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I come first? It's okay to be a little selfish

I’m the youngest of the three girls in my family, and I admit that I’ve always had the luxury of being a little spoiled. After Jennifer and Megan both left home, I was raised like an only child, and I always felt that my parents put my needs first. Later on, after I married Brian, I discovered my needs couldn’t always be first. For instance, I no longer had complete say over where I was to live because we moved to where my husband’s employer was located. Some of them were the last place I would have chosen to live! Eventually, however, I found myself back in the Midwest, in Missouri, where Brian could get a free education through his National Guard service.

I’m not saying that I gave up all my dreams for someone else, but I did realize that I had to be flexible in any decisions I made about my career and my own educational opportunities. I made a strong effort to make it worth my while wherever we lived, and I wound up attending graduate school at the University of Missouri at St. Louis, studying Community Counseling. But in general, my main focus had switched from “me” to “family.”

After my losses, everything suddenly became about me again (which included my daughter of course). What did “I” want to do with my life? Where did “I” want to live? What kind of care did “I” need? Making decisions on my own and not having to run them by anyone else was uncomfortable at first. And, strangely, I almost felt like a child again, wanting others to answer those big issues for me. But I gradually understood that it was about making choices that made “me” feel good and that made “me” feel happy. Although that “me” focus may sound selfish, it was critical to reclaiming my spirit and inner strength. I was suddenly the sole leader and needed to take the reins on how my immediate future was going to unfold. Making my first solo decision to move to Charlotte, North Carolina, with my daughter strengthened my belief that I was capable of making important choices for my own well-being as well as Ella’s.

It can be so easy to become overwhelmed with what you think you should or shouldn’t be doing with your time. Yet, when you’ve experienced the loss of a family member who was so close, you need to remember that it is okay to be a little selfish about how you run your life. If you feel like you are bending over backward to make others—your children, your parents, your siblings, your friends—happy all the time, you are going to run out of fuel fast. It is okay to make your own decisions and to grieve on your own time. 

Some of the choices you make might not always turn out to be the best ones, but at least you are learning as you go. As long as you are doing things that resonate with “you,” that is what is most important. Remember, the way each day unfolds starts with you. It is important to find your voice. Do not let yourself become any further depleted by ignoring signs that you need to be attentive to your own needs. In the long run, your children, family, and friends will thank you for being a little selfish and learning how to become centered and grounded again. You will be a much more pleasant person in general, and in turn you will have more to give back to others!

Love and Light,

Elizabeth B.

Hip Chick Wisdom

“Death and loss can be a magnet for toxic people. It’s okay to distance yourself from these negative influences, whether they’re family, friends, in-laws, or coworkers, until you’ve had time to process your emotions. Don’t feel guilty about it. You’ve been through enough. Then, once you’ve decided to move forward, don’t let ANYONE hold you back.” —Faye H.

Hip Chick Wisdom

“Never be afraid to do the things you love in order to bring yourself healing. When my father died, someone made a comment that gave the impression it was wrong for me to ‘already’ be doing an activity that brought me peace and healing, my version of prayer/connecting with the spiritual. People will say things, and whether they think they are comforting you or processing death in their own way, may you find the inner strength to find yourself, your unique needs, and do what you must to heal by your own means no matter what anyone else says.”  —Michelle Z.

Excerpt from Creative Grieving: A Hip Chick's Path from Loss to Hope

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