SELF-COMPASSION AND GRIEF
Self-compassion….have you ever heard of this term? I had not until only recently. According to Alexandra Lane, M.A. at Johns Hopkins, “It means treating yourself with attention, kindness, nurturing, care, and an understanding of the common experiences of hardship. It means not dismissing your own pain and struggles as meaningless and petty, or judging yourself harshly for mistakes.”
Going through grief involves self-compassion, and especially at those occasions when feelings, memories and traditions make times tougher. This article from Scott and Holly Stoner with Living Compass about self-compassion and grief speaks so well and effectively about this time of year:
“Holidays are a natural time for reminiscing, a time when we fondly remember people and traditions that are no longer a part of our lives. And it is only natural to feel both the joy and sadness of such memories. When we listen closely to others this time of year, it is not uncommon to hear at least a story about a loss they are experiencing and feeling. We might also know someone facing their first holiday after a significant loss or transition.
At our best, when someone shares their grief with us, we hopefully extend a compassionate ear and heart to them. We pause and try to offer them the best holiday gift we can give—the gift of our full and undivided presence. Our offering of compassion will ease their pain for a bit, and they will be grateful for having received the gift of our caring attention.
Now imagine that the person experiencing a loss or transition you encounter is yourself
. Are you able to offer yourself the same gift of compassion as readily as you are able to show it to someone else? If not, what do you offer yourself instead? Self-criticism? Distraction? Impatience?
Self-compassion is one of the foundations of well-being and is especially important when we are experiencing the vulnerability of loss. Offering self-compassion to yourself might be a wonderful gift for even you this year. It's worth noting, too, that there is usually a connection between our capacity to offer compassion to ourselves, and our ability to show it to others.
Here are a few suggestions of how you can care for yourself if or when you find yourself feeling grief during the holidays.
Be gentle with yourself. Perhaps this is the year you can let go of some of your usual expectations or traditions, so things are simpler and less stressful.
Take time to rest—being sure to get enough sleep and not to distract yourself with busyness.
Make intentional time to nurture your spirituality through reading, meditation, prayer, or participating in a faith community's offerings.
Choose to spend time with people who "get" what you are experiencing and minimize time with people who might be uncomfortable with your feelings.
These are just a few suggestions. One of the premises in all of our Wellness Compass resources is that when we take the time to slow down enough and truly listen to what our hearts and souls and minds are telling us, we will know what we need to do to care for ourselves.
Compassion is truly one of the greatest gifts we can give this holiday season, to others and ourselves.”
Here is also a podcast of Scott and Holly about self-compassion and grief: https://podcast.wellnesscompass.org/podcasts/the-wellness-compass-podcast
On December 21 at 5pm will be the Longest Night Service—a time for acknowledging a loss or change to receive a message of hope and reassurance. I hope you will come, and please invite and bring anyone who may also need a measure of self-compassion.
Becky Williams, RN, BSN
Pastoral Care Facilitator