Be Kind to Yourself

Cup of tea with teabag on blue textured background

Happy New Year, my dear Readers!

I know, I know, it’s the end of January and my wish for you comes almost a month late. But there is a reason for that.

You see, January was a challenging month for me. Over the years, several members of my husband’s and my close family have passed away during December and January.

While time does heal some wounds, the void these loved ones left is still there.

In December, I still tried to “push through”, but the loss of my dad four years ago and my godmother three years ago, both in early January, brought back grief. Old memories resurfaced, the family members appeared in my dreams, and a cloud of sadness settled over me. I withdrew and became quiet.

In our culture we are expected to be “professional” by leaving our worries at home when we head to our jobs. We are supposed to be positive and upbeat.

Who wants to see red eyes from crying, a clenched jaw as you suppress your anger, a frown on your forehead because you worry about your financial situation, a sick friend, or the (in)security of your job?

Yet feelings of grief, anger, and fear exist, and they happen to everyone.

How can we handle these difficult emotions without being overwhelmed by them? After all, grief, anger, or fear by themselves are important aspects of mental HEALTH.

For me it meant I had to acknowledge my grief and honor my natural response of becoming quiet. I needed to sit with a cup of tea and my aching heart. I had to trust that my tears will dry as January passes.

I’m aware I’m privileged regarding my job. The only result of my withdrawal noticeable by the world outside my own bubble was that I didn’t send out my newsletter with New Year’s wishes in a timely manner. At the same time, I spent more time immersing myself into sketching and creating new work as my studio is a space for healing and processing my thoughts in an artistic form.

However, I worked with a different mindset than usually: Be Kind to Yourself.

I allowed myself to do what I enjoy most, which is surrounding myself with color and creating with fabric,

not to agonize about blogging or writing a newsletter or keeping up with the Joneses of the (fiber) art world and

to go to the studio not with the intention to produce new work but to use the energy of creativity for my own healing.

I did not pretend that everything was “fine”, not “push through”, not worry about what others might think.

Instead, I took care of myself. While it’s easy for me to be compassionate towards others, I really had to put effort into being kind to myself. But I trusted I was doing the best I could under the circumstances.

As it turned out I still worked 40+ hours a week. I felt better as the weeks progressed.

I found balance. I look back at memories with gratitude for these family members being part of my life. Now I can breathe easy again.

I don’t anticipate the void that lost loved ones left behind will ever be filled. I expect December and January of the next few years will continue to challenge me. But I also imagine getting better at facing this time of sorrow.

If you experience difficult emotions, acknowledge them. Allow yourself to sit with the pain, the anger, or the fear without feeling overpowered by them. Trust this phase will pass. Believe you are doing the best you can under the circumstances. And most of all, be kind to yourself!

Christine

PS: If sadness, anger or fear overwhelm you in your daily activities or last for an extended time you might want to check in with your general practitioner. There is no shame in asking for help!