I freaking love this term. This is a term I learned last year at church and when I heard it, felt like it encompassed the very essence of my being.
Something unique about me is the way in which I love my people, be it my husband, children, family, friends, and Grief Warriors alike. There are a million qualities I wish I had and don’t, but the one I treasure most about myself is my capacity to love people and love them well.
You know what I don’t do so well with? Sharing that vast capacity to love with myself. Let me be crystal clear about this – I. Suck. At. Loving. Myself. Well.
Like, a lot.
Loving other people well comes so naturally to me, it’s like breathing. My emotional intelligence for other human beings is quite astute, but when it comes to myself, I struggle to hold space for my own feelings.
I’ve spent some time trying to determine why it is I struggle in this area and, to answer this, required some major soul searching coupled with a therapy session. Or two.
What I learned was a hard truth; it’s vulnerable and intimate but I believe in authenticity and rawness so while sharing it with the interwebs feels terrifying, I believe it to be necessary.
I don’t hold space for myself well because, deep down, I struggle with blame, shame, and feeling like a failure.
I struggle to feel worthy of having space held for me, by me, because at some unconscious level I still feel like the loss of my four precious babes is my fault and if that’s the case, I don’t deserve the gift of having space held. Logically, I know it isn’t my fault. I have done enough grief work in this area to know exactly how deep and wide the love I have for my babies is. I know I would have given anything, even my own life, to save theirs. I know logically I did everything I could to be a good mama, to fiercely protect and comfort them until God called them home; it just so happened He called them home painfully early.
Now, if a fellow Grief Warrior said this to me, that they still blamed themselves and didn’t feel worthy of having space held for themselves, I would list out the 10,000 reasons that they are worthy and enough. How the loss of their baby isn’t their fault and how great of a mama or daddy they are to their sweet babe.
Alas, for myself that grace can sometimes be in short supply. The narrative in my head says that the person who told me the loss of my first three babies was my fault, was right. The doctor that told me I could search for answers all I want but I needed to look in the mirror at my diabetes, was right. The narrative in my head that says I failed my husband, my body failed my babies, and I am worthless because I’m to blame for the deaths of four of my beloveds. I know logically they are incorrect; however, those words seared my heart like a tattoo and anyone with tattoos will tell you – they aren’t easily removed.
What I have learned about holding space for my own grief is, it’s necessary. It’s essential. It’s required. So, no matter how badly I suck at this, I have had to learn what it means to hold space for myself and my grief. Because grief waits for no one; she’s like an omnipresent friend, patiently waiting for attention until she can’t take being ignored any longer and snaps, showing up in big, inopportune ways.
This past year I found myself doing intentional work to determine how I can seek out space to hold for myself and my grief. It was hard. It was uncomfortable because sometimes it meant being unavailable for other people or causing minor inconveniences for my husband where he had to man the kids solo on a weekend so I could do what I needed to do. This is very much out of character for me; the thought of putting a burden on someone else, no matter how minor, is not something I am comfortable with. But I found that in order to truly hold space for my grief, it was a necessary piece of the puzzle.
Here’s the skinny of what I’ve learned thus far:
- It’s ok to put yourself first. As a woman I feel like the message to me from society, media, etc. is that my identity is wrapped up in how I show up for others. Being his wife, their mama, their leader, their employee, their friend/daughter/sister… all of this is what makes up my identity, right? Wrong. All of those labels make up parts of who I am but they aren’t the bedrock of who I am. Who you are is your hopes, dreams, fundamental needs and wants… that’s who you need to spend time with and getting to know.
- It’s ok to need alone time to hold space for your own grief. Every Saturday I meet my sister at our local coffee shop at 6am to spend time visiting and going over our goals, our dreams, etc. But then at some point I will put my headphones in and either write, work on Beautiful Scar Project stuff or spend time in my journal creating space for my grief to come alive. “Hello, old Friend. What are we needing to pay attention to today?”
- Pause to process. My default response is to make myself smaller. My reactions, my needs, my feelings- all of it. If someone hurts my feelings, I tend to say “it’s ok” quickly and not give myself the opportunity to feel how I feel. I’ve had to work diligently at identifying how someone’s hurtful remark or not showing up for me in a way I need them to affects me by pausing and taking time and space to process it so I can talk through it with them for resolution. This allows my relationships to be more authentic and for me to not hold onto resentments. This one is a major work in progress, y’all.
- Assessing your grief’s needs in this season and curating your life based on those needs. It won’t be forever, but maybe in the season you’re in you need to visit the cemetery more or you need to go to an additional support group. Or perhaps it’s pulling back on the grief rituals you’ve gotten used to because something has shifted. Holding space for your grief allows you to assess the shifting, the mending, the healing, and course correct accordingly. Every season is different and there’s no time limit on when you move from one to another.
- Comparison is the thief of joy. Joy is hard to come by in raw grief, and even after it softens with time and attention, can be in short supply some days. Comparing your insides with other people’s outsides wont’ serve you. “Each person’s grief is as unique as a snowflake or fingerprint.” Where you’re at on your grief journey is honorable; don’t look at her grief or his grief journey and think you need to be there too. Just as your baby and their story is unique to them, so then will your grief journey be.
I wish I was better at this. I wish it didn’t take herculean effort to remind myself that holding space for my grief is necessary for the continuation of mending. It’s a journey, not a destination and you don’t have to be anything other than who or where you are at in this season. You are seen. You are loved. You are right where you should be.