Be Kind to Yourself
What I consider to be the most important factor in creating a safe place from which to embrace the times your grief moves into an ebbing pattern is to be kind to yourself. This is something that I struggle with over and over. As I was contemplating that fact a poem came to me:
Kind to Me
I watch silently
as you sprinkle precious gems of kindness all around;
the spider on the wall gently relocated to the ground,
the stray cat receives soothing words and thoughts of concern.
People you know and those you don’t are buoyed by your encouraging words.
But the reflection in the mirror frowns as another fault is found.
Her every mistake, to you, is profound.
She’s just not good enough – thin enough – pretty enough – smart enough…
In every way she’s not enough.
Her eyes reach out, shame-filled pools aching for what you pass freely around.
Why can’t you be kind to me? She cries.
My best efforts are met with your scorn.
Your constant judgement leaves me worn.
Why are mine the easiest faults to see?
Why can’t you be kind to me?
I pause; take a second look.
When I look closely the beauty comes forth;
abundant value and incredible worth…
talent, skills, and abilities abound
She is pleasant, funny – great to be around.
What lens is it that mars this view?
Why is it the hardest thing to do –
to see the remarkable good that lies in you?
When did you learn to behave this way?
To push self-pride so cruelly away?
It is time to uncover the lies that keep me down;
pick myself up off the ground,
commit to spending more time with me
so I can appreciate what others see
and remember to be kind to me.
Learning to be kind to ourselves is a hard-won skill, but it is one we truly need to pursue if we want to experience real joy in life. Though it is of great importance while experiencing the ebbing times of your grief, it is a skill you should work at building during the times your life is flowing along at its best pace. Moments when every thought seems to bring pain and tears is not a time you are likely to make great strides in learning to be kind to yourself. The Warrior Heart Practice that I spoke about last week is a good place to start when working at building self-appreciation.
When you feel yourself moving into an ebbing pool, one of the first things you should do is look at your calendar and set aside time for you. Give yourself permission to be kind to yourself. If you need to reschedule appointments or take time off from work – do it! Ebbing phases of grief can swirl you right back into many of the symptoms you experienced early on in your grief process – brain fog, exhaustion, frequent deep sighs, and readily flowing tears. These symptoms are our body’s way of encouraging us to take it easy – take time to process, remember – grieve. I know. That niggling feeling inside some of you would scream about how much other people will judge you for taking time for yourself. Honestly, they probably won’t and even if they do – that’s ok. They can’t possibly know what you are going through. By taking the time you need for yourself without shame, you are taking a big step away from being your own worst critic and toward being your own best advocate.
During these times, try to spend as much time as possible doing things that you enjoy which also have a positive effect on your psyche and physical well-being. Listen to soothing music rather than letting “they done me wrong” songs drag you down. Draw yourself a hot bath tinctured with your favorite essential oils. Spend a day curled up on your couch, in your pjs, with a hot mug of tea – but rather than watching a sad movie or reading a tear-jerker book, reach for light-hearted, funny, heart-warming options. Instead of reaching mindlessly for a bag of Doritos or a box of ‘meh’ cardboardy chocolate chip cookies to eat your feelings into oblivion, ask a friend to accompany you to your favorite coffee shop or ice cream parlor for a real treat. Letting other people into your ebbing pool for the purpose of supporting you is difficult, but it will give you the allies you need to help you navigate your way out of the gentle whirlpool effect of ebbing pools and back into the flow of life. Beyond that, it also brings other people into your experience so they can walk with you and have a running understanding of what you are going through. What a gift it is to have someone be able to look at you and know at least a little bit about what you are thinking and feeling. One of the defining characteristics of grief is its unrelenting loneliness and welcoming the support of others is the best way to combat that demon.
In my experience, the more that I try to push myself to suck it up and bulldoze through ebbing pools like a tugboat, the more I find myself sidestepping the grief and becoming mired in depression, shame, and guilt. The ebbing phases of grief are not likely to cease any time soon, but they can become enriching ‘down’ times. Start the journey by asking yourself, “why can’t I be kind to me?”