Saturday Morning Message: Self-Care Strategies
Author: Carol Lane
Today we are sharing some of what we do to practice self-care. Taking care of yourself while grieving can be the last thing on your mind, but it is important. In addition to the responses from survivors about what has helped them, I want to include several articles TAPS has published with ideas to help with grieving. “Gifts of grief: Tools to help you through,” written by James Gordon; “How to practice self-compassion when grieving,” by Cori Bussolari; and “3 tips for mindfulness,” by Ashley Rao. We hope that you can use some of the other ideas from today’s message.
There has been a slight restructuring of the Saturday Morning Message. The responses to the weekly question follow my signature and the question for next week follows. The song is last. You might want to play it to keep the love of TAPS with you longer. Let me know what you think. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mother of Bryon
Answers from Survivors
Responses from Survivors to the question: What self-care strategies have you found beneficial?
From Victoria, mother of Ryan: My son died on February 17, 2015. I have found that I am better able to cope with the ups-and-downs of grief when I incorporate some sort of exercise or just being outside in nature, be it walking, running, hiking, gardening, etc. In the beginning (probably the first two years), I felt guilty for laughing or even having a moment of happiness. Logically I knew it was OK, but my heart felt as if I was betraying my son. How could I laugh or smile when my son was dead? For me, exercising and staying physically active has made a huge difference on my emotional and mental well-being.
From Sandra, mother of Joshua: Selfcare can be challenging to anyone who is grieving the death of a loved one. After the loss of my son, I did not want to do anything. I was not hungry, so when I did eat, I ate bad, processed food like corn dogs, pot pies, chips and drive-thru fast food. I watched TV, cried a lot or stared into space. It has been two years since Josh died. I have the time for self-care, but I lack the motivation. I know that I must push myself to take care of myself. In the morning I must take a shower, brush my teeth and change into fresh clothes. A scented body lotion or scented body oil can be very uplifting. I like to take my coffee to the studio, sit at my desk, and get on my computer. I open the blinds and look out onto my backyard. There are birds, squirrels and lots of trees in my big backyard. I let my dog outside and she is very entertaining. Sometimes, I will go out on my patio with a cup of tea and a good book. I have difficulty focusing now, but I try to read a few chapters. Occasionally, I like to walk a trail at the nature center or the park. When I connect with nature, it calms me and releases anxiety. Meditation can help me to relax, too. Eating healthy and exercising are very important and that can take a great deal of motivation, but it can be done. Remember to take baby steps. In relation to other people, I must reach out for help, bring myself to say no to birthday and holiday celebrations if needed, and stand up for myself. I believe that compromises are fine, but I must not say yes if it means it will cause me great anxiety. Every day is different, there are ups and downs, and I am gradually coming to the realization that this grief journey will never end. I must never give up and I must continue to work and strive for self-care to keep me strong and healthy.
Lalaine, daughter of Francisco, is the editor of the Saturday Morning Message. I asked her to send me some information from a presentation she had recently given on self-care. She sent these ideas:
- If anniversaries and special days are difficult, you may need to unplug from social media until you feel emotionally ready to face it and the comments of other people. Unplug for a couple of hours or a couple of days, or until you feel emotionally ready to face it and the comments of other people. Keep your phone or your tablet away when you sit down to meals. If you don't feel you're up to responding to emails today, don't even check them. They will be waiting for you when you log in again. Carve out quiet time for yourself. Listening to music could be part of your quiet time routine.
- Exercise. It doesn't have to be rigorous. A walk around the block can do the body and mind a lot of good. A big bonus if you exercise outdoors, you can also get some fresh air. Heading to the grocery store? Don't pull into the nearest parking spot; park farther away to get more outdoor steps in. Watching TV at home? See you how many pushups and crunches you can do during the commercial breaks. Add them up. The next time you sit down to an hour-long show, see if you can increase your numbers.
- Practice mindfulness, the practice of training the mind to stay focused on the present with an attitude of balance. Being kind to yourself requires holding negative emotions and acknowledging their presence. Cultivating a mindful practice can help provide balance to any negative emotions that may come up. Meditation is a popular way to practice mindfulness. Focusing on your breathing, especially in times of stress, is another. Yoga could be considered a form of moving meditation.
If you would like to send a message thanking one or all of those who participated in this week’s Saturday Morning Message, send it to me at email@example.com and I will make sure your thoughts are passed along to them.
Question for Next Week’s Saturday Morning Message
On Tuesday evening, I co-moderate the TAPS general chat for all survivors with Kim, wife of Milton. We were talking about sleep changes while grieving and thought the strategies used by other survivors might be helpful to share, so Kim sent this question: Have your sleep patterns changed since your loss, and what strategies do you find helpful on sleepless nights? We look forward to your responses.
Questions are the backbone of the Saturday Morning Message. In order to keep the Saturday Morning Message fresh, I am looking for more questions. If you have questions or topics you would like to see addressed in the Saturday Morning Message, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I directly receive all responses that are sent to this address. Replies to the weekly question are best sent to me by Tuesday morning. You are an important part of this message, and I look forward to your questions or any ideas you may have.
♫ Song for the Week
This week’s song is from Perry, father of Christopher, who wrote, “One of my favorite singers is a Canadian singer by the name of Loreena McKennitt. There are many songs she has written that touched me in expressing my emotions over the years. The one song that I feel speaks to me about my son Christopher is her song called ‘The Breaking of The Sword’. The words touch me as it is a father speaking to his son.”
You can send your favorite songs to email@example.com.