Self-care is not something I’m good at, although I’m getting better. I’m used to being the type of person who goes everywhere and does everything for everybody but myself, and that’s exactly what I did when I returned to campus following my father’s passing and funeral. We had his funeral service on January 8th, and on January 13th I was back on campus with a singing engagement with my a Cappella group that same night. I stayed busy and I focused on everything but my father’s passing. Unlike my family in Charlotte, I wasn’t forced to face the fact that he was gone. I didn’t grieve immediately, and it took me a while to get to a point where I could grieve because there were lessons I had to learn first.
One lesson I learned is that it’s okay to not be okay. In this next season of my life, I am working on being honest and vulnerable with people, especially as I consider my call to ministry. We all struggle in one way or another, but we rarely see the struggles of others because we all wear the mask. I had a community of people within my house who would have supported me if I decided to break down and cry, but I didn’t do that because I had to be strong. There were days I would shed a tear in Leos (the cafeteria) and then get myself together because I had to go to class or days where I cried, but when no one was home or when everyone was asleep. I tried so hard (I think I succeeded) at looking strong. It wasn’t until more recently that I learned there is strength in vulnerability, and it’s okay to cry. The song “Just Cry” by Mandisa really struck this point for me. The lyrics say the following: “You don’t need to run. You don’t need to speak. Baby take some time, and let those prayers roll down your cheek. It may be tomorrow. You’ll be past the sorrow, but tonight it’s alright: Just Cry.” (This sing is also in the playlist for my first blog on grief and reconciliation with God.) Sometimes you just have to cry, it doesn’t matter where you are or who you’re with. You never know who will be empowered by your vulnerability.
Another lesson I learned is that we need to check in on other people. We should not expect people to communicate to us when their struggling because people rarely do. Telling someone to let you know if they need anything (although well-intentioned) is not enough. We do not know what people are going through, and we won’t know until we take time out to sit down and check on them. Now, there were a few people that checked on me, and it truly means a lot. They were willing to reach out just to see where I was and to listen. Sometimes all a person needs is to have someone there to listen. These people provided a space where I could grieve and be vulnerable, and we should all strive to create these spaces for the people in our lives. We should strive to create spaces where people can just be their authentic selves without feeling the need to wear a mask or to be strong.
In grief and other difficult times, it is important to take care of yourself in other areas as well such as physically and spiritually. This was probably my most Spirit-filled semester yet. I went to church service every Sunday (most days twice because I go off campus as well as attend the service on campus). I had gospel choir on Thursdays. I went to the ENC (Every Nation Campus) Conference which is a conference for college students, the prophetic conference at Grace Covenant Church, and two of the ENC worship nights. I also ministered through dance with my one of my roommates at the Vessels Conference and went to the Travis Greene Concert with one of my roommates and GU Sisters for Christ. Additionally, I had the Protestant Ministry Student Vestry as a a source of support and also served on a ministry at my church. Even in my grief, I felt the presence of God all around me. I sought God, and I found Him everywhere.
Moreover, taking care of myself spiritually was also important because I have to be poured into myself. I continued to pour myself into my clubs and organizations and into the people around me, but I couldn’t forget that people had to pour into me as well. Someone once said, if we continue to pour into others but have no one to pour into ourselves, we’ll end up empty. We’re no good to anyone empty. As I continued to pour out myself in my time of grief, I had to allow the Holy Spirit and the edifying words of those around me to “Fill Me Up.”
Finally, sometimes we just need to be still. (This was the topic of a devotional I read recently on the Bible app). If you’re a busy person like myself, it is good to take a break every now and then. Being still can look different ways for different people. For me, being still looked like taking time to just dance freely. It meant taking time to reflect on the good times I had with my father. It meant providing myself with a space to just cry. It may be going to a spa or going shopping. It’s doing that one thing you love to do. It’s sitting in silence and allowing God to speak to you and to move through your life. Being still provides you with time to prioritize yourself, and this is very important in a fast-paced society like ours.
Self-care is one of the most important things you can do for yourself and for others. In many ways, self-care is radical. We have to take care of our needs before we can take care of the needs of others. Additionally, we cannot be reconciled with others if we’re not reconciled with ourselves, but we must first be reconciled to God.