When I was in 7th grade, my very first boyfriend broke up with me. We had been dating for a whole 3 weeks, and he even gave me a timid, closed-lipped kiss on the mouth at the back of the bus when the driver wasn’t looking. So when he shattered my heart one Monday morning at school, I was devastated.
I spent the day crying off and on in the bathroom, and basking in the comfort of my group of girlfriends, who all agreed he was a jerk and a manwhore, even though we had no idea what that meant.
I went home and told my mom, who gave me a very sage bit of wisdom that I have carried with me. She said this: “Cry your eyes out tonight. Feel every bit as bad as you do. Play the victim with your school friends if you need to today and let them take care of you.
And then you get up tomorrow, pick out a nice outfit, and walk into that school with your head held high and like you can’t even remember his name. Because you have work to do.”
Of course, the work she meant was Pre-Algebra class, and both my work and my disappointments have evolved significantly since 7th grade.
But I think giving myself a period of mourning with the intention to rise still holds true. As women, we have no choice but to rise for our families and communities, but without enough self-care, love, and connection, we won’t be able to do it well.
Here’s a set of self-care practices for rising. It is what I am practicing, and it is my heartfelt hope this will help you, too.
Allow yourself to fully feel your feelings. All of them. Even the dramatic ones. Let yourself cry until your eyes are raw. Get pissed and resentful at having your hopes snatched away. Be sad and angry and let that be okay. If you’re scared you’ll get lost in the maze of bad feelings and won’t be able to find your way out, give your self a time limit. Let yourself rage for an hour, or a day, or month, then resolve to leave the maze of your own accord. What you feel is normal, and valid, and okay, and you do not have to rush this process or compare your grieving process to anyone else's.
If you have family members on the other side of the fence, it is okay to take a time out from talking to them. It is not silly or selfish or immature to put yourself in time out while you are raw-it is self care, and it is okay. The map bears out that you have some people in your bloodline who don't think like you do, even if they haven’t admitted it. This could be the cord-cutting you never knew you needed. While it hurts, it may be your moment to let go of their expectations or your need for their permission. You don't have to cut them out forever, but attempt to avoid engaging while you’re raw. They’ve been angry for a long time, and now, you’re angry, too. What you have to say right now likely isn’t coming from a place of love and understanding. That’s okay, but mull it over for a bit so that when you’re ready to engage, it’s from a place of consciousness, not raw reactivity and pain. You are allowed to set and enforce boundaries. You are in charge of you.
Eat green things and proteins. Sleep. Move your body. Go to yoga. Hug your pet. Drink lots of water. It’s normal to feel unsafe in your body when you are grieving. If you value the awe-inspiring power of the female body, show what you value by treating your body with love.
Take a break from social media and give yourself permission to use the “unfollow” button if you need to. Or just do a short tech detox in general. Leave your phone at home and get outside to clear your head. While it’s great to hear the other side’s perspective and collapse the illusion of separation, you are under no obligation to listen to hate speech or read things that make you feel sad, sick, and unsafe.
Try not to judge yourself for a lack of productivity this week. You’ve been through a lot, and anyone who felt emotionally invested in this election cycle would feel drained and unmotivated.
Find a community of women and refuse to suffer in silence. Join a Facebook group or women’s circle. Surround yourself with people who validate your feelings and fears. Choose to connect and let that start to heal some of the wounds.