I feel joy when I look at my friends’ photos from their walks outside, especially when there is a gorgeous cherry blossom in the background. Living in a building, I have tried to avoid being in elevators with other people as much as possible. Today was the first time that I left my home in a few weeks. I cannot describe how much joy I experienced as I took in the biggest breath of fresh spring air. However, with every step that I took, I experienced a wave of mixed emotions comprised of happiness, stress, and a deep sense of sadness. This sadness emerged from a realization about everything that I was missing in my life that I had previously taken for granted.
This past couple of weeks, I have been reading valuable articles and listening to podcasts that refer to this sense of sadness as grief. However, I noticed I had a certain resistance to this idea. I was refusing to call my experience of sadness grief because I thought that doing so would take something away from people who had actually lost someone. With this refusal came a sense of emptiness, because I did not know what to call the void that I felt. I chose to ignore it and to dive so deep into my work that I became consumed by it until eventually, I realized that no amount of work could make the feeling disappear. Walking down the streets of a much emptier city and remembering my regular life, this feeling intensified.
When I arrived home, I finally sat down and took the time for a deeper reflection. I held onto the very wise words of Dr. David Kessler, a grief expert that I had heard speak on Brené Brown’s brilliant podcast earlier this week. Dr. Kessler mentioned a phrase that resonated immensely with me: the worst loss is always your loss. Through my reflection today, I realized that I had not been tuning in to my own experience and needs out of fear of potentially invalidating the experiences of other people. I held on so tightly to his message that “we are all dealing with the collective loss of the world as we knew it”, and that it is okay for everyone to feel whatever they are feeling because everyone’s experience is SO valid.
This was an important reminder to me that we do not need permission to feel our emotions and to process our experiences; and that we have the right in this world to occupy space. Through this reflection, I washed off the resistance towards my own experience. I turned inwards and showed up for myself with compassion, kindness, and self-trust. As women, we grow up with societal expectations to be nurturing of others and be considerate toward others. That is all okay if it serves us, AND it is also okay to challenge these societal discourses when they do not speak to and nourish our souls. We deserve to also be nurturing toward ourselves, and one of the ways we can do this is by accessing our personal resources of self-compassion, self-acknowledgment, self-validation, self-love, self-kindness, and self-trust.
Today I am choosing to honor my feelings of loss and sadness. I am naming what it is that I am feeling because if I don’t label it, how can I understand it? How can I grow from my experience? I am allowing myself to feel sad because the world as we know it, as I know it, has dramatically changed. I look around me and I see people grieving the loss of someone, the loss of a job, the anticipatory loss of their wedding as they had envisioned it, the loss of physical touch, the loss of entering into parenthood as they had imagined, the loss of healing from a break up with the physical support of friends and loved ones, the loss of travel, the loss of seeing family, the loss of exciting opportunities, and the list goes on and on and on. I am still settling into the reality that we are living in unprecedented times that have brought up feelings of uncertainty, anxiety, and fear for many.
Through my reflection today, I am also trying to find meaning by recognizing that as difficult as this time has been, it has also called for a sense of humanity, compassion, and resilience. I am deeply touched and inspired when I hear stories about people helping each other in any way they can. It motivates me to take the lead as well and show up for others. It may not be life-changing, but I can do my part and contribute, even if I start small. We can show up for others in so many ways. A phone call, a text, a letter, or a note sent by mail, doing groceries for someone, making donations when possible, letting someone know that we are there. An important way that we can show up for each other right now is by honoring our experiences and emotions as valid, as well as by reminding each other that this will not last forever. We can highlight each other’s strengths and sources of resilience, and lift each other up in every way that we can. We can do all of this for others AND for ourselves too.
Let’s make a commitment to show up for ourselves on a daily basis, and on a moment-to-moment basis that allows us to start over if we ever forget. Let’s make taking care of ourselves an intentional and disciplined daily activity, with the understanding that this will look different for everyone. Self-care goes far beyond bubble baths and tea; it is also about doing the work that will facilitate our continuous growth. Let’s slow down to become more mindful of the present gifts that unravel on a daily basis, from having potable water to appreciating the people around us, and ourselves even if that is a simple “thank you me for getting me through today”. Let’s continue to find meaning where we can, in the things that we have so often thought of as ordinary.
If you want to expand on your self-compassion practice, Dr. Neff’s website, here, offers multiple free resources. If you want to listen to the podcast by Dr. David Kessler and Dr. Brené Brown, you can find it here.
By: Alejandra Botia, M.A., RCC
Communications Coordinator & Mentorship Co-Chair | Women In Leadership Vancouver
Counselling Psychology Doctoral Student | The University of British Columbia
She/ her/ hers