By Marie-Claude Goudreau, from the Empowered By Grief blog

August 2020 marks three years since A died.

For the last two years, I would plan my whole month of August in great detail in order to reclaim a sense of control over my grief but this year, Covid-19 has made that difficult for me.

A cancelled trip to Greece left me with no plans for how to honour A on the third anniversary of his passing.

Instead of traveling and getting together with loved ones, I’ve decided to share some of the lessons that I have learned through loving and losing A. In death, just as he was in life, A remains one of my greatest teachers. These lessons have transcended his passing and continue to influence the way I choose to carry my life forward.

One of the most profound things that A has taught me is the importance of living a life that feels true and authentic to me. As a recovering people pleaser, listening to and honouring my own needs has always felt selfish and self-indulgent. I spent many years living in accordance to how people around me wanted me to live, giving my power away and living with resentment for having abandoned myself over and over again. All of that seemed to simply melt away under A’s unconditional love. His love revealed me and allowed me to unbecome all that I had learned to be. He taught me the importance of true self-care.

By self-care, I don’t mean girls night out and bubble baths.

The type of self-care I am referring to here is cultivating a loving and compassionate relationship to myself. Nowhere has that lesson been more important for me than in grief. Losing A has been my life’s greatest challenge and self-care has been how I’ve slowly taken my power back.

Grief over the loss of a loved one is a complex experience that has a ripple effect over our entire life and learning to take care of ourselves through it is a crucial part of the healing and rebuilding process.

For me, self-care has meant learning to have loving but strong boundaries with others in my life. Grief is a drain on our energy level and so learning to tune in to my needs, moment to moments and saying no to people and events that drain me further has been very supportive for me.

Self-care has meant reconnecting with my passion for writing and using that as a way to process the magnitude and complexity of my grief. A and I loved writing to one another and I have countless emails and notebooks filled with the details of our story. I’ve carried on this tradition in my own life using writing as a way to remember him and to normalize grief for other grievers on my platforms.

Self-care has also meant giving myself the time and space necessary to figure out how this loss has changed me, who I am now and how I want to put my life back together. For the last three years, I almost always begin my day with some alone time to connect to myself, check in with my emotions and sit with whatever is there with compassion and acceptance. This has helped me learn how to be with the difficult emotions of grief without feeling the need to fix myself, ignore or numb my feelings. This simple habit has helped learn a useful life skill that no one has ever taught me before, the ability to be nurturing towards myself rather than critical, judgmental or avoidant.

I know that the idea of making time for self-care can seem difficult and overwhelming when our lives are changing so quickly and our responsibilities don’t let up. But that is exactly when we need to take care of ourselves, especially during a global pandemic.

That’s why I’ve partnered with Remembering A Life and want to share these resources with you here. The National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) launched Remembering A Life (RAL) to help individuals and families beautifully memorialize a life well-lived. In addition to helpful information about planning a meaningful service, RAL offers other useful information, such as resources to help people understand their own and others’ grief and loss.

RAL is a tremendous resource that offers advice and guidance to help families understand the way funeral options have changed during the pandemic and to help them navigate their grief during these challenging times. They have wonderful resources like their Self-Care Box, with items carefully selected to help you find relaxation, reflect and remember.

They have graciously offered to give away two of their wonderful Self-Care Boxes filled with items that will help you connect meaningfully with yourself and remember your loved one.

I have already started using the grief journal to write down the lessons that A has taught me and to remember all of the ways in which his spirit continues to influence the course of my life.

I also love the essential oil roller. Putting a few drops on your wrist allows you to curate that feeling of calm and safety that is so often lacking for us in grief.

The box also contains a beautiful jar that my son and I have started filling up with funny memories of A. As soon as you open the box you can tell that it’s been designed with us, the griever, in mind. Every aspect of grief has been taken into account. The water bottle acts as a reminder to take care of our physical body and the beautiful dragonfly charm reminds us that even though our loved ones aren't here physically, they are never gone. When thinking about self-care, remember to care for your physical, emotional and spiritual needs.

Self-care is truly how we begin to take our power back in grief. If you are still thinking that taking care of yourself is selfish, take this as your permission slip to begin to let that false belief go. Self-care is the most loving thing you can do, both for yourself, and for your loved ones who are still here. I’d love to know, what are some of the ways in which you are taking care of yourself in grief?

Sending you so much love,