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    Grieving a disrupted biography: an interpretative phenomenological analysis exploring barriers to the use of mindfulness after neurological injury or impairment

    Finlay, KA, Hearn, JH and Chater, A (2021) Grieving a disrupted biography: an interpretative phenomenological analysis exploring barriers to the use of mindfulness after neurological injury or impairment. BMC Psychology, 9 (1).

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    Abstract

    Background Mindfulness has demonstrated strong utility for enhancing self-management and health outcomes in chronic illness. However, sensation-focused mindfulness techniques may not be appropriate for clinical populations with neurological injury. This study aimed to identify how expert mindfulness teachers with sensory loss/impairment naturalistically adapt and experience mindfulness. We aimed to highlight the rationale for and barriers to mindfulness practice when living with sensory loss. Methods A qualitative, semi-structured interview design was used, analysed via Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA). Eight (5 females, 3 males) mindfulness teachers with neurological injury were recruited via a national registry of Mindfulness for Health teachers. Interviews (range: 50–93 min) were completed, transcribed verbatim and analysed idiographically for descriptive, linguistic and conceptual themes, before a cross-case analysis was completed. Results Two superordinate themes were identified: (1) Overcoming a disrupted biography; and (2) Proactive self-management. These themes considered the challenge of reconciling, through grief, a past health status with the present reality of living with sensory loss due to Spinal Cord Injury, Multiple Sclerosis or Functional Neurological Disorder. Mindfulness was experienced as a method by which proactive choices could be made to maintain control and autonomy in health, reducing perceptions of suffering, psychological distress, cognitive reactivity and rumination. Conclusions Mindfulness was found to support the self-management of health after neurological injury/impairment. Mindfulness meditation presented an initial challenge as trauma and grief processes were (re-)activated during mindfulness sessions. However, mindfulness was found to support the resolution of these grief processes and encourage adaptive approach-based coping and acceptance of health and neurological impairment/injury.

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