The phone rang around midnight in March 1995, jarring me out of a sound sleep. On the other end was my apologetic uncle in New York – “I don’t quite know how to tell you this, but your mother has died.” My world stopped – I let out a sound only dying animals make and the floor fell away beneath my feet. It was a long night of panic and phone calls that I barely remember. Very quickly, I couldn’t feel my arms or my legs – I probably should have been in the ER being treated for shock.
In the following weeks, I couldn’t eat well, but I sure could drink. I couldn’t sleep at night because of trauma dreams and night terrors, so I tried sleeping during the day. My body got mad at me pretty quickly over that, so I stopped, but I still couldn’t cope, so I watched TV all day – for 17 hours – every day – and drank. Cheap brandy….ugh.
So I learned the hard way about the importance of Self-Care in the wake of a loss and in the grief that follows. And this is not only following a death, but also the loss of a job, a home, a friendship or anything that requires a recalculation of our lives and choices.
Part of what makes this easy to miss is that we can go numb. We feel every emotion on the planet and yet we are totally shut down. That is your Being trying to protect you from the avalanche of feelings – but it can also cut you off from being aware that you need to take care of yourself.
Here are the most important things you can do to practice Self-Care following a loss: