I know that I’ve said it many times, and will probably continue to say, the depth of grief has radically changed my life. It’s not that I didn’t know that grief had the power to turn my world upside down, but I simply hadn’t experienced it yet. Widowhood has not only changed my day to day life, it has fundamentally changed who I am as a person.
The topic for September is self-care, which is such a vital discussion within the grief community. Self-care is too often the first thing we let go of in the grieving process and it becomes difficult to reintegrate into life again. For me, taking care of myself meant that I was still alive even though I felt numb and dead. Self-care means that you are worthy of care, that you have basic needs and wants even when your life has fallen apart.
What became part of my self-care was really assessing the demands of life. I didn’t know it at the time, but this was what fundamentally helped me find my way back to myself. After my husband died the world kept revolving which felt like a huge betrayal to me. How could this be? People still went to work, interacted with their children, put gas in their vehicles and went on with their days. What that meant for me is that there were still all the demands of life on me from dealing with the mail to mowing the lawn to answering messages from people. But most of all, I was now responsible for making all the decisions on my own and people looked to me to let them know how I would be navigating things.
I started putting demands into two categories: small fish and big fish. I had decided that the things that fell in the small fish category I wouldn’t give a fuck about. Why? Simply because I was just too tired to care. Anything in the big fish bin, would need my attention because I probably did give a fuck about. I ended up being surprised by what fell into each category.
What turned out to be small fish? Other people’s opinions of how I should be or what I should be doing as a widow. Caring too much about those who chose to walk away because grief got to big/heavy. Whether the lawn was mowed or not. In general, most of the things I used to concern me now I didn’t give a fuck about.
What turned out to be big fish? Taking a shower everyday. Eating food and sustaining my body. Going to yoga as much as possible. Journaling daily. Giving myself permission to cry, wail and have as many breakdowns as I needed. Finding reasons to get out of bed. Walking my dog. Going outside and getting some fresh air and sunshine.
We often think that self-care is this complex to do list to feel better. In reality, it’s about re-prioritizing life so that what you’re doing is nurturing your soul. It’s not about other people and their expectations of what self-care looks like. It’s not about all the “should’s” that you put on yourself or that are gifted to you by others. Self-care is connecting to your humanity and gifting yourself compassion, grace and gentleness. Self-care isn’t a race to a special destination instead, it’s an honoring of your life, your experiences and your feelings. You are human full of limitations and that’s what makes you perfectly imperfect. So, I encourage to find your “fuck it” and re-prioritize yourself and your life because not only are you worth it, you also deserve it!!