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.

Tapping Out-Everyone Needs a Safe Word

Today went from OK to not good at all in a matter of hours.

Before lunchtime I had a confrontation with someone I love, entered a public space (when I thought I had my emotions in check) and couldn’t stop crying, misplaced my debit card, misplaced my driver’s license and lost my mind.

I desperately needed a do-over.

And then I realized that I hadn’t queued up a new post. Which really isn’t that big a deal to anyone but me (in my pride) because this November will make four years I haven’t missed a day.

I know sometimes I run a series of old posts but y’all have just been subjected to that because of Hurricane Dorian. I didn’t want to do it again so soon.

And I don’t like just posting fluff. I want to honor the time you take to read what I send out.

But this time I think I’m tapping out.

All my kids and my husband participated in Tae Kwon Do for years.

I watched a lot of sparring matches, demonstrations, testings and practices. James Michael eventually rose to the rank of Second Degree Black Belt and Dominic was the youngest ever (at eight years old) to test for First Degree Black Belt in their particular school.

There’s a safety protocol for sparring in Tae Kwon Do. Even though no one is supposed to be overly aggressive when sparring, sometimes it gets a little out of hand. So if your opponent crosses the line and is actually hurting you, you tap the mat indicating that they need to stop-RIGHT NOW-before harm is done.

I was oh, so grateful for that safety protocol when trying to keep my seat in the bleachers as my little guys were tossed around. I knew that if someone was really hurting them, they had a way out.

I should have learned it then, but I’m a slow learner.

Everyone needs a safety protocol.

Everyone needs a safe word or a safe space or a safe friend so that when things pile high or heavy or both, they can make it plain that IT HURTS!

I’ve managed to do the necessary today.

And like I’ve said before, the worst day of my life only lasted 24 hours.

Tomorrow is a new day, another sunrise, another chance for things to be a little easier, a little better, a little more bearable.

Thanks for listening.

Repost: Spent

I wrote this awhile ago but circle back around to it every now and then.

I don’t know why I think I will reach a place in this journey where there won’t be days I’m overwhelmed.  Wishful thinking, I guess.

Anyway, even with lots of good and beautiful and wonderful things happening all around me, I still get to the end of my emotional, physical and mental resources on a regular basis.

And then I just need to draw my head in my shell, hunker down and lie low until I can get some rest and perspective.  ❤

There’s only so much a body can take in a day.  And I’ve reached the limit.

Comfort-For-Those-Grieving-Alone

Started out pretty good-up with the chickens and settled into my rocking chair with a cup of coffee and my journal.

 

But it didn’t last.  First one thing and then another-unexpected, unwelcome, uncomfortable-life just comes flying and all I can do is hang on.

Read the rest here:  Spent

Overcome, Overwhelmed and Undone

The past seven days have been anything but the lazy, hazy days of summer. 

There has not been a solid 24 hours where some kind of crisis didn’t find its way to my doorstep, across my driveway or into my living room.  

Seriously.  

tree on driveway edited

On a scale of one to ten, none actually rank high in that there’s not a solution or plan of action. 

But every single one of them raised my stress and anxiety to very uncomfortable heights.  

I have no idea why I keep thinking maybe-just maybe-there will be a season of rest when I can get my feet under me, get my mind settled (a bit) and get the laundry put away.

There are good days.  

But then there are bad ones right on their heels.

I’m 54 years old, raised and home educated four children, helped my husband with his career and a personal business, managed a small farm and cooked, cleaned and was the all around go-fer for my family while each one pursued his or her education and dreams.

But there has been no season as stress-filled and trying as this one: the season of grief, the season of missing, the season where I have had to admit that control is an illusion.

So many days I watch the sunset in defeat.

Overcome, overwhelmed and undone.

I know the new day will bring new mercies and that is how my heart holds onto hope. 

lamentations-3-22-23

One Reason Why Grief Requires So Much Energy…

I’ve been doing this for a bit over four years now.

I’m pretty good at it in many ways-I’ve developed standard answers to common questions, figured out ways to keep my mouth shut when no answer I can think of is appropriate (literally biting my tongue), learned how to squelch tears and swallow sobs in public spaces, and (usually) how to avoid major triggers.

