Physical Health for Widows

Giving Yourself Permission to Take Care of Yourself

by Melissa Pierce

I could talk about self-care for days — it’s a topic near and dear to my heart and it’s a practice that moved me through the darkest parts of my grief. It got me to a place where I eventually had hope for the future.

It’s been 10 years since Dave’s sudden death and sometimes I am brought right back to that time of shock, sadness, and loneliness. That time of barely hanging on until I hit rock bottom and I knew in my gut that I had to start taking better care of myself so that I could take care of my sons.

Here’s what my path on the way to rock bottom looked like:

  • Avoiding my feelings and not processing my emotions around Dave’s death. (Who has time for feelings? Not me! And it took some time for me to believe he was not coming back from the dead.)
  • Not eating and losing so much weight that my wedding ring fell off my finger.
  • Working a full-time job, running the household (paying bills, grocery shopping, walking our dog, etc.), and the care and feeding of my kids — doing all things solo-parenting after Dave’s death.
  • After kids are in bed, settling in with a glass of wine (or 2 or 3 — you see where this might be going) to “help” me sleep.

I tried, but I couldn’t keep all the plates spinning. How could I? I was last on the list of “things to do”!

After several months of haphazard “plate spinning” I was going downhill and the kids were going with me and that was not going to happen!

So I made a big decision. I made a commitment to myself to place my needs at the top of the list.

It’s like when you’re flying on a plane and they tell you to put the oxygen mask on first before assisting your child with theirs. I knew I couldn’t help my kids process their grief if I wasn’t dealing with my own.

I basically felt numb all the time, so I decided to be open to anything that might make me feel something (hopefully good). I started with my body and got regular massages and pedicures. In the past, I generally didn’t pay that much attention to bodily self care. Sure, I did the occasional mani-pedi with girlfriends and got a massage here and there, but it was different now. I took a lot of baths because I liked the feel of warm water on my skin.

This was not at all how I operated my life up to that point, but I share this with you because I understand what you are going through. I know you’re moving through hard things right now and I want to share these game-changing actions that were on the top of my list:

Find and connect with your people at Modern Widows Club. They get you, they know what you’re going through, they can help.

Listen to a podcast focusing on widow issues and widow resources.

Take time to move your body and manage the stress of grieving. Take a walk outdoors, take a warm bath, stretch a bit, check out a yoga video on YouTube.

Breathe. Your breath is always available to you. Try this calming technique:

  • Inhale for a count of 4
  • Hold for a count of 4
  • Exhale for a count of 4
  • Hold for a count of 4
  • Repeat 4 times

Try one of these tips, or all of them. Give yourself permission to take care of yourself, even write yourself a “prescription” for it.

The more I cared for myself, the better I felt. I was pretty much open to anything because I wanted to feel better — to feel good, even if it was just for 5 minutes.

Each step I took on my self-care quest built self-confidence and gave me the courage to move forward in healing and processing my grief. I felt stronger and I made better decisions. And you can too….

Take care of yourself, Wister.

Melissa Pierce, widowed in 2011 after the sudden loss of her husband Dave, is the Founder of Filled With Gold. She interviews guest experts on her weekly Filled With Gold Widow Podcast, providing support and insight into the widowhood journey.

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Knowing there are women who have not only survived what I was going through, but were also thriving and moving forward in their lives.
— MSC Wister® (Widow + Sister)