July 17, 2018

Why we all Need a Grieving Day.

Earlier this month, while families were gathered for picnics and friends were laughing about old stories, I was home alone, wrapped in a snuggly blanket on the couch with my dog, Murphy.

Please don’t feel bad for me or make that face that says, “Oh my, if I had only known I would have asked you to join us.” I was exactly where I needed to be.

I was having a Grieving Day.

While you may have images of Miss Havisham all wrapped in dowager lace being stuck in a time long forgotten, a Grieving Day isn’t quite like that. A Grieving Day is a day to give back to yourself what you need—to feel your feelings, acknowledge them, take care of them, and be able to get back to the business of moving forward with your life. It’s an opportunity to recharge your emotional battery.

In the past year, I have experienced a significant amount of loss, like more than a human should have to go through in a short period of time. I went through a difficult divorce, my house burned down and we lost everything (including three of our four pets), and I decided it was time to leave a job I loved.

Any of those things would feel like a loss. All of them, piled one on top of another, felt like a black hole of sadness.

One way I keep moving forward and avoid getting sucked into the despair that can accompany significant loss is to give myself a day to grieve when I need it—usually about once a month—so that I can care for that part of me that is still hurting.

I didn’t give myself enough time to grieve when everything was happening; and really, the idea of having enough time to grieve is a huge oxymoron. I went back to work and tried to keep everything going the same as it was before. Except, I wasn’t the same. And I couldn’t keep the pace I was keeping before. I felt lost and like I didn’t know how to do anything anymore. I ran on pure will for several months before I realized that I was well past the empty mark on my tank.

About the same time, I realized that both of my kids were well below empty too. I had let them run dry. I had been so sure that pushing the grief down and just “moving forward” was the way we would get through it. When the part of me that was grieving would speak up, the manager part of me would tell her to “suck it up,” and I had sent that message to my kids without even realizing it.

What I have learned about that hurt and grieving part of me is that she needs care and compassion. Ignoring her needs doesn’t actually help me heal. So, when I realize that she is starting to speak up, I listen and give myself some time to acknowledge that the hurt, loss, grief, and sadness are still very much a part of me.

When I give myself a day to cry, sleep, watch HGTV, bake cookies, journal, read, or snuggle with my dog, I am saying to my grieving self, “It’s okay. It’s just going to take time. Go ahead and let it out.” I am being there for myself, just as I would be there for a friend.

It can be hard for our family and friends to accept that we need this time. We understand rationally that grief comes in waves, but grief and loss are not rational emotions and we cannot rationalize our responses to them. Needing a Grieving Day doesn’t mean I am crying out for help or ready to harm myself. It is a compassionate response to caring for myself and recognizing that I have a need to grieve and express my feelings of loss and sadness.

Today, my small, vulnerable self is okay. She cried and and slept and wrote and baked cookies so she could get up and go along with the plan for my life. Taking a day to care for that part of myself means that today, I can move forward. Self-care isn’t just about getting a pedicure or taking time to buy yourself something nice; it’s about showing up and really listening to the different parts of who you are.

Self-care is about being your own best friend and giving yourself what you need—even if what you need is time to grieve.


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