But navigating this territory is still exhausting.  

Because every. single. day. I have to make choices and make changes so I’m not overwhelmed and incapacitated by grief.  

And that takes a lot of energy.  Energy that’s not available for other things.  

Yet the world marches on and my responsibilities remain.  

It’s no wonder I flop in bed exhausted every night.  

I wrote this a couple years ago and it explains it well:  

One of the things I’ve been forced to embrace in the wake of child loss is that there are very few questions, experiences or feelings that are simple anymore.

“How many children do you have?”

A common, get-to-know-you question lobbed across tables, down pews and in the check-out line at the grocery store.  But for many bereaved parents, it can be a complex question that gets a different answer depending on who is asking and where we are.

Read the rest here:  It’s Complicated

Ain’t Nothing Easy About It

I’ve been doing this for 1,487 days. 

If it takes two weeks to form a habit, I’m way past habit by now.  

Except that, as C.S. Lewis says, “in grief nothing ‘stays put'” so even though it seems I am traveling the same road, walking the same territory, it shifts and moves so that I’m never quite sure of my footing.

And there ain’t nothing easy about it. 

No flat spots to catch my breath.  No downhill slope regardless of how many hills I climb.  It seems that I never reach a patch that’s just a little less strenuous.  

I wish I would.

I wish so badly that I could have two days strung together where I could just kind of coast along-no real effort required.

charlie brown too tired to cry

Last week I visited my oldest son in Florida.  He’s really into CrossFit and while my joints preclude my participation, he convinced his younger brother to join in a friendly intra-gym competition.

As I sat watching Julian lift that weighted bar over and over all I could think of was, “This is hard, but it’s not the hardest thing you’ve ever done.”  

julian at crossfit1

When you’ve buried a brother (or a child) and lived each day since, there aren’t too many things that measure up to that level of difficulty.

I wish I could say that I’m better at this by now, but I’m not.  

There are better days-I can laugh and rejoice and even sing-but when grief rolls over me it is just as devastating-every. single. time.

It doesn’t last as long.  

And for that I’m thankful. 

But ain’t nothing easy.

It’s still hard.  

For in grief nothing “stays put.” One keeps on emerging from a phase, but it always recurs. Round and round. Everything repeats. Am I going in circles, or dare I hope I am on a spiral?

But if a spiral, am I going up or down it?

How often — will it be for always? — how often will the vast emptiness astonish me like a complete novelty and make me say, “I never realized my loss till this moment”? The same leg is cut off time after time.

~C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

 

What’s It Like Four Years Down the Road of Grief? Exhausting.

In four days it will be four years.

Four years since I woke to the news that my son was dead.

Four years since what I thought was going to be my life was shattered.  

Four years since I was forced to walk a road I do not want to travel.

Four years into the life I did not choose.

I’ve been thinking a lot about that lately which won’t surprise any bereaved parent reading this.

We think.  A lot.  

About what might have been.  About what is. About what it might be like to live for years or decades still carrying the weight of missing.

One thing that surprises me about life as a grieving parent is how ordinary it remains.  My world was shattered.  But THE world was not shattered.

My family is a tiny drop in the sea of humanity and our up-close tragedy is not even on the radar in the larger scheme of things.  If headlines about mass shootings drop to page ten in a week, how much more unlikely anyone but those intimately involved in our story will be thinking about it a month, a year, four years later?

All the things I had to do BEFORE Dominic left us I still have to do.  

melanie feet crocs and driveway step

The grass grows, clothes get dirty, food must be prepared. 

Friends have birthdays, holidays roll around, kids finish school, get married and have babies.  

This juxtaposition of internal disarray with ordinary routine means I spend a great deal of energy bringing my attention around to what needs to be done instead of allowing my mind to wander down memory lane or explore “what-ifs” or “why-nots”.

Everything I do requires more energy than it used to.  Everything takes more planning, more intentional action, more effort.  

So I’m tired.  

Four years in and I am. so. so. tired.  

This surprises me too.

I thought I’d be better at it by now.  

I’m not.  

EvilSuffering