Five Ways To Be Gentle With Yourself

Re-posted from

When a baby is lost, there are many pieces of good advice offered up by caring friends and family. The wisest and the most oft repeated is something along the lines of, “Be gentle with yourself.”  This is so right.

And so correct.

And yet, this is so difficult to enact.

In the midst of anxiety attacks and in the throes of grief, it is hard to know how to be gentle with oneself. We have all been there – in that moment of panic and despair when time seems to stop. There is only the white-hot thrumming of our pulse. A reminder to keep on breathing because even the reflex quality of breath is compromised.

Here are five small ways to try to be in a moment, and honor it and the loss it signifies.

There was a time when I could not control the despair I felt when reading just these sorts of lists. I knew that nothing would make me feel better and I was not entirely sure whether I even wanted to feel better. My memories at how I once viewed these lists have given me great pause about providing one here.

In no way do I mean to suggest that your grief can be dealt with in list form. Nothing I say here can even begin to scratch the surface. I fear coming off as trite and not honoring enough the pain I know from personal experience. It seers.

But once upon a time, my yogi friend Alex showed up on my doorstep to coach me on breathing. This did not help me resolve my grief, but it did help me stay in the moment so that eventually I could begin to integrate it.

Because there were those moments when I just felt so bad – so full of abject panic–that I really did need to find a way to steady my racing thoughts.

Another way to think of lists about feeling better is to consider that they may sustain you as you grieve and remember. They may help you focus in small ways as you find ways to commune with your baby.

  1. Familiarize yourself with breathing exercises. Consider going to a yoga class or a meditation class so that your efforts to reflect and remember can be assisted by breath training.
  1. Find a tube of lotion and carry it in your purse. Apply lotion and vigorously massage your hands in bad moments. If you choose a scent that evokes something calming this is also helpful. I chose lemon verbena.
  1. Create a memorial as you see fit. Make a memory box of items that remind you of your pregnancy and your baby. Sonogram pictures, blankets, and poems or affirmations can be useful memorial items.
  1. Take long walks outside. Getting out into the world without really engaging it can distract in moments when a respite from anxiety is helpful. You can walk in a city or in a rural setting. Be mindful of each of your senses.
  1. Keep things that inspire you available. Bookmark a favorite scene from a movie and watch it. Leave bookmarks in books that move you. Read poems. Art reflects a central fact of being human that I cannot convey here. It has something to do with the nature of loss as transformative, the idea that our suffering does matter. It allows for the possibility that we will find a way to honor our babies in our lives.

Do be gentle with yourself.


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