When Trying to Heal Who is Your Caregiver? How Do You Care For Yourself?
January 11, 2021
By Ken Barringer
What does caretaking and self-care look like? We use these terms frequently but what do they actually mean? There is a reason the web address of this site is healingforgriefandloss.com and not healingfromgriefandloss.com. We do not heal from our grief. However, by embracing grief we can heal. Healing from grief or healing your grief line up with the cultural misperception that grieving ends; If your grieving lasts than perhaps you are not doing well – pathologizing a normative state. If you have not “gone back to your old self” perhaps you have not healed from your grief or healed your grief yet.
The belief here is your healing comes from experiencing grief, getting support from those who can support you and taking care of yourself. To learn how to carry the relationship differently, rather than learn how to put it down. You don’t “get over” a relationship that was meaningful and is now gone. You learn how to reconstruct the relationship in order to move forward. So, how do you heal for grief?
This is very personal and individualized, but let’s start by trying to answer these questions: “I trust my vulnerability with_____?” “The way I nurture myself is_______?” Taking care of others isn’t as simple as “showing up”. How about adding “showing up and being present without judgement”? Well, that sounds simple. What is simple is not easy. We often believe we see things the way they are when in reality we often see things the way we are. Caretaking for someone can be an opportunity to project what is triggering us onto someone else. Are we aware of this? Not everyone in our circle is able, capable or available to care for our vulnerability. We may love and care for them but they might not be the best candidates for supporting us. The risk here is we feel we can’t show our sensitivity because no one understands and we end up disenfranchising ourselves. You can care deeply and be loyal to someone who can’t support your vulnerability. This is ok. Who do you trust with your vulnerability?
Self-care is a very popular and thus overused and an undefined term. We know that our emotional and physical health impact each other and caring for ourselves also extends to our behavioral, cognitive and spiritual life. How about this for a working definition: Self-care is non-harmful actions we take that move us closer to feeling balanced and whole. That’s pretty vague. Precisely. If you think walking and noticing things along the way is moving you closer, than it is. If you think a day of spa treatment is moving you closer, than it is. We do what we can with what we have. Self-care does not have to be “large and occasional” it can be “little and often”. The last thing we need is to feel demoralized by our self-care or feel like we are failing self-care. Self-care is how we define it. What does it mean to you? Whether we think what we are doing is helpful for our healing or not we are right. There is a power in positive thinking however, the power arrives from acknowledging, accepting and owning the pain we need care for. This is where the power comes from and how we can move towards healing ourselves for grief not healing from it.