One of the big misconceptions about meditation is that you aren't supposed to "meditate on" something. You're supposed to sit down and immediately feel bliss. (First of all, NO ONE just sits down and feels bliss--that's a whole other blog post.) In reality, if you look at the instructions on Raja Yoga, and the Dharma practices of many branches of Buddhism, it is ALL ABOUT meditating "on" stuff.
Meditation can be simple and uplifting. It doesn't have to be hard to do. In fact, the goal of meditation is to live a happy and joyful life. Meditation is a process of cultivating the mind so we can suffer less and enjoy each moment to the fullest.
This is how we work with every-day stress and anxiety. We practice appreciating our joy and letting go as much as we can.
But then Life throws us a BIG CURVE BALL. Death, Divorce, Betrayal, Tyranny . . .
When you are feeling really profound emotions, you probably aren't going to be able to "meditate" as in "watch the breath and just be present with whatever arises." That is probably not going to be possible. I know when I went through a major loss 10 years ago, my meditation practice per se fell apart. My meditation practice became an exercise in letting myself cry. I wished I were dead. I didn't want to get up in the morning. Everything looked grey. My heart hurt so much I couldn't eat, I couldn't sleep. I got lost around the block from my own apartment because I was so "in my own head," I couldn't see what was in front of me.
Throughout that time, I didn't "meditate" per se. I meditated ON things. I meditated on being my own best friend and sticking by my own side. I meditated on grief. I meditated on the feelings moving through me like waves on an ocean. I meditated on letting myself feel whatever. I meditated on letting go. I meditated on universal love. I meditated on my deep childhood wounds that were coming up for me as an abused and abandoned child. And that is why I needed to meditate on loving myself and being a loving presence to myself. We all need a loving presence, a best friend, an universal parental figure or companion.
Many meditators have reported that they had "breakthroughs" in which they connected with something bigger than themselves. They connected to a loving presence, or a universal love--a universal grief, a universal pain--and in these moments they felt a burden lifted. They felt they weren't alone anymore. They were a part of an expanded consciousness.
If you are in the throws of a hard situation, this might sound impossible or highly unlikely. I can only tell you what others have reported in their own process. I can only report what I have experienced in my own process.
I have experienced feelings of universal consciousness, and I have also experienced feelings of "this is a terrible feeling and it is moving through me, and it is temporary." I eventually healed through a combination of meditating on my own healing process, and doing healing work for others.
Meditation is actually a process of self-healing. When the shit hits the fan, you are probably not going to be floating on a lotus in perfect peace like a magical being. But that is part of the process. Look at the archetype of the Buddha. The story goes that he spent many lifetimes perfecting loving kindness and letting go, (among other qualities) before he was able to reach a state of perfect peace and enlightenment. That is an archetype. That means that we might spend a lot of time on self-love and self-healing before we digest our experiences in life and come out on the other side feeling lighter and wiser.
This is still a path of love. It doesn't have to be a path of "gritting your teeth and doing what is right." It is about loving our life as much as we can, and loving our loved ones as much as we can while we are all still here. We can refine the joy that we have, moment to moment, day to day.