I wrote this blog some time ago, however, the subject around self care versus self compassion keeps popping up both personally and professionally lately so I felt the need to re-post.
Professionally, when organizations are going through change or transitions, managers can and do become overwhelmed with responsibility for both the operational shift and the people management of their staff. It is easy to go home late, exhausted, reactive to one's family. The idea of self care just adding to the list of to do's in our world.
I was having coffee with a dear friend and colleague one morning when the question came up around self care and what am I doing for my own self care. And let me tell you, it was a trigger…boy, was it a trigger. I am sorry, dear friend!
In living grief, especially as a parent/family care giver you are, hopefully, surrounded by many many people who have the right intention of making sure you are taking care of yourself. You know the saying, “put the oxygen mask on yourself first”. Bless them!
Self care has become a necessary focus as family care givers burn out on these profound journeys of ongoing loss. We are looking after our family members more and more at home and for longer periods of time with more medical complexity than ever before.
I have been caring for my daughter and her life limiting, life threatening condition now for over 15 years. It has always been a challenge to be conscious of my own well being; physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually as her journey and condition deepens. But now, traversing into what is deemed ‘palliative’ care or ‘comfort’ care due to a significant and somewhat sudden shift in her condition, it almost feels impossible.
Thus my whole ‘fuck self care’ moment this morning. I know everyone is well intentioned. I get that ensuring I am ‘ok’ and looked after is important. The reality is, I am NOT ok. I know that my metabolic system is screwed up. That I am over weight, that I lack a good nights sleep. That I can barely get food down without incurring such excruciating pain from reflux. That I walk around with the fear of loss etched on my face, grief looming over my shoulders.
This is the reality of living grief…
Try as I might to eat healthy, keep hydrated, meditate in the bath each night, get outside in my garden, seek counselling or a reprieve with friends, it is never going to be enough to abate the churning pain and devastation of watching your child die.
It is never going to be enough…and where I am at today, you can’t convince me otherwise. But asking me over and over again, be it a health care worker, a counsellor, a friend, a family member, clergy about my ‘self care’…just adds to the stress and can be quite overwhelming. It just doesn’t help.
Great, one more person I have to answer to, or one more thing to add to my already overwhelming, exhausting, stacked plate. Fuck self care
At the same time, I am not saying self care isn’t important. It is! But it has to be on your terms in a way or form that not only you can manage but that resonates with you…on the inside, not the outside.
Self care in living grief is so much more than what you eat, how much you exercise, how long and how often you meditate. It is about self compassion.
My dear friend, who’s got a decade on me, understands that self care is only dangerous when you close yourself off, when you shut down, push back, tuck yourself away from the overwhelm.
True self care…if we are going to keep calling it that, is when you allow yourself to remain open, porous, vulnerable. It is in remaining open that you will be fed, you will be walked, you will be nurtured, hydrated, tended to emotionally, physically, mentally, spiritually. That is true self compassion in living grief.
“The strongest love is the love that can demonstrate its fragility”, Paul Coehlo
It isn’t easy to stay porous, to be vulnerable, show fragility. I really didn’t think I could become any more vulnerable until a few months ago when my daughter didn’t wake up for several days. I didn’t think it could get worse, that I could possibly become more fragile as I sat vigilant next to her bed in our paediatric hospice. But I did…my vulnerability deepened and my needs for ‘self care’ extended beyond the physical. I wept spiritually, my heart and soul drowned in tears of pain. It was an epiphany; self compassion reigns in these moments, it has to.
“We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness and affection.” Brene Brown
In that moment, it was my long time friend, Angela, chatting with me in the hospice library; it was my dear friend, Tracy, texting me her own crazy life; my other friends inviting me out for drinks, tea, coffee, walks. It was the staff and volunteers at Canuck Place Children’s Hospice who with grace, and kindness met me at my place of fragility, walked with me through the deepening vulnerability of living grief that truly supports the degree of self care such a journey requires.
I am lucky to have my dear friend, her wise words, her conditional love for my well being. And for the select few beautiful, generous, kind souls who I’ve become spiritually connected with. Because even if I want to fuck self care, they don’t let me…and know it runs deeper; it's about self compassion.
Check out another great blog from my dear friend and colleague, Kat Thorsen on Self Care versus Self Compassion, as well.
What does Self Care / Self Compassion mean to you? Come join the conversation!
Beverley Pomeroy is an awarded and highly sought after Community Engagement Strategist, Speaker, Author of Living Grief; The Profound Journey of Ongoing Loss. Beverley’s community service began with a fifteen year career in private health care working for MDS Inc (LifeLabs). This community health care role developed her acumen not only for serving people in need, but also her strength in business management and organizational renewal.