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self-compassion woman and dog

If we consider ourselves a compassionate person, most likely we are thinking about the compassion that we have for other people. We readily offer kind words, support and encouragement to those among our friends and family who are hurting and try to be patient and understanding with their struggles and pain. When it comes to extending that same level of support to ourselves, however, most of us fall short. We think and are often taught that we should always put others before ourselves, or feel somehow undeserving of kindness and support. Sometimes we simply don’t think about our own needs at all. This way of thinking can lead to burnout, resentment, physical health issues, or depression.

With the way the world is currently, we are ALL dealing with various stressors and are grieving losses, and we should try to do a better job of practicing compassion for ourselves.

What does that look like?

In some ways, it’s a little tweaking of the Golden Rule, which tells us to treat others the way we want to be treated. Self-compassion is treating ourselves the way we would want others to treat us. This can feel strange and seem selfish, but selfishness and self- compassion are two different things. To be selfish is to think only about one’s self and not others; self-compassion (or self-care) is to think about one’s own needs in addition to thinking about the needs of others. We need to make sure we treat ourselves in a way that builds us up and sustains us so that we can continue to offer help and support to others.

In grief, self-compassion is important because it can help us to be patient with ourselves and our experiences during the grieving process. Now is not the time to be critical and judging of yourself and your grief. Everyone’s grief is unique to them and is experienced in its own way.

Dr. Kristen Neff has spent most of her research career studying self-compassion – it’s benefits and how to cultivate it. Her website, is full of information and exercises, such as testing your own level of self-compassion. The website also features a TED talk she gave noting the difference and relationship between self-compassion and self-esteem. This is a great resource to start working on your own self-compassion. Be kind to yourself during your grief or pandemic grief process. Be just as kind as you would be to your best friend.