It is important that bereaved mothers take time to wash their hair.
In the past I’ve shared why it’s important for grieving mothers to do so much for others. Though I can not speak for everyone, I will say, most of those I have talked to have agreed it’s something we are compelled to do. Of the half dozen moms who have lost children, in my “real” life, each one has found a way to make the world a better place. The few who haven’t are still searching for what will be the right fit to do in memory of their child.
The reasons we do this can be as varied as each mother herself. From nonprofits to help children in need or to providing free clothing to those who are without all the way through to scholarships given at the deceased child’s high school. We must “do” something.
We know the world can be a very ugly place. The truth of what can happen to our precious child(ren) is real in our lives. We’ve experienced it. Having been (and being) at the very depths of despair and hopelessness we are more attune to those who are hurting. We can see it in their eyes. Hear it in their voice. Their struggle isn’t lost on us. This is something we can (maybe) help make better. So, we try.
There is also, in us, a burning need to make sure our child is not forgotten by the world that keeps moving forth. Eventually, our family and friends move back into their normal routines. Often times, when the third or fourth death anniversary (or birthday) passes by . . . very few reach out to us to say “hey, you and your child are not forgotten”. Realizing this is a slicing pain through our already fractured heart. When we do things “in our child’s memory” we keep their name more current in a world that seems to be erasing them a little at a time. Good acts that our child would have done had they lived.
Often times, though, we give at the expense of ourselves.
I am not sure why we lower ourselves on the list of “to do’s”. For myself, I know I didn’t think I deserved to be alive. I was an old 42 when Becca was killed. She was a much too young 23. I’d lived more life than she would ever have a chance to experience. I had children. She won’t ever know the joy of holding her brand new baby. I had a wedding. My beautiful girl won’t be nervous as she walks the aisle to her soon to be husband. I had lived plenty of years and I didn’t need anymore . . . she did.
When we don’t think we deserve anything we don’t take care of ourselves. Are we punishing ourselves for still being alive after our child has died? I am often ashamed that I managed to survive her death. My inner dialogue is this: how can you be happy? How can you laugh? A loving mother would have died, herself, from the heartbreak. You don’t deserve happiness.
Many times, we think nothing matters. Worrying about clean clothes seems ridiculous to us when our child is gone. Shortly after losing Becca, my cousin Tammy called me. She was distraught and asked why we bother to do the right thing when it’s all a game of chance in the end. I didn’t have an answer for her. I still don’t have an answer as to why. But, I do know we are worthing caring for.
Quite recently, a dear friend of mine overextended herself with a promise she made to four girls. Even though she knew there was very little hope of fulfilling the promise she tried her damndest. For days I watched her run herself ragged trying to provide what she said she would. I was pretty sure it wouldn’t come to fruition but I knew she needed to try. She could barely stand up straight but she kept working hard to give what they’d agreed upon even though the last girl she helped had stolen from her. Why? Because it’s what we do. We give, even if (and especially when) it’s at a cost to our own well being.
We have to be very careful that we don’t continually put ourselves in last place.
I thought I was doing pretty well in this respect. Turns out I wasn’t. Want to know what made me realize this? Ragged underwear. Old underwear I wasn’t able to throw away. They had no sentimental value (as if underwear could) but I kept wearing them anyway. While doing laundry with Stacey she made a comment about how we deserve nice things. I agree. But then I held up a pair of my very tattered underwear and she said: throw them away. You deserve better. And, she’s right.
Caring for ourselves has to be a priority. Giving all we have to others and saving very little for ourselves just makes this journey harder. Our souls can not heal if our bodies are neglected. Our well being, physical, mental, and spiritual is braided together. When we care for our bodies we care for our souls. The best thing we can do for ourselves is to care for our child’s mother. I know Becca would want that for me. And, I’m pretty sure your child would want that for you.
I threw the old underwear in the trash. Then, I took a shower and washed my hair.
If you are having a difficult time caring for yourself . . . try doing one small thing just for you today. Then tomorrow, add one more. You don’t have to stop “doing” for others . . . but put yourself at the top of the list.
With all you’ve been through . . . you truly deserve it.