In today’s Community News Blog we have the final volume of our guest blog series, ‘What Grief has taught me’ by Community member MelanieL. Melanie has been a member of the Community and a contributor to the Prostate cancer, Carers only and Bereaved spouses and partners discussion groups for a long time. Melanie lost her husband Paul to an advanced form of prostate cancer in May of 2018. Throughout this series Melanie explains what she has learnt in her journey through bereavement so far, in the hope that it will be of help to many. If you missed Vol 2 of Melanie's blog, ‘The problem with looking too far ahead’, you can click here to read it.
Vol 3 - The time for good self-care is now
I have learned how important good self-care is. It can be so difficult to look after our own needs when we have looked after our loved one's needs for a long time. In the first couple of months after Paul's death, I really did not know how to do this "self-care thing" as my natural instinct is to be a caring person for someone else – and there is nothing wrong with that – but it meant that I have been finding it difficult to look after my own needs.
‘In the first couple of months after Paul’s death, I really did not know how to do this “self- care” thing’
After the loss of a loved one for whom we have been the sole carer, we do need a lot of self-care because we are physically, emotionally and mentally exhausted. So now is the time to learn to look after ourselves. The exhaustion after Paul's death was a physical exhaustion because I had neither slept nor eaten much during the final weeks of Paul’s life and then there was all the crying and all the pulling-my-self-together moments when that was necessary.
‘So now is the time to learn to look after ourselves’
It was emotional exhaustion because I was dealing with all my sadness and pain of loss and panic about the future and longing for Paul. There was mental exhaustion too because I had been doing so much thinking for months. I felt so run down and tired for the first couple of months that I often thought I would get sick. And it was during that time that I started to do things for myself. It did not feel comfortable at first, but over time, very gradually, I started to enjoy preparing meals for myself, making healthy smoothies, listening to music, watching films, getting back into walking, getting back into reading, returning to meditation.
‘I can feel that it is good for me. And I would like to encourage you to do the same’
It is still a work in progress. I think I will never be a person who is particularly good at looking after herself. But I am better now and I can feel that it is good for me. And I would like to encourage you to do the same: find out what you need to feel good – and not from numbing your pain but from something that is really good and healthy for you – and practice new ways of self-care.
‘I truly believe we have to make the most of our time here and our loved ones would absolutely want that for us too’
Our loved ones are gone. But we are still here and I truly believe we have to make the most of our time here and our loved ones would absolutely want that for us too.
We want to thank Melanie for kindly sharing her words with us over the past few months. The Community is a place where anyone who has been affected by cancer can talk openly with others who may have been in a similar situation. Our ‘Bereaved spouses and partners’ group, as well as our ‘Bereaved family and friends’ group, are safe spaces dedicated to providing support to those who have lost loved ones to cancer.