I was all prepared to write about the importance of self-care for this post and had most of it written. It’s a topic near and dear to my heart and it’s a practice that moved me through the darkest parts of my grief. It got me to a place where I eventually had hope for the future.
And then I scrapped most of what I wrote because I spoke with a woman today whose spouse died suddenly 2 months ago and she is beyond devastated. We were basically strangers, but part of this club – The Widow Club – that neither of us asked to join.
You’d think I’d have the perfect thing to say to ease her pain, but I don’t. All I can do right now is witness her pain, offer support in any way I can and let her know that she’s not alone. It’s been 10 years since Dave’s sudden death and in our conversation, I was brought right back to those early months of shock, sadness, and loneliness. That time of barely hanging on until I hit rock bottom and 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 oxygen mask on first before assisting your child with theirs. I knew I couldn’t help my kids process their grief if I wasn’t dealing with my own.
I started writing in 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 and release it so that I could have some clarity and space to deal with the trauma of Dave’s death.
I basically felt numb all the time, 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 bodily self-care. Sure, I did the occasional mani-pedi with girlfriends and got a massage here and there, but it was different now. I took a lot of baths because I liked the feel of warm water on my skin.
It didn’t feel at all indulgent to do this. I needed this.
It was like I was giving myself permission to take care of myself 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 was pretty much open to anything because I wanted to feel better – to feel good, even if it was just for 5 minutes.
Each step I took on my self-care quest built self-confidence and gave me the courage to move forward in healing and processing my grief.
But, it didn’t feel like the right time to talk about self-care with my new friend today. There will be a time when she’s receptive and I will be there for her. At the end of our conversation, I said “take care of yourself” – and I really meant it…with all my heart.