Before I became a widow, self-care was an easy term that I used to describe my social outings, spa days, shopping and anything else that I wanted permission to do. In my life, self-care was a practice of joy and fun so that it could balance out the demands of my career. I didn’t really have a plan for self-care, it just kind of happened on the fly and I would find it fun.

After becoming a widow, self-care took on a whole different definition. I’ll be honest that at first, I didn’t even know what self-care looked like in the depths of devastation. I felt that waking up every morning and breathing and choosing to live was enough self-care for me. But I quickly realized that this wasn’t enough as simply breathing wasn’t going to cut it if I was planning on living a life worth living.

I discovered that at the heart of self- care is the fundamental belief that I am worthy of care. At first, I didn’t even want to live in my own skin never mind believing that  I was worthy of anything. In all honesty, I simply wanted the pain to go away and I felt numb by the pain and loss. As the numbness wore off and the pain became really sharp, I had to do something to counteract the pain. Self-care wasn’t about fun anymore; it was a way to survive the dark depths of grief.

What did self-care look like in that first year? It looked like drinking water and choosing nutritious foods. It was making sure that I took my dog out for a walk every day despite my total lack of desire to leave the house. It was allowing myself to cry and sob as often as I needed to. It was knowing all the Netflix shows and binging on anything that took me away from my pain. It was taking a shower and doing my hair. It was getting my nails, lashes, and hair done on a regular basis to remind me that I was still a woman who likes to look pretty.

As I now approach my 3-year mark, self-care looks different and I’m glad that it does because it shows how far I’ve come and how healing has taken place. I now self-care as a daily practice that keeps me grounded and not a means of survival.  It now takes the form of boundaries, the gift of saying no to people, activates and things that don’t fill me up. It’s a perspective shift towards only caring about opinions’ of those in the arena with me. If you’re in the peanut gallery, I’m not interested in your opinion. My tribe has shrunk a bit, but it’s now filled with loving, supportive and quality people who are in the arena with me. Self-care is allowing joy into my life, laughing so hard I cry and telling people how much I love them. It looks like being more authentic and vulnerable and kicking fear to the curb.

Self-care evolves in direct proportion to the shifting tides of grief. My life is more simplified now and some might look in and think it’s boring. But for me, my life is filled with quality time focused on people and activities that fill me up. I’m working on living the best life I can have with the time I have. Taking different risks along the way and being ok that life isn’t perfect.