Self-Care Strategies for Parents & Caregivers
By Tracy Hart, LCMHC
When Kids Path counselors talk with families after a loved one has died, the counselors ask whether that person would like grief support for themselves as well. Very often that person will say, “I’m OK right now, and I just want to focus on making sure my child is getting support.”
Grief counseling can be helpful for many kids and teens who have experienced loss. However, one of the most beneficial steps you can take to support your child is to make sure your own needs are being met. As the saying goes, it’s impossible to pour from an empty cup.
In addition to considering your own grief counseling at this time, there are small but significant ways you can care for yourself every day. Here are some tips for maintaining self-care while coping with loss.
Start with the most basic needs
Grief can impact your physical functions, from interrupted sleep to changes in appetite. Try to stay hydrated, eat meals or frequent small healthy snacks, and keep a regular sleep schedule. Find ways to move your body, such as taking a short walk or doing a free 10-minute yoga video online. When it comes to physically caring for yourself, you don’t need to do it perfectly, just keep making a small effort. If it’s hard to remember to eat or have some water, consider setting a reminder on your phone or placing a note somewhere you’ll see it often.
Use your five senses
For each of your five senses (sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch), think of two to three things that feel comforting or relaxing. For example, you may enjoy using a lavender-scented hand lotion or listening to music that is soothing for you. Try to add these elements to your daily routine. You may also find that you need additional comforts to help you sleep at night, such as a heavy blanket or white noise.
Expressing grief feelings
You may be feeling sadness, anger, or many other emotions related to your loss. Expressing these feelings can be a healthy release. You can talk with a trusted friend, write in a journal, use a soft object like a pool noodle to hit your couch or bed, or engage in a vigorous activity like dancing or running. Crying also is a valid way to release strong feelings.
Grief counseling and support groups
If your loss is making it difficult to function every day, you don’t have to go it alone. Kids Path works closely with adult bereavement counselors who can provide parents and caregivers with coping tools and insight about the grief process. Support groups are also available.
Grief counseling resources
The licensed counselors at Kids Path offer free phone consultations to assist you in finding appropriate community resources for your family’s needs. Call 336-544-5437 and ask to speak with a counselor.
Tracy Hart is a children’s counselor on the Greensboro campus.