We seem conditioned to believe that kindness is an outside offering that comes to us rather than a gift we bestow on ourselves. I was struck by how simple kindness was undervalued among some grief supporters. Kindnesses are paid during the funeral period, but after the funeral kindness slowly evaporates, perhaps as part of the “move on” preconception that grief supporters engage.
In the months following my mother’s death, after receiving countless criticisms, I learned that if I wanted kindness in my life I had to become my own source of kindness and value myself enough to believe that I deserved it regardless of how others treated me. We cannot outsource the giving of kindness; we must assume this responsibility for ourselves.
Self-kindness is not about being nice to yourself. Buddhism teaches a practice of loving-kindness, the altruistic extension of love and kindness to all people with the goal of allowing them to bloom. While this practice encourages us to care for others, it begins by extending loving-kindness to oneself. Loving -kindness is a part of a lifestyle, it is not something you extend yourself for two hours twice a week. The kinder we become to ourselves, the more we become loving-kindness.
An important aspect of self-kindness all grievers must remember is self-forgiveness. When we dwell on guilt or embarrassment over mistakes and missteps we make in the grief process we obstruct healing before it even begins. Ignore outside criticism for your missteps, reflect on your behavior, understand why it occurred, forgive yourself, and keep going. You cannot execute life and grieve perfectly. Be gentle to yourself so you can thrive.
Consider these thoughts on how to practice self-kindness:
- You deserve kindness. You deserve to be treated gently, honestly, fairly, and lovingly. By giving yourself a break, you are taking the first step of (re)introducing loving-kindness to your life. You are reminding yourself, amidst all the noise and chaos of life, that you are worthy, valuable, and deserving of goodness.
- Self-kindness is necessary for living your best life. Being good to ourselves is often treated as an “if…then” statement: If I achieve X, then I can give myself Y. However, offering ourselves loving-kindness comes with no such contingencies. Treating yourself kindly is not a reward for achievements you make along your grief journey. You give yourself kindness because you want to achieve small and large goals along your grief journey. Self-kindness is your source for self-motivation.
- Self-kindness is not self-indulgence. Once in a while we are self-indulgent. We eat that rich dessert, go for a spa weekend, buy that item we don’t really need. Self-kindness is about loving yourself and treating yourself in a way that promotes a healthy, balanced lifestyle. Self-kindness advocates the cultivation of a compassionate lifestyle that puts grievers’ healing first and supports grievers’ thriving in the world.