Self Care

The Gift of Engaging with our Grief

pier over water indicating grief  - Gift of Engaging with our Grief
Looking over a desolate peer and a boat

What does it mean to engage with our grief?

The way we engage with our grief is a good way to measure if we are grieving in a healthy way, according to Hanna Helms, Hospice Social Worker. Helms explains that a lot of unhealthy grieving habits arise from trying to escape grief, and the pain that comes with it.

But still, why is grief a gift?

Grief can become a gift when we actively chose to engage with it. For example, when we make the choice to sit quietly and just let ourselves cry, we get the relief of noticing our feelings. If we don’t allow ourselves to be aware of how we are feeling, we don’t even give ourselves a chance to heal.

Grief is the forerunner of healing

We can think of our emotions as messengers, just like physical pain is a messenger of something wrong physically. Imagine the pain of loss to be compared to the pain of a broken bone. The pain of the broken bone is saying “hey, there is something wrong here, and your attention is needed!” Well, our minds and psyche are not so different. When we experience loss, it can trigger an emotional response that says “Hey, there is something missing that I care about! Can I have your attention please?”

The problem is, sometimes the pain messenger is so great, we can’t bear to engage with it, to fully experience it. When that is the case, says Helms, we can break our grieving up into bite sized pieces, while also focusing on self-care. We can also use a dual process model.

What is a duel process model?

A dual process model is one that allows for us to engage with their grief, even if only briefly, while getting support to live day to day life. According to Helms, this can be especially important for caregivers, who are experiencing a secondary loss of grief.

What is a secondary loss of grief?

A secondary loss of grief is when a person has not only lost a person they care about, but they also have lost the purpose they had for their life. Caregivers can often experience a secondary loss of grief. Caregivers may ask themselves “Who am I now that the loved one I cared for is gone?” A person who has spent years of their life revolving around taking care of a loved one will often be left wondering what meaning their life now holds.

Self-care and grief

Self -care during a grieving period may not look like what you think it ought to. Our cultural narrative is often to be tough, if you are a man, and to be selfless, if you are a woman. How can we fulfill these expectations and still practice self-care? Especially when self-care looks like taking more time to grieve than what society’s standard’s expectations allow? There are no time limits or expectations to grief; however, when it comes to our culture, there most certainly are. That’s why self-care is so important. And so is building a caring community.

Caring Community

Having a caring community around you can give you the strength or support to get through difficult times, like grieving. A caring community can be a local support or bereavement group, it can be a prayer group, a group of friends and neighbors, family, and even us here at Unified Caring Association. We are also here to help.

What ever kind of support you choose to surround yourself with, The American Psychological Association recommends talking with others, as it can help you process your grief. Remember that denying your grief only further creates a sense of isolation. So, give yourself the gift of engaging with your grief. It’s not an easy journey, but it leads to healing.

Like what you read? Check out more UCA blog posts:

Giving Helps Promote Happiness https://unifiedcaringcommunity.com/category/connecting/

Self Care

Self-Care for Caregivers

hands with hearts indicating self-care for caregivers


Being a caregiver is important, but caregivers often forget self-care.

  Being a caregiver can add value to life

To begin with, a care giver knowing that they are providing the care they know their family member or patient needs can bring great joy and value. But beyond this, caregivers also provide a benefit to society at large, in a very practical way. Caregivers save the government and society from a significant financial concern, translating into millions of dollars (Brickell, et. al, 2019).  From the micro to the macro, caregivers are an integral part of the caring community tapestry of society.

But who takes care of the caregivers?

Let’s be honest. Most times, no one. The caregiver is tasked with caring for themselves while taking care of others. This can be a challenge, especially when the toll can be so emotional, whether on a personal or professional level.

Someone who finds themselves in the role of caregiver, whether personal or professional should not disregard the importance of self-care. 

The definitions for self-care are varied, and guidance can help someone decide which route to self-care is appropriate for them. We at Unified Caring Association want to be wayshowers on your journey towards a good self-care regimen.  Go here: https://unifiedcaringassociationreviews.com/?s=self-care to find articles on this topic to help you begin a self-care journey.   

Studies have shown that self-care for professionals can range from self-awareness and mindfulness, to understanding the delicate balance of one’s own needs and the needs of others (Shapiro, Brown, & Biegel, 2007). 

And surely, these approaches can be applied to personal situations as well. Let’s talk about these ideas. Let’s explore what it means to be a caregiver and take care of yourself in the face of the huge responsibility of caring for another.  

What is self-awareness and mindfulness?

Bringing the light of our consciousness to our thoughts and feelings is by itself, a transformative power

  Namely, Oxford’s dictionary defines self-awareness as “conscious knowledge of one’s own character and feelings” (Lexico, 2019). In short, this type of mindfulness can feel just like telling yourself that you matter.  For example, every moment you take the time to pay attention to how you’re feeling or what you are thinking about is a conscious choice to say “I matter,” instead of putting yourself and your feelings on the back burner.

The thoughts and feelings you are experiencing can sometimes be overwhelming. 

In particular, it is important to allow yourself to experience your thoughts and feelings without judging yourself. Generally, practice self-compassion. You can hear more about self-compassion and what it means to nurture your heart, by listening to Tara Brach’s talk https://www.tarabrach.com/judgment-self-compassion/.

When you pay attention to your feelings, what you need becomes consciously more important. 

The simple act of awareness becomes a self-correcting process.

Amazingly, this awareness and caring about your state of being will present remedies for what ails you in the moment.  Some days, the perfect medicine will be a walk in your neighborhood. Other days, it may be allowing yourself time to sit and watch a favorite movie (even when there are dishes to do!). Or perhaps, you may want to make time to pursue that hobby you have been thinking about for years. Then again, you may want to sign up for a class. 

Self-care is also asking for help when you need it.

Did you know that help from a therapist is just a phone call away? The NAMI helpline https://www.nami.org/find-support/nami-helpline is available. 

Maybe, you want to get out and do something good for the world.

  Nothing warms the heart like knowing you are making a difference.  Read more about volunteering here: https://www.unifiedcaring.org/?s=volunteering.  

What ever your self-care path looks like, we are here to assist and guide you. 

Please reach out to us here: https://www.unifiedcaring.org/contact-us/.  We want to hear your ideas about what self care looks like for you.

Would you like to know more about Unified Caring Association? Check out our blogs on UCA, Caring Action, and Caring the UCA Way! Would you like to keep up with UCA activities? Check us out on Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr, and Twitter for updates throughout the week!

References:

Brickell, t.A, French, L.M., Gartner, R.L., Driscoll, A. E., Write, M.M., Lippa, S.M. & LAnge, R. T. (2019) Factors related to perceived burden among caregivers of service members/veterans floowing TBI. Rehabilitation Psychology, 643 (3),  307-319

Lexico. (2019). Lexico, powered by Oxford. Retrieved from https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/self-awareness

Shapiro, S., Brown, K.B., & Biegel, G. (2007). Teaching self-care to caregivers: Effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction on the mental health of therapists in training. Training and Education in Professional Psychology 1(2), 105-115. doi:10.1037/1931-3918.1.2.105

Tara Brach, (2019). From judgement to self-compassion (retreat talk). Retrieved from https://www.tarabrach.com/judgment-self-compassion/