In the first days and months of experiencing grief over instantly losing my husband to a heart attack, my body felt like its edges were jagged, as though grief had physically ripped my body to shreds. The anxiety tightened my chest and raced my heart. I felt as though any stranger looking at me could see right through my body, because it was as though a bomb had detonated in my chest cavity.
As a natural problem solver, I thought grief was a force that I could fight, a battle that I could win. I was wrong. Now three years later, I’ve come to realize that grief is more like a wave that I am riding. Resisting grief only serves to deepen grief. Avoiding grief infuriates grief. So, at some point along the way, I began what I called “actively grieving.”
For me, part of actively grieving involved a therapist, a psychiatrist, young widow support groups, and voraciously reading works by other widows to learn from them. But, the much bigger part of my active grieving involved being kind to my grief, kind to myself. I had to find a way to smooth the jagged edges and repair the hole in my chest cavity.
Being kind to oneself is something that looks different for each individual experiencing grief. For me, it looked like this: I went to restorative yoga classes and Reiki energy healing sessions. I drove to the beach to listen to the ocean and put my feet in the sand. I scheduled frequent babysitters so I could have a mini break from putting my daughter to sleep and some space and time to cry. I had many full body massages, manicures and pedicures. I forced myself to shower and get dressed every damn day. And, I went on a grief diet which consisted almost entirely of Golden Oreos and Ben & Jerry’s.
Whatever it takes. Whatever you need. Do it. Don’t feel guilty about taking time away from your family. Don’t feel guilty for spending time or money on yourself. Be kind to your grief. Take care of you – because nobody but you knows how to do that.
And, please know that the crisis/triage/emergency period of time won’t last forever – as much as it feels like it will. I remember knowing that time period was coming to a close for me when I switched from Ben & Jerry’s to Edy’s Light! And now, more than three years in, I’m still grieving, and I think I’ll always be grieving, but it feels so much different now. The physical manifestations of grief are less noticeable to me because of the kindness that I continually try to show myself. Courage.