meeting your own needs grieving

Meeting Your Own Needs When Grieving

By Heather Stang, MA, C-IAYT

Posted: March 18, 2024

Grief has a profound way of reaching deep into our past, stirring up long-buried unmet needs from childhood. This emotional upheaval can resurface feelings of insecurity, abandonment, or not being seen and heard. It's as if the loss we experience in the present echoes the unresolved pain and longing from our earliest years, bringing them to the surface with renewed intensity.

In it's purest form, your inner child is a vibrant source of joy, curiosity, and vulnerability. It embodies the essence of your untouched self – free, imaginative, and limitless. Yet, it also harbors your deepest wounds, unmet needs, and silenced fears. When faced with a major loss or traumatic life change, you may experience reminders, whether you are conscious of them or not, that stir up those moments of childhood where joy was overshadowed by pain, where curiosity was met with silence, and where vulnerability felt like a liability rather than a strength.

It's during these times of reflection that the full spectrum of your unmet needs come into sharp focus. While undoubtedly painful, this is a perfect time to tend to those core wounds and unhealed traumas that have shaped your journey. Addressing these aspects of your self builds a bridge between past and present, empowering you to become your best ally, and serves as a gateway to deeper self-awareness and compassion.

Giving Yourself What Others Can Not

The main core wounds typically stem from early experiences of abandonment, leading to deep-seated fears of being left alone or forgotten. Feelings of unworthiness can arise from persistent messages, both overt and subtle, that one is not good enough, contributing to chronic self-doubt. Rejection, whether through personal relationships or societal interactions, fosters a sense of not belonging or being fundamentally flawed. Betrayal by those trusted can shake the foundation of one's ability to trust, leading to guardedness and relational challenges. 

Yes, it would be great if we could rely on others to treat us kindly. But the only person we can control is ourselves. Ending the cycle of self-abandonment is the direct path to having our needs met consistently, and can help us build skills that can improve our relationship to both ourselves and to others. 

Think about it, what would be possible if you learn how to offer yourself the compassion, presence, and nurturing your really need after a loss?  Grief becomes not just a path of sorrow, but a deeply transformative process that invites you to meet and nurture your inner child, crafting a foundation of inner security and self-love that can support you through loss and beyond.

Let's explore how to tenderly communicate with and care for your inner child, employing both emotional and physical practices to fully address your needs.

Speak Compassionately to Your Inner Self

Your inner child's needs are fundamentally human – to be seen, heard, and loved unconditionally. Recognizing these needs involves introspection and honesty, peeling back the layers of conditioning to reveal the raw desires of your core self. The words you use with yourself shape your reality. Speaking to your inner child with kindness and understanding can bridge the gap between hurt and healing. Replace critical or dismissive self-talk with words that soothe and uplift.

  • Acknowledge Your Feelings: Give yourself permission to listen to yourself, and validate your emotions as you would for a dear friend.
  • Use a Self-Compassion Mantra: Gentle, affirming statements can reinforce a sense of safety and love. "I am here for you," "You are enough," and "Your feelings matter" are powerful starters.
  • Catch and Reframe: When you find yourself speaking in an unkind tone to yourself, simply stop, place your hand over your heart, and use your self-compassion mantra to change the tone.

Embrace Physical Self-Soothing to Meet Your Needs

Physical comfort plays a critical role in healing your inner child. It's a tangible way to provide the safety and security that might have been lacking in your past. This includes creating a space that feels safe in your home, and tending to any discomfort in your body.

  • Self-Hugs: Wrapping your arms around yourself can be a profound gesture of self-love and acceptance.
  • Comfort Items: Objects like soft blankets, plush toys, or anything that evokes a sense of safety can be incredibly soothing.
  • Mindful Movement: Gentle yoga or slow, mindful walks can help reconnect with your body and offer comfort to your inner child.

Integrate Inner Child Work into Daily Life

Make it a habit to check in with your inner child, especially during moments of stress or decision-making. Allow your inner child to express through creative outlets like drawing, dancing, or writing. These activities can unlock deep-seated emotions and facilitate healing.

  • Write A Morning Note To Yourself: I like to start my day with a check-in with myself in my journal to start the day off on a compassionate note. Use these writing prompts: "What do I need right now?" or "How can I make this easier for us?" 
  • Create a Physical Sanctuary: This safe space can be a quiet corner of your home dedicated to relaxation and introspection. It doesn't have to be a big space, just include comfort items listed above. 
  • Embed Mindfulness in Your Routine: Incorporate moments of mindfulness throughout your day to maintain a gentle, ongoing dialogue with your inner child. 

Embracing and nurturing your inner child is a courageous step toward self-discovery and emotional resilience. It requires patience, practice, and a great deal of compassion. As you embark on this journey, remember that you're not alone.

The path to healing is both personal and universal. If you're seeking support and guidance through this process, consider joining the Awaken Online Grief Support Program. Here, you'll find a community that understands and embraces the journey of healing, offering tools and companionship as you navigate the complex landscape of meeting your needs and healing your inner child.

Heather Stang, MA, C-IAYT

About the author

Heather Stang, M.A. is the author of Living with Grief and the guided journal, From Grief To Peace. She is the creator of the Mindfulness & Grief System that is featured in the Handbook of Grief Therapies (2023) and is the founder of Awaken, a mindfulness-based online grief support group. Heather also hosts the Mindfulness & Grief Podcast, and offers mindfulness-based grief support online through her organization, the Mindfulness & Grief Institute. She holds a Masters degree in Thanatology (Death, Dying, and Bereavement) from Hood College in Maryland, and is a certified Yoga Therapist. She currently lives in Falling Waters, WV.

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