Taking care of ourselves during the best of times is a challenge for most of us. When we are faced with tragedy we go into survival mode. Making sure other people are ok is our way of pushing our emotions, our reality, to the side for a little while. It’s a weird form of escapism. It doesn’t feel that way in the moment, but we are escaping being with our own thoughts, feelings and memories. Caring for ourselves in grief is the furthest thing from our minds.
In the beginning, we may need to be reminded to do some of the simplest things – to eat, to sleep, to pee. Time reminds us how to do some of those things, but until the fog lifts, we will often rely on others.
Caring for yourself in grief is about starting small
I am here to remind you that there are things that you need to do for you. No pressure, but I encourage you to consider any of these tools. They will help. If even only a little bit. It is through many little steps that you will get through this. And you will. You will be changed – you already are – but you will get through.
Not regular breathing (you should be doing that already!). Deep Breaths. Take 5 of them (1 or 2 is not enough). Go slow on the in, then even slower on the out. Don’t rush. Do it whenever you get overwhelmed. Every day. 10 times a day, if you need to.
I was going to write Yoga, but that would scare you off. When you get up in the morning, hug your legs to your chest and rock from side to side. Stretch your arms and legs out like a starfish and reach as far as you can in every direction. When you stand up, reach for the sky, then flop like a ragdoll with your arms and head towards the floor. It will wake up your body and help with the morning kinks.
Staying hydrated will help keep you moving through your day, and give you a boost (and something to do with your hands).
Take a long, hot shower in the evening
It will give you a chance to reflect on the day. It is a great place for a big cry. For some reason, crying in the shower helps relieve a lot of tension. You end up coming out of the shower feeling a bit more together than you went in.
This is one of the hardest things for us to do. It doesn’t make sense, but it is. People keep asking what they can do. Our automatic response is “Nothing. I’m ok.” If people offer you something, like a meal, or to run errands, say ok. Let them help. It will take something off your plate, which is important right now. And you know what else? It makes them feel good. They like you. They want to do something nice for you. Let them.
It seems simple, but we don’t get enough in the best of times. If you aren’t sleeping through the night, lie down during the day and take a nap. Take it where you can get it.
There are always things that we feel we should blame ourselves for. There is no longer that person on the other end to tell us to stop it! Forgive yourself. It’s time.
Caring for yourself in grief is about putting one foot in front of the other
I know you can’t imagine, but it won’t always be as hard as it is now. Take care of yourself now and it will help you put one foot in front of the other.
Keep that up and take it one day at a time.