Redefining Self-Care

April 2, 2019

By Sanda Rathamone



“I have come to believe that caring for myself is not self-indulgent. Caring for myself is an act of survival.” - Audre Lorde

Years ago, the term "self-care" popped up on my Instagram feed. It seemed like everybody talked about it and how important it was. It didn't take long to come up with my own list of self-care tips and activities. However, I hadn't really known what self-care meant, so I googled and found a definition I liked.

According to Helen L. Coons, PhD, "Self-care is [how] one's action is around our physical, emotional, relational, perhaps professional, educational, and, for some people, spiritual well-being that reflects the way that we take care of ourselves on the most fundamental levels." On the other hand, my definition of self-care is "a personal approach to caring for oneself that promotes a sense of health and well-being."

In simpler words, self-care is stress relief!

Before losing a baby to stillbirth, my self-care list had all of the typical activities found almost everywhere: going for a walk at the beach (which was my exercise), meditating, cooking my favorite comfort/healthy-ish foods, talking with someone (such as a counselor), taking an epsom bath or a long nap, even "shopping therapy." Later would I add on writing/journaling, reading, de-cluttering, and aromatherapy.

I still love doing these self-care activities, but after stillbirth, much of what I do now is grieving the loss of my baby. And grief changes everything. 

After Elijah died, my perspective of self-care changed. Self-care became all about survival: how to survive the day without sobbing uncontrollably, how to survive emotional triggers, how to survive jealousy and unexpressed anger/frustration, how to survive a lifetime of lost memories, and, ultimately, how to survive life after death. My change of perspective also changed the way I "took care of myself." And I know that, to some people, it may not look or seem to be "healthy" or appropriate.

Self-care after loss became much more personal because I realized how important it was to create boundaries, as well as express myself or unresolved/pent up emotions within grief. To survive the day without sobbing uncontrollably, I would talk to myself or pray in the bathroom (at home, work, or school), take the time to walk outside and look and listen for things that I thought were beautiful, or distract myself with work that required less energy, like laundry or washing dishes.

To survive emotional triggers, I would try my best to avoid it, and that meant avoiding people and public places. I would often stay home in bed and do nothing or go someplace where I knew had the least emotional triggers or less busier places. If I couldn't avoid it, I would give myself a moment to mourn or try to push it away and ignore it, not letting it get to me (until I got home to cry about it).

To survive jealousy and unexpressed anger/frustration, I would let myself unapologetically feel it. I felt guilty of being jealous for so long that nothing helped. Eventually, I learned to love myself more because of it; the jealousy stemmed from the pain of my loss. If I was angry, I let it be known that I was. I admitted to my anger - to myself, and to God.

To survive a lifetime of lost memories, I would create them with hopes and wishes. I would put them in art or place them in crafts. I would write about all that I had lost and would never have. And to survive life after death, I did everything I could with all I had. If I had nothing, I would do nothing. Some days, all I could do was cry and that was the best self-care of my life. Other days, I threw pity-parties and felt sad for myself, and I didn't care what people thought.

Sometimes, I wouldn't eat and had no desire for food, or skipped showers because I had no energy to take care of myself. Other times, it took all the courage I had left after hours of being in bed, just to get up and face the sun. 

Perhaps some of these things are familiar to those who are also struggling with self-care after loss. And if you are, just know that whatever it is you do to survive each day is more than enough.


Need more on self-care? Check out habitsforwellbeing.com.

With love,
Must Read:
Read Elijah's Story, "From Gender Reveal to a Spontaneous Delivery"

Photo: pinterest

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