What is one of the most important, yet often-overlooked things to focus on when you’ve lost someone close to you?
Self-care, self-care, self-care. Oh, and did I mention self-care?
Why such emphasis? As a widow and a mother, it is so easy to continue to put everyone else first in the grieving process, especially your family and kids. It was for me.
But at some point in my own grieving process I knew, in my gut, that I had to start taking better care of myself so that I could take care of my sons, Brad and Bryce. It’s like when you’re flying on a plane and they tell you to put the air mask on yourself first before assisting your child with theirs. I knew I would be of now use to my kids if I wasn’t dealing with my own grief and pain.
I started with keeping a journal. I was never someone who journaled, but it did help. I noticed that a specific theme was coming up around how a lot of my emotional pain showed up in my body. There were times when I felt like I was going to burst out of my skin and I knew I needed to shake loose that pain. The grief was literally stuck in my body, and I needed to loosen it up so that I could deal with with the trauma of Dave’s death.
At this point I basically felt numb all the time, and it scared me. So I decided to be open to anything that might make me feel something (hopefully good). I started with my body and got regular massages and pedicures. In the past, I generally didn’t pay that much attention to self care. Sure, I did the occasional mani-pedi with girlfriends and got a massage here and there, but it was different now. It was like I was giving myself permission and writing myself a prescription for it. A few times when the massage therapist was working out a particularly nasty knot near my shoulder, I cried. It wasn’t really from the physical pain, it was more like a release of the emotional pain I was carrying around.
The more I moved my body, the better I felt. I regularly walked miles around my neighborhood. I joined a gym and worked out. I took Pilates and yoga classes. I embraced my inner “woo woo,” enlisting the assistance of alternative medicine practitioners and getting regular energy healings on my body as well as acupuncture. I would Google or look at the class catalogs that came in the mail, and if something sparked my interest (and particularly if I got goosebumps) I would dig in and sign up. I was pretty much open to anything.
One day, I saw that a tap dance class was available at the local community college where I was taking some classes. Up to that point, I had never taken a dance class in my life, but thought it would be a pretty cool skill to learn. What a great choice I made! Taking that class was so uplifting. Have you ever seen a sad tap dancer? I think not. My spirit couldn’t help but be uplifted. For that class period I thought of nothing but the moves, the sound my tap shoes made as they hit the dance floor, and the music we were dancing to.
Each new thing I tried provided a little relief and led me to another person, event ,or piece of information that I needed on my journey. One of my classmates in the tap class ran a studio where she was holding singing lessons around “finding your own voice.” Dave and I used to enjoy singing in a community choir together, but after he died I felt like I sort of “lost” my voice. I took her class and pretty much cried my way through it, all the while processing my pain and grief in a really safe place.
Each step I took on my self-care quest built self confidence and gave me courage to move forward in healing and processing my grief.
How about you? What types of things are you doing to make yourself feel better?