by Janna Kontz, Grief Specialist
What does SELF CARE look like during grief? Truthfully, like everything else in grief, it looks different for everyone. Your grief is your grief and how you care for yourself during this time is also unique to you. One thing that everyone who is grieving needs to do to care for themselves is this: Be kind to yourself. That may sound easy, but it isn’t always.
Stop feeling guilty. You may feel guilt over things you did or didn’t do to care for your person who has died. Try to let that go. You can’t change the past but you can claim the past as just that and forgive yourself for anything that may cause guilt or regret. Don’t beat yourself up. Be kind to yourself.
Get enough rest. You may feel like sleeping more during the early days of grief and that’s OK. Your body and mind and soul are tired and need rest. If you’re having trouble sleeping, be sure to get some help with that – whether it be to talk through things with a trusted friend or family member or see your doctor, it’s ok to need a little extra help during this time. Get quiet rest and be kind to yourself.
Go out or stay in. Well-meaning friends and family will try to get you to “do” things – go out to eat, go to church, go for a walk – they want to help you heal. Know that it’s OK to say yes to them and it’s also OK to say no. Sometimes you may feel like being with other people and other times you may need alone time. Give yourself permission to do both. Again, everyone is different in what they need. Stay home. Go out. Either is fine if it is life-giving for you. Be true to what you need and be kind to yourself.
Eat healthy and exercise. What we put into our body is what we will get from our body. If we put in good healthy fruits and vegetables and drink plenty water, we feel much better and are more positive. If we feed our body junk food and sugar, chances are good we will feel anxious and down. Exercise also helps mood – even if it’s just a few steps around the house or down the block. Do your best to eat healthy and get some exercise during this time and when you don’t, give yourself a break and be kind.
Let yourself mourn. Does it seem like everyone is looking to you for guidance on how to grieve during this time? Mourning is our external grief – crying, sighing, indecision, sadness – all those things are outward signs of grief. Others look to us not only to gauge our grief, but to learn what’s OK and what isn’t. Being “strong” is often understood as only showing your grief when you’re alone and being stoic when you’re with someone. Grief needs an outlet. Grief needs tears. It’s OK to be sad in front of others – especially children – because it enables them to claim their own grief as valid. Your grief might just free someone else to mourn outwardly as well. Tears are not only good for the soul – they are good for the body as they release toxins, improve your mood, reduce inflammation and pain and relieve stress. Be kind to yourself and let the tears flow sometimes.
We are usually hardest on ourselves when we are experiencing difficult times. So again – central to self care during grief is to be kind to yourself. Give yourself a break. Let yourself rest and mourn and be with people and be alone. Give yourself the gift of healthy food and exercise. Allow your body, mind and spirit to mourn and be sad so that you will be able to reclaim the gift of laughter and joy again. Grief is hard work. Care for your whole self so you’re able to do the important work of grief.