How Do We Start Again? Small Steps to Reconnect with Ourselves

Author: Erin Jacobson

What comes into your mind when you read the words health, body, self-care, fitness? How do these words land emotionally? Notice what comes up for you. Maybe you feel positive emotions, and that is fantastic. But maybe, you have a different experience. Maybe, feelings of exhaustion, shame, or defeat come over you. If this is the case, know that you are not alone.

Grief Can Be Exhausting

Under the best circumstances as a society, we have a complicated relationship with our bodies. Countless articles discuss the effects social media, films, magazines, and more have on our self-image. This topic isn’t new. For us who have gone through grief and loss, another layer attaches to it all. Loss affects many layers of our lives– and our relationships are at the top of the list. Yes, loss impacts our relationships with friends and family. But, our relationships with ourselves go through a tremendous transformation as well. We take stock of our lives and reevaluate our choices. We want to make sure that we are living the best versions of our lives after seeing the lives of our loved ones end. What can be incredibly challenging, confusing, and debilitating is when the intentions of our minds don’t seem possible because of the amount of energy required to accomplish them.

As time goes on, maybe we have poured ourselves into achieving goals, serving others, or even just making it through the day, so much so that we feel depleted. Functioning on grit and heart will take you far, but if we neglect to devote time towards nourishing ourselves, there is a point where we can hit a wall. When all of our energy goes outward, we don’t have anything left for us. Maybe we have begun to hate looking in the mirror or feel like we are on the paper-thin edge of holding it all together. When we get to places like this, our health is one of the things to suffer most, and our minds may race with thoughts. “Tomorrow I’ll deal with it, today x, y, and z are more important,” or, “What does it matter?” We may get to a place where the mountain of choosing ourselves, choosing our health, can feel like an almost impossible mountain to climb. The starts and stops of beginning and then feeling like we are “failing” can be even more challenging. We might experience self-loathing. Sometimes, we may go as far as asking ourselves questions that are harsh and judgment-filled. “Why can’t I just get it together? Why am I such a failure?” For those of you who have gotten to a place where you don’t recognize yourself in your own body– you are seen, and you are not alone.

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Know That You Are Not Alone

How do we begin again after feeling like this? What does success look like when it comes to our health journeys? What places do the effects of grief have in our trajectory towards disregarding our health and the challenge to reclaim it?

One of the most impactful parts of transformation is knowing you are not alone. Whether that is by finding other survivors who have gone through a similar loss or knowing that many of us struggle with our relationships with our physical bodies after the death of our loved one, knowing you are not alone can make all of the difference.

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Discover Self-Gratitude As You Heal

So how do we begin again? One important first step is to look at ourselves with kindness and appreciate what we have gone through. If we can approach our bodies with the lens of gratitude, we can begin to change our perception. Our bodies are worthy of compassion and care, regardless of what they look like or perform like right now. We all have different capabilities, but there is always something to be grateful about with them. Our arms have held our loved ones tightly. Our lips have spoken words of power, love, and truth. Our legs have taken us step by step through the hardest days of our lives. Our hearts have expanded to take in the heart of another. Our eyes have looked upon beauty and tragedy and continue to see.

You can begin again. Change is possible. How things are now is not how they will stay, and sometimes they can change for the better. You can rewire and redirect the way you think about health and form new habits. Changing our thought process is always the first step in changing our physical progress.

You can begin again. Change is possible.

What are you grateful for about this body of yours today? Write a list of the ways your body has supported you after loss.
Look in the mirror. What are the first three thoughts that come into your mind? Are they kind? Are they harsh? Notice what you think, and write it down. Consider if there is a way that you could reframe your assessment.
Take stock of what you HAVE done. Often times, we default to thinking that we are at zero, but that simply isn’t true. You have walked through the desolate land of grief and gotten back up, again, and again, and again.

Erin Jacobson

Erin Jacobson is the Director of TAPS Women's Empowerment and the surviving partner of U.S. Army Corporal Jason Kessler.

Photos: TAPS Archives