for getting through the holiday season. 

A slow calm breath produces beneficial changes in the body and mind that leads to quietness and reduces stress. This sense of peace can change not only your day, but your entire outlook on life. Intentional breathing requires us to focus on the inhalation and exhalation.

Intentional Breathing

Sit in a chair (preferably in a quiet room with dim lights).

Gently close your eyes and focus on the complete breath which has three parts. 

First is the belly breath segment. With both hands on the abdomen, just below the belly button, contract the abdominal muscles and relax them.

Now inhale and relax your belly by pushing forward with your belly muscles (your hands should be pushed forward).

Exhale and contract the belly muscles, pushing in with your hand to help your body get the idea.


You should hear a steam-like sound as the breath goes in and out. You should feel your diaphragm move down to draw the air in and move up to expel the air. 

The second part is ribcage expansion. Place your hands on the lower part of the ribcage with fingertips touching. When you breathe in, you feel your rib cage expand. Your fingers will separate as you expand your ribcage on inhalation and come together on exhalation. 

The third part involves the lungs where you feel the air rise to the top.

Put it all together and intentionally inhale and exhale slowly.


The complete breathe on inhalation comes from the bottom up and exhalation from the top down. With each repetition, make each breath slower and longer than the previous one. Do not hold the breath but breathe smoothly and steadily through the nose. 

During this holiday season, schedule some quiet time (a minimum of 15 minutes daily) for intentional breathing just as any other important activity. Mornings may work best as it ensures remembering and sets the tone for the rest of the day.

Even when you don’t have time to sit or when you feel frazzled, just take 2-3 slow deep breaths as you inhale and exhale very slowly, and experience the peace that comes with a calm deliberate breath. This not only enhances your holiday season but is helpful any day of the year. Happy Breathing! 

Coralease Ruff 2011

Coralease Ruff

Dr. Coralease Ruff is a Bereavement Facilitator, A Registered Nurse, a University Professor and an International Nursing Consultant. She and her husband became bereaved parents in 1997, following the death of their 21-year old daughter in an automobile accident in the Dominican Republic. Since then, she has been involved in the Compassionate Friends Inc. in many roles. Coralease is a frequent presenter on grief topics locally and nationally including The Compassionate Friends (TCF) National Conferences, the National Funeral Directors and Morticians Association and The Society of Childhood Emergencies as well as local universities, churches and community centers. She has held faculty positions at Catholic University, University of Washington, The Catholic University and is currently Professor Emeritus at Howard University. She is an end of life nursing educator and developed and currently teaches a university course on Grief and Loss to graduate and undergraduate nursing students. She has published widely in professional nursing literature and the lay press. Her grief articles include Grieving through the Years; When the Nurse is Grieving and Finding Help and Hope in the Aftermath of the Virginia Tech Tragedy. She combined a biography of her daughter with a grief handbook entitled; Her Light Still Shines which is published by iUniverse and will be available in bookstores soon. Dr. Coralease Ruff appeared on the radio show “Healing the Grieving Heart” with Dr. Gloria & Dr. Heidi Horsley to discuss, Grief and Your Health: Taking Care of Yourself. To hear this interview, click on the following link: Dr. Coralease Ruff appeared on the radio show “Healing the Grieving Heart” with Dr. Gloria & Dr. Heidi Horsley to discuss, Coping with the Sudden Death of a Child in a Foreign Country. To hear this interview, go to the following link:

More Articles Written by Coralease