Every Wednesday

Every Wednesday I will post something about grief. Sometimes it will be a reflection on an aspect of grief’s landscape. Now and then I will share from my own journey of grief, because in the sharing of our stories we find strength and build a community of people that support one another.

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Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Breathe. Eat. Sleep.

Self care for the grief battered.

In the beginning of grief, it’s hard to care about anything. We’re exhausted, and we don’t care about anything. This includes taking care of ourselves.

We’re much better at taking care of others who are grieving because then we don’t have to face our own despair. Some of us also find it hard to let others help us because that says we’re not as independent as we like to think we are. Be humble and accept their help. And if we inadvertently do something nice for ourselves, it just feels wrong.

It should help us to know that the one who died would want us to show compassion to ourselves, but strangely enough, their permission doesn’t penetrate our armor of I Don’t Care.


If you shut off your feelings, you also put up a wall that keeps people out.

It’s important that you return to your normal routines, even if you don’t feel like it — eat meals at your normal times, go to bed at the same time each night, and do your normal exercises. (I know. Many of us don’t have a normal exercise routine. In this case, do something every day that gets your heart beating faster for 20 minutes – a brisk walk around the neighborhood, bike riding, jumping jacks, something! even if you don’t feel like it. The endorphins released will make you feel better.) Eat nutritiously, at least as well as you did before because your body is used to that. Don’t give in to eating only comfort food because it’s easier.

Go into nature and listen to the animals and birds. Focus on the outdoors for an hour. Breathe the fresh air and feel the warmth of the sun. It’s okay to enjoy being outdoors.

If you now have to take care of small children as a single parent, you may feel that there is no free time for you to relax. But if you don’t, you’ll get cranky and burn out.

Find 20 minutes each day to sit quietly. Breathe in, and breathe out. Let your thoughts pass by without engaging them. Use this time to meditate or pray.

You cannot care for someone or grieve properly if you’re exhausted, yet sleep may be hard to come by.

If you think you might like to go to a favorite restaurant, then go. Even if you feel guilty doing it. You wouldn’t have felt guilty before your loved one died. It’s okay to enjoy food again.

The group of people you normally socialize with may have changed, especially if your spouse or partner died. Your invites to couples events will probably dwindle because you’re now a single, but a new group of friends is forming with strangers who understand grief.

If anyone invites you out for coffee to listen to how your grief is going, go. Even if you don’t feel like it, because you probably won’t feel like doing anything for a long time. It’s helpful to get out of the house and see that life is continuing on even though you feel it has stopped.

Compassion is not a one-way street. Be open to receiving help when you need it.

Think about going to support groups in your community. Not only do you get to share with people who understand what you’re going through, they won’t tell you that you’re grieving wrong. They will provide much needed support over the coming weeks and months. They will also help you laugh again, and you will feel guilty about this, too. It’s okay to smile again.

While many of your friends won’t know what to say or do and keep their distance, a few people will surprise you with the depth of their compassion. They will help restore your belief in life as an okay place to hang out, even though you don’t feel like it.

Self-care is self-respect. You are worthy.


What was the hardest thing for you to do for yourself after your loved one died?


  1. Suddenly sleeping by myself, when my husband had been there on the other side of the bed for almost 40 years, we had been separated by work for periods of time but that was by choice. it will be 4 years the end of March, and I still miss him being there.

    1. Such a long time, Melody. As if it's always been. As if this is how it should always be. I'm so sorry. What an absence!