“Taking Care of Me” by Sheryl Gehrls

Principle #2: Grief can be intense and overwhelming, sometimes manifesting in unexpected sadness, exhaustion, or medical issues resulting from fulltime caregiving. As a part of my grief recovery, I choose to prioritize my self-care, getting plenty of sleep and exercise, and giving attention to my personal health.

“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So, glorify God in your body.” – I Corinthians 6:19-20

The second Refocusing Principle deals with turning our attention towards our own health and well-being after the loss of a spouse. How did the death of your spouse impact you physically, emotionally, and maybe even spiritually? After the death of a spouse, those health issues that may have been ignored or set aside during a time when other needs took priority begin to surface.

It’s not uncommon for widows to neglect their own well-being during a season of caring for a spouse with long term health issues. Not only that but working our way through the season of adjusting to widowhood brings its own set of self-neglect issues!

During the eight months that my husband was dealing with cancer surgeries and treatments, we spent a number of weeks in the Buffett Cancer Center in Omaha. Because he was unable to talk due to multiple surgeries on his tongue and neck, I stayed with him and did most of his communicating.

One day as I was sitting in his room reading, a nurse came in and asked me a question I’ve never forgotten. It speaks to the basic health needs that we can’t afford to set aside. While she was checking on my husband, she looked at me and quietly asked, “And how are you doing? Have you been fed, watered, walked and napped today?” Whether we are full time caregiving, or adjusting to being a widow, these are four basic areas of self-care that easily get put on the back burner.

Have you been fed? What a question! But maybe not such a simple one. Either we have no appetite, or we eat all the time — and we all know the results of that!  Others may find that they eat regularly but their food choices are not good ones. What it boils down to is that paying attention to getting proper nutrition is critical during a time of such high stress, especially as we are re-learning how to shop and cook for one.

Have you been watered? Headaches, joint aches, sleeplessness, fatigue, and many other symptoms are simply a result of being dehydrated. How easy it is when we’re taking care of someone else to just forget to drink plenty of water ourselves! Drinking that coffee, Dr. Pepper, and Diet Coke just to keep going is not the answer. Water, water, and more water!

Have you been walked? She was really asking, “Are you getting plenty of exercise? Are you keeping your own body in good condition?” Remember that if you lose your own health, you won’t be caring for anyone else, and you won’t be able to handle the grief as well.

 Have you been napped? Sleep, precious sleep! Sometimes sleep can be extremely elusive as we adjust to living as a widow. One day about 3 months after my husband died, my doctor mentioned to me that grief is exhausting. Believe it or not, I had never heard that before. It’s common to be more tired than usual, to feel like sitting and staring out the window for hours, or to not find the energy to do those projects that are still waiting. Try to get back on a regular sleep schedule as soon as you can and be sure to take those naps when you need them. All grief is hard on us in every way.

Psalms 31:9 says, “I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and body with grief.” Grief impacts every area of our being, including body, mind, and spirit. God gave us sleep to restore our bodies and minds.

Psalm 4:8 adds to this,” In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.” What a beautiful picture this verse paints – being able to sleep in peace because the Lord is protecting us, keeping us safe.

Grief impacts every area of our lives. Unexpected bouts of sadness, waves of tears, fatigue and exhaustion, and the inability to make decisions are all common. It doesn’t seem to matter whether you’re in the midst of caregiving or have already lost your spouse. The grieving is a process, and many times we’re grieving many smaller losses along the path to the final trauma.

As Principle #2 so beautifully reminds us, we no longer belong to ourselves. We have a responsibility to care for these bodies in the best way we can during the most difficult time of our lives. It’s a comfort to know that when we feel overwhelmed, and we can’t even decide what to eat for lunch, we can lean into the Father who cares so deeply about every detail that concerns us.

Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us the following: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.”  So, make taking care of yourself a priority, and in so doing you’ll be glorifying the Lord, and He will give you wisdom.

As you’ve walked this path of becoming a widow, have you had unexpected health issues come up for yourself? How have you made self-care and your own personal wellness a priority in your life? How has God led you and given you wisdom in this area?

Your comments and thoughts are welcome, and as always, you can contact me at sheryl@freshhope.us.


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Taking Care of Me

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