Something that I think that’s worth exploring is the difference that comes along with practicing self care from a stable, balanced place, and trying to practice self care when you’re in a place of mourning.
This is a thought process that I’ve picked up on throughout my journey with grief, and it’s surprising to me that certain acts can feel.. well.. not great, when I’m in the place of feeling knocked down. (for instance: a manicure or binge watching a TV show). For any of you who are in the thick of your own grieving process, or perhaps you know someone or have someone close to you dealing with loss, I hope these suggestions of gentle acts of self care can offer some relief.
Please note that these are of course all opinion based. They’re what’s worked for me and brought peace to my mind, body and soul.
10 Gentle Ways To Practice Self Care When You’re Grieving
1. Get a massage – but be specific about what kind.
I don’t need to tell you that not all massages are created equal. When I’m in deep mourning, the last thing I’m looking for is a Thai massage or a deep tissue massage. But it’s important to note how impactful the act of touch is. When you’re booking one for yourself (or for someone you love), be sure to mention that you’re grieving and you’re looking for something super gentle with calming and supportive aromatherapy. Allow yourself to be specific about who you’d like to do the massage. If the opposite sex doesn’t allow you to fully relax, don’t judge yourself. Politely ask for what you need. The power of touch when you’re grieving is incredibly, incredibly healing.
2. Chamomile tea is your best (beverage) friend.
When I feel myself dipping back into grief, I try to avoid alcohol and caffeine at all costs. It does nothing for my mental processing or anxiety, rather it speeds up my nervous system and sends me down a long dark road. Instead, I rely heavily on chamomile tea with a little bit of almond milk to make it frothy. It’s warm, comforting and calming to my nervous system, which allows me to have a clear head, and to feel my feelings from a place of balance.
3. Listen to supportive music.
I actually have a playlist on Spotify called “the playlist dad made”. Right after my dad died, the printer at my parent’s home wasn’t working and we had to print out a million documents for the insurance companies and funeral arrangements. Once we got it up and running, things had been backed up and the first document to be printed was a list of songs that my dad had typed out. We’re not sure why, but we took that as a sign of him saying “hello”, and I brought the playlist to life through Spotify for myself, my mom and my sisters. Now when I’m struggling, it’s my go-to playlist because it makes me feel closer to him somehow; listening to the songs that were his favorite right before he left this Earth. Now I know not everyone has something like that, but compiling songs that make you feel held and balanced is so healing. Try to avoid anything with too much tempo, or songs that are extremely sad and moody. It’s beautiful (and healthy!) to feel what you need to feel, but much like alcohol, just be conscious of your nervous system.
4. Say no thank you.
I want to be super clear here that I’m a firm believer that “no” is a complete sentence whether you’re grieving or not. But especially in times of mourning, being able to say “no” without feeling the guilt that often lingers behind it is so important. Remember that the people who are meant to be in your corner won’t have a second thought about you needing to take time for yourself. But it is up to you to communicate whats going on so that you can be properly supported. For instance, the month of June is always super difficult for me (my dad’s birthday / Father’s Day), as well as the holidays (my dad passed away 9 days before Christmas) – so I’m always really open with my friends about where I’m at, the space I need, and letting them know I might fall quiet from time to time and that I appreciate their understanding.
5. Take baths with Epsom salts.
When you’re grieving, it’s crazy how much your body physically holds onto that sadness, pain and overwhelming energy. I remember for about the first year after I lost my dad feeling physically weak and sore – the same is said when people are clinically depressed. Our body’s respond to our hearts and our minds, and one of the most healing things I found when my muscles begin to ache out of deep sadness are warm baths with a lot of Epsom salts. Not only does it help to promote stress reduction, but it can also help to reduce physical pain and swelling within the body.
6. Cook comforting food
In the very beginning, it’s so normal to not have an appetite at all. And that’s okay. Honor that – your body will figure itself out. I didn’t eat regularly for almost 3 weeks after my dad passed away, but it’s not what my body needed at that time. I needed sleep, and I needed to cry. After a while, my body figured itself out and told me that it was hungry and it was craving nutrients. When I’m in deep sadness, soup is always my go-to. It’s warm, smooth, comforting and it never leaves me feeling too full. Plus there’s something about preparing a good soup that’s soothing in itself – which is why it’s made the self care list. The act of chopping up vegetables is something that’s mindless, yet it requires some focus (so you don’t cut yourself), and the smells that come from roasting garlic and simmering broth is healing to the soul. Figure out what meal feels the most comforting to you, and make a ritual out of it by lighting some candles and playing your playlist that I mentioned above.
7. Buy some super soft linens for your bed and crawl right in.
Sleep while grieving is one of the most healing practices I can think of. It completely resets your nervous system and gives your body and your heart the release it needs to let go and unwind, fully. Never feel guilty about needing to sleep during these difficult times, even if that means you need to back out on some commitments. But it’s imperative that wherever you’re sleeping is comforting, so I can’t recommend investing in some soft, butter-like sheets enough. I opt for microfiber, and I always buy them in white for it’s the most healing color and it means “peace and neutrality”. For an extra good sleep, make sure your room is dark and cool.
8. Ask for help.
In times like these, it’s so important that you do what you need to do for you. If you’re parenting, I completely understand how this might not be realistic, but there are (always) ways to ask for help and support. By now I’m hopeful that you know who your circle is of people that you can rely on, so understand and believe wholeheartedly that there is nothing wrong with asking for what you need. If that means you have to ask a friend to watch your child for the day, do that. If it means that you need your sister to just come sit next to you in silence for a few hours, do that. Or maybe it means that you need a co-worker to take over your emails for the day so that you can heal your heart, just ask. There is no harm in asking for what you need in times of grief. Just be mindful of who and how often you’re asking.
9. Get out into nature.
No matter what the season, getting outside will immediately change the dynamic of your heavy heart. I’m not implying that it will wipe away the sadness entirely, no. But the shift that happens when we put ourselves into nature is incredibly powerful. Subconsciously we understand that we’re a small piece of the puzzle, that there’s so much to the world that we live in, and that breathing in fresh air can at times feel like we’re breathing in new life to our lungs. Give yourself that gift – the best part? It’s free and you can do it for as long as you need.
10. Take a healing trip.
Whether it’s to a town nearby or it’s a solo trip to Hawaii (this is what I’m currently manifesting), and whether you want to be alone or you want to bring a friend – consider planning a trip and make it healing. What does this mean exactly? Well, for me, personally – a healing trip would consist of not making any plans other than knowing where I’m staying and knowing what I want out of it. If I want to explore, I’ll explore. If I need to just marinate and be at one with my thoughts on the beach, I’ll spend my days on the beach. If I want to try new foods, I’ll try new foods. If I want to live off of fresh juices, I’ll do that. Maybe I want to go to the cold springs each morning and sleep the rest of the day on the sand. The point is that it’s up to me and how my heart is feeling. It’s my healing trip.
Gentle self care is imperative during the grieving process, but it might take you some time to come to terms with not feeling selfish about it all. And that’s okay. Give yourself that space to come to terms, and when you do, start trying out 1 or 2 (or all) things from this list and see how they feel.
Be good to yourself, be gentle with your heart. These are trying times, and in full transparency they’re not going anywhere. Grief after loss is a lifelong process, and it will show up inconsistently. Having these gentle self care practices in your back pocket might be just the thing you need to love on yourself, and to let others love you back. x
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