Finding Self Care on the Journey of Grief — Part Six
A New Sense Of Hope
Fast forward to 10 years later.
Here we are, June 6, 2019.
A day I thought would never come.
A day 10 years ago that I thought for sure never occurred. Except, it did.
10 years later and 2 living children.
10 years later and a marriage that is just like many … full of ups and downs but so full of love.
10 years later and I can stand on 2 feet, tell my story and feel brave for doing so.
10 years later and a whole lot more knowledgeable about grief and self-care. More than I think I would have learned had that fateful day 10 years ago not occurred.
And here …. 4 key aspects to this grief journey that I learned and hope are helpful to you.
Number 1: There Is No True Ending To Grief
Grief is a process that we go through and grief is a journey. There is no end game to this. The feelings of grief do change. The strength and intensity change. The impact it has on life changes. But it never ends. It is a path that we walk and need to walk. We can’t run from the grief journey once we are on it. Fighting the journey does not work. Learning to embrace the journey and all we have to learn from it does. And that may sound weird because who really wants to embrace grief — no one.
Learning to embrace the journey can be so powerful. Learning that there will be highs and lows and being able to gently move through can be a game changer. Learning to laugh and be ok with laughter while grieving can be so powerful. The grief journey does not have to always be and feel like a dark, grey cloud above our heads. There are light, happy moments in there as well. Embracing the journey of grief makes it possible for us to move through the dark, tough times with gentleness and patience. Embracing the journey of grief makes is possible to accept and appreciate the moments of light and joy.
Number 2: Learn To Stop The Fight With Grief.
We have all heard of the 7 stages of grief by Kubler-Ross. However, many do not know that those stages are based upon dealing with ones own eventual death. It is why I have always found that it never seemed to fit in the grieving process and journey. I remember learning about it in one of my class, either a psychology class or a social work class, but I always felt like it just did not fit. Some can make a case that it does fit and I am sure there are parts that do but I always felt like we will never get to full acceptance of death. Yes, death is inevitable and it is a part of life, but full acceptance of death, that is questionable. Being on the grief journey, I have found that I will never truly get to a place of full acceptance because acceptance means there is an end and there truly is no end to grief.
What I did learn was that fighting my grief, fighting my sadness was only holding me in one spot. Fighting made me stuck. I discovered that I needed to find a new place to put this fight energy. It is powerful energy to hold on to. It was all encompassing at times. But it served a purpose and I just need to channel it instead of fighting it. Learning to stop the fight will look different for everyone but a piece that is essential to its success is self-care.
Number 3: Self-Care Is Essential To Managing Grief
This took a lot of learning and was a painful experience. At times, I was doing things that I thought were self-care but were really harmful to me and my relationships. And in those times, I recognize that I was still fighting with grief. I was not taking that energy and using it in a way to help. I was taking it and trying to make it all go away. Unfortunately, it doesn’t go away. When I began to look at finding self-care habits that were helpful was when I started to dabble in some new things. Many were things that helped in the moment and the short term. And others were things that have stuck around. The ones that have stuck-around, my go-to’s, are the ones that hit at all aspects of me. That is what makes them true self-care.
And let me be clear about self-care – it is not all about exercise or getting that mani-pedi. Don’t get me wrong, those are the good things. Both are on my list of things to do that make me physically feel good. They are short term. They help in the moment. But I also think self-care needs to look at the emotional/internal side. I learned that how we talk to ourselves in these exact same tough moments is truly essential for long term outcomes. Do we talk in a way that builds us up or knocks us down? Are we always comparing ourselves and our grief to others or are we allowing our individual self to experience it in our own way? Do we beat ourselves up or do we allow for space and gentleness?
These were hard self-care lessons to learn. I would get mad at myself, criticize myself for feeling the hard feelings, the sad feelings, the angry feelings even years out from the death of my son. I would tell myself that I should be over it but I am not. Learning to feel the feelings, experience it, embrace it, has allowed for a gentler, kinder approach to grief. Giving myself permission to have the waves of sadness followed by the waves of joy and laughter.
Number 4: Recognize and Acknowledge All The Success Along The Grief Journey
This may sound very strange – success on the grief journey. Absolutely! Just like life, for us to continually move forward, we need to be able to find ways to acknowledge moments of success. Shared your story — check success. Made it through a day without crying — check success. Got dressed today — check success. The littlest to the biggest actions can all be a success.
And it is so very important to really take time to acknowledge it. Because with each recognized and celebrated success, allows us the opportunity to continue to walk forward and grow on the grief journey. It prevents us from being stuck in one space. It helps us to navigate the challenges that come up that we may not have seen. It allows us to be human.
So, as I wrap this up, with tears in my eyes both from true deep sadness but also proud and brave, I hope that the connection with self-care on the journey of grief resonated with you. I hope that I brought some moment of clarity for you.
My story is hard to read.
Really it was hard to write.
In 10 years, I have told it a thousand times but have never written it down. I was always too scared. Too afraid of what others will think. But in following my own learned lessons, this is self-care because it not only physically makes me feel a little bit more human but it emotionally/internally allows me to connect with a deep place of love.
And with that …. THE END …. of this story but not the journey. As I am on that forever, just a little clearer, a little more patient, a little more understanding of the need to take care of myself.
Take Care, Kristin