Self-Care in Times of Grief

The last picture I have of us – March, 1996

The death of a loved one can, quite literally, bring us to our knees. At times, it’s unbearable to deal with the loss without relieving the memory of the moment they left your life forever. You often wonder if you’ll be able to go on without them.

I lost my father almost 13 years ago. Most days, it does feel like it happened years ago, and I consider that a blessing, because it means that I have learned to move forward. But there are a few days a year when it feels like I’m living his death all over again.

I won’t even pretend to tell you what the first week without him was like. I honestly don’t remember much. What I do remember are flashes of moments. It’s like I have a large puzzle with several pieces missing and I’ll never know what that finished puzzle looks like.

I remember a friend driving me to the golf tournament we had organized prior to his death to help raise funds for his medical bills. He died the day before the tournament and everyone who registered (at least I’m told) showed up. I was probably there five minutes before I said, “Take me home.” This same friend forced me to eat by taking me out for a sandwich. It was probably the first I had eaten in two days and I know I only had a few bites, tasting the salt of my tears on the bread. I remember one of our neighbors taking me out to buy a dress for the funeral-the only time I’ve ever hated shopping. And I remember a dinner the night after his funeral with a few friends of mine where I thought, “I’m going to be okay,” and then bursting into an uncontrollable fit of tears when I got home. It was in that exact moment I realized the life I was living before was officially over and that things would never be the same for me.

Life was not the same. The rest of the world had moved on and I (along with my mom and siblings) felt stuck. There were a lot of weeks and months following his death that I definitely wasn’t taking care of myself. I was hooking up with an ex who was anything but good for me. I ate my feelings. I was angry. I had no regard for anyone’s feelings. I felt alone. I was looking for something I’d never find.

If I could go back to my younger self in that very moment that I lost my father, I would tell her to take better care of herself. It can be hard to take care of yourself in difficult moments, but it’s so important to your future self. I spent years not taking care of myself and now I’m spending years undoing the damage I did.

Allow yourself to feel all the feelings that come with grief. But also give yourself permission to heal and to care for yourself. Weeks, months, or even years from now, you’ll be glad you did.

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