Writer, Teacher, Planner, Dreamer

Month: September 2019

Self-Care and Grief

Losing someone you love is hard. It effects every part of you – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Grief can feel different for each loss and sometimes it’s difficult to know that what you are experiencing is a result of grief. I have learned that it is important to do what you can to care for yourself after a loss. Some self-care activities are pretty common. Make sure you are eating well. Get enough sleep and exercising to care for your body. Today, I am going to share some other self-care tips that could perhaps benefit you.

Self-care are things that you have control over. They are deliberate things that you can do to care for yourself. That being said, my first tip is not to allow yourself to get stuck on something you have no control over. When my first husband passed, our last conversation was not a good one. I was upset with him and had let him know that I was angry. I allowed that one conversation to torment me for years. It cycled over and over in my mind and convinced me that my husband died thinking that I did not love him or care about him. I could not change that last conversation that we had, but I could control what thoughts I chose to play on repeat in my mind.

One way that you can keep your thoughts in check is by journaling. Writing your thoughts down can help get them out of your head and allow you to rationally process your feelings. Gratitude journaling is popular right now. Consider starting a gratitude journal specific to the person that you have lost. Write down things that you loved about that person and experiences that you had together for which you are thankful. Making a scrapbook can also help with this. Sorting through pictures and writing down memories about those photos can help you remember good times rather than dwelling on one specific instance.

Second, spend time doing something you enjoy or discover a new activity. There were many times after each of my husbands passed that all I wanted to do was lay on the couch and watch mindless tv or sleep. It’s okay to do that sometimes but be mindful that you aren’t sliding into depression (and if you are, get help!). One thing that I did was sign up to take an art class. Trust me —  I am not an artist! However, that two hour class once a week was extremely therapeutic. One added benefit, I didn’t know anyone in the class. None of them knew my story nor were they asking me how I was doing every week. Consider picking back up a hobby or activity that you enjoyed in the past. If you spent time as a caregiver before your loved one passed then it was likely rare that you had time to do those things. Check with your local library, churches, or parks and recreation departments. Most have activities open to the community and you may find a new hobby!

Third, surround yourself with life. When my first husband passed away, I was in that phase of life where all of my friends were having babies, so I did plenty of babysitting during that time. That was a very healing activity for me. There was something about a baby laying on my chest — feeling its heartbeat against mine and the warm breath against my cheek as I rocked him or her to sleep that seemed to make my heartache and fear disappear – even if for only a short period of time. In that moment I was reminded that not only does life go on, but that life is filled with good gifts. Kids may not be your thing. My mother-in-law has adopted three cats since my father-in-law passed. Life can also be found by spending time in nature or by volunteering your time to serve others.  

Finally, laughter really is good medicine and is great for self care. Prior to my second husband passing, my mom, uncle and I had made plans to go and watch an old movie at the Louisville Palace. My Michael passed away the week before, and my mom suggested that we didn’t have to go. I told her I was looking forward to it. We went to dinner and then to watch the old Alfred Hitchcock movie, Psycho. I had never seen the movie before. I know you are probably thinking, “where does laughter come in with a scary movie?” Sitting in the middle of that old theater dating back to the 1920’s, I was in a daze through most of the movie. During the big reveal at the end when they realize that Norman is dressing as his mother and killing everyone and the police officer shouts that he is a transvestite, I got so tickled that I seriously thought I was going to have to get up and leave the theater. That laughter was a healing moment for me. So my last tip is find things that make you laugh. Maybe its watching a comedy with your family or having lunch with that one friend with a great sense of humor. Whatever it is that makes you laugh, spend time doing those things.

These are just a few things that brought me health and healing during grief. Find the things that work for you and take the time to do them! And please share with me any self-self care things that help you in your grief.

Why Are You So Afraid?

I love being around water.  I grew up in Southern Indiana which is separated from Louisville, Kentucky by the Ohio River.  My dad worked on the river when I was a kid, so the water is present in a most of my memories from childhood. The river is usually calm and still.  You can see the riverbank where the water ends on the other side that is lined with towering buildings that create the Louisville skyline.  The city lights on the other side gleam off of the water and give light to our side of the river. 

I just returned from a trip to the beach. I observed how different the ocean is from the river while I was there.  The water wavered somewhere between an emerald green and a sapphire blue. The water was so clear that swimmers could see fish and seaweed around their feet.  The ocean is so vast that you cannot see the other side.  The water appears to stretch on endlessly until it turns into the skyline on the horizon.  With no skyscrapers on the other side, the only glimmer of light is offered by the moon.  There seems to be a continuous rotation of waves crashing onto the sandy shore and then the foamy water sliding back out to sea.

I was captivated by the waves this year.  I was reminded of the story of Jesus calming the storm in Mark 4:35-41.  The NIV describes the storm as a  “furious squall”.  A squall is a storm that comes on suddenly and produces violent wind gusts that can cause powerful, destructive waves. The disciples on the boat were terrified of the storm. They woke Jesus up from his sleep. Jesus calms the storm, and then he asks the disciples “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”  

Those questions have  been swimming around in my heart and mind this week. I am fearful of many things. Some of them are legitimate fears, but usually they are thoughts that I have let grow out of control and consume my mind. The majority of those thoughts begin with “what if…” While those what ifs are possible they are not usually probable. However, I tend to run with the possible until it grows so big that I can no longer see what is probable and fear is the end result. This week as I listened to the waves, I heard the whisper…”Why are you so afraid?” Is my faith so small that I don’t think God has control of every single detail of my life?

There is a song we have been singing at church recently called “Peace Be Still”. The chorus goes:

“Peace be still
Say the word and I will
Set my feet upon the sea 
Till I’m dancing in the deep
Oh peace be still
You are here so it is well
Even when my eyes can’t see 
I will trust the voice that speaks”

© 2017, Hope Darst/Mia Fieldes/Andrew Holt

I love the visual of “set my feet upon the sea till I’m dancing in the deep.” I picture freedom and abandon. Fear never leads to freedom. It is a prison that holds us back. It keeps us from trying new things. We can never live uninhibited when fear is controlling us. Fear keeps us in what we perceive to be safe. We will never venture out into the deep when fear is controlling us.

I have decided to work on changing my what ifs. Instead of asking “What if _____ and filling in the blank with any number of bad things that could happen, I am going to ask “What if I trust God?” I want to live my life dancing in the deep with Jesus instead of hanging out in the boat with fear.

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