Self Care in Grief

Looking back I’m shocked at how much I allowed societal norms and expectations to determine how I grieved Dominic’s death.

I withheld grace from myself that I would have gladly and freely given to another heart who just buried a child. Somehow I thought I had to soldier on in spite of the unbearable sorrow, pain, horror and worldview shattering loss I was enduring.

And the further I got from the date of his accident, the more I expected from myself.

I wrote lists of things I needed to do and surprisingly often I actually got them done.

But I crawled into bed each night exhausted, physically and emotionally drained and often unable to sleep for all the pent up feelings I still needed to process.

It was a dangerous cycle.

Eventually, through contact with other bereaved parents I learned that I absolutely, positively HAD to take care of myself. If I didn’t, there wouldn’t be a me to take care of.

And my family would be plunged beneath a new tsunami of loss.

I wasn’t going to do that to them if I could help it. So I committed to practicing better self-care on this grief journey.

I’m still not always good at it, but I’m better at it than I was.

If you are sucking it up, pushing it down, soldiering on, refusing to admit that grief takes a toll no one can ignore or deny, may I suggest you consider taking a step back and thinking about the ultimate outcome of ignoring your own needs?

Here’s a graphic to get you started.

It’s not an exhaustive list and the examples given may not suit your personality or circumstances but they should give you some ideas to find the activities and habits that will help strengthen you to do the work grief requires.

Author: Melanie

I am a shepherd, wife and mother of four amazing children, three that walk the earth with me and one who lives with Jesus. This is a record of my grief journey and a look into the life I didn't choose. If you are interested in joining a community of bereaved parents leaning on the promises of God in Christ, please like the public Facebook page, "Heartache and Hope: Life After Losing a Child" and join the conversation.

7 thoughts on “Self Care in Grief”

  1. I struggle with this in such a big way! Our son died of a drug overdose. I have always felt like I didn’t have the right or deserve to grieve like a mom who lost her child in a horrible accident or illness or something like that. The stigma of addiction makes me feel like his choice to start using drugs means that his death doesn’t qualify as traumatic or worthy of ‘normal’ grief. So, since the beginning I have just kept going, I’ve never really taken any time for me. Not sure at this point if that would even be an option.
    We are coming up on the 3-year anniversary of Ryan’s death and I’m feeling like the farther away from the date he died, the more I’m expected to ‘be better’ or ‘move on’.
    This journey sucks!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dear Angie,
      I can relate to what you write but I see it quite different.
      7 weeks ago my 21 year old daughter committed suicide after 5 years suffering from depressions. It it not the same as addiction problems, however, it resembles in that way, that it was a year long struggle for our children and the family as a whole. And all those years I have tried everything I could to support and save her. And after the death I have so many open questions I will never get an answer for, and I feel guilty that I could not protect her, and I look back all those years and wonder where and why went things wrong and was there a point where a different decision could have changed the course. So with all that swirling in my head I somehow wish I ‘just’ had to cope with the loss, and could simply freely be sad about it.
      So in that sense you should feel more than qualified for your grieving, and be especially good to yourself, because you a carrying an extra load of suffering on top… and also most likely you have already been exhausted by all the problems connected to the addiction over the last years.
      Take care Julie

      Liked by 1 person

  2. A week after Jason’s accident, my husband went back to work. My daughter and I went back to school. It was what we felt we had to do – carry on with our lives. We didn’t know any different or know what to do. We did what we thought we had to do.

    The family of Jason’s friend who died in the accident with him reacted differently. We didn’t know this until much later. The husband’s fellow workers donated their vacation weeks so he didn’t have to work for a while. The mom was a stay-at-home mom. The daughter – the same age as our daughter and going to the same school – didn’t go to school for a while.

    Society puts a lot of pressure on bereaved parents to behave a certain way and to respond a certain way to the death of their child, erroneous though it may actually be. It is especially so in Christian circles/environments. Even though bereaved parents really may not actually know how to “help” themselves, they are expected to teach others how to help them. They are expected to be “brave,” to “trust God,” to believe “their child is in a better place.”

    I strongly agree with Melanie’s suggestion for self care. I soldiered on – and it has caused lasting complications in my life, my health. Looking back, I realize that I more than likely had PTSD – I probably still do, although not diagnosed. I nearly had a nervous breakdown. I was alone. I wanted to die. I did the best I could, but looking back I realize that we probably should have just given ourselves the grace and time to grieve as we needed.

    Thank you, Melanie, for once again speaking truth in this difficult subject.

    Hugs to you,

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I think one of the best things we can do for ourselves while grieving in those early months is to GRIEVE. Pacing ourselves is a necessity and getting only one thing done each day is OK. One day, one hour at a time is often the best we can do. The above list is sound and practical. Thank you, Melanie.

    Liked by 1 person

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