I’m big on self-care.
I’ve come to realize that the work I do — holding space for the grieving, listening to stories of loss, researching, reading, and writing on topics related to the end of life — requires that I indulge in down time. The more I invest in me, the more I have to give those I serve.
Some of my go-to self-care practices are reading, meditation, prayer, soul-journaling, long walks, listening to uplifting music and chanting, massage and creating rituals that nourish me.
Somehow, when we’re broken by loss, we forget how to care for ourselves. All the self-care activities we once indulged in seem meaningless. I mean, who wants to go to a beauty salon and choose between Sandy Sensation and Fiercely Fuchsia when they’re falling apart??!! Or wear make-up and go out with girlfriends for an evening out when taking a shower is an effort?
The thing to remember is, grieving is a form of self-care. Pushing against grief takes a ton of energy and depletes us. When we walk around pretending that we’re okay, that we have it all together when we really don’t, we’re in denial.
It’s much better to accept where we are and say: I hate that this is happening to me but it is, and so I’m going to find a way to accept it.
When we open ourselves to the grieving experience, it becomes a form of self-soothing. It’s like saying to ourselves: “I know this hurts like crazy. But I’ve got you. It’s okay to feel messed up.”
That is self-care. It’s what you’d say to a five-year-old you love. Your inner child is hurting now. Give her the comfort she needs.
What does self-care look like when you’re grieving?
- Don’t make any permanent decisions. All we’re capable of is basic moment-to-moment thinking. Cereal or fruit? Nap or Netflix? Lean on a trusted friend or family member to help you navigate the big decisions.
- It’s okay to change your mind. Maybe you said Yes to going out to dinner with friends. It seemed like a good idea. But in this moment the very thought of getting dressed, driving out, and smiling through the evening gives you an anxiety attack. Call/text and cancel. Saying No to them means saying Yes to you.
- You don’t have to get it all done. Grief is like a big monster that crawled inside you and is renting for a long while. It takes up a lot of room and energy. If the laundry is piling up and the dog needs a bath, it’s okay. Do what you can. Start each day with two questions: a) How do I feel? b) What must I get done, given how I feel?
- Love the broken parts of you. Instead of judging and criticizing yourself for the emotional messiness, find a piece of compassion and tenderness. Anything can be transformed with a dose of self-compassion. When you love all of you, you’ll heal much faster.
- Do something nice for yourself every day. It could be that you buy flowers, soak in a bath, sleep in, or call a fiend and cry. It’s all good.
Do you have any ideas that you’d like to add to this list? Please share them.
Originally posted June 12, 2017.