Self Care Guidelines

We who care for the bereaved and the dying have a wondrous opportunity: to help others embrace and grow through grief-and to lead fuller, more deeply-lived lives ourselves because of this important work.

But our work is draining-physically, emotionally and spiritually. We must first care for ourselves if we want to care well for others. This manifesto is intended to empower you to practice good self-care.

1. I deserve to lead a joyful, whole life.

No matter how much I love and value my work, my life is multi-faceted. My family, my friends, my other interests and my spirituality also deserve my time and attention. I deserve my time and attention.

2. My work does not define me. I am a unique, worthy person outside my work life. While relationships can help me feel good about myself, they are not what is inside me. Sometimes I need to stop “doing” and instead focus on simply “being.”

3. I am not the only one who can help dying and bereaved people. When I feel indispensable, I tend to ignore my own needs. There are many talented caregivers in my community who can also help the dying and the bereaved.

4. I must develop healthy eating, sleeping and exercise patterns. I am aware of the importance of these things for those I help, but I may neglect them myself. A well-balanced diet, adequate sleep and regular exercise allow me to be the best I can be.

5. If I’ve been overinvolved in my caregiving for too long, I may have forgotten how to take care of myself. I may need to rediscover ways of caring for and nurturing myself. I may need to relearn how to explore my own feelings instead of focusing on everybody else’s.

6. I must maintain boundaries in my helping relationships. As a death caregiver, I cannot avoid getting emotionally involved with dying and bereaved people. Nor would I want to. Active empathy allows me to be a good companion to them. However, I must remember I am responsible to others, not for others.

7. I am not perfect and I must not expect myself to be. I often wish my helping efforts were always successful. But even when I offer compassionate, “on-target” help, the recipient of that help isn’t always prepared to use it. And when I do make mistakes, I should see them as an integral part of learning and growth, not as measurements of my self-worth.

8. I must practice effective time-management skills. I must set practical goals for how I spend my time. I must also remember Pareto’s principle: twenty percent of what I do nets eighty percent of my results.

9. I must also practice setting limits and alleviating stresses I can do something about. I must work to achieve a clear sense of expectations and set realistic deadlines. I should enjoy what I do accomplish in helping others but shouldn’t berate myself for what is beyond me.

10. I must listen to my inner voice. As a caregiver to the dying and the bereaved, I will at times become grief overloaded. When my inner voice begins to whisper its fatigue, I must listen carefully and allow myself some grief down-time.

11. I should express the personal me in both my work and play. I shouldn’t be afraid to demonstrate my unique talents and abilities. I must also make time each day to remind myself of what is important to me. If I only had three months to live, what would I do?

12. I am a spiritual being. I must spend alone time focusing on self-understanding and self-love. To be present to those I work with and to learn from those I companion, I must appreciate the beauty of life and living. I must renew my spirit.

Center for Loss and LIfe Transition. 2007. Self-care for Caregivers. Retrieved September 24, 2010 from


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