My husband died recently; suddenly and tragically.

He had a fun day, his last day: lunch with our 14 year old boy, shopping around town together, wearing torn khaki shorts and Hunter boots. He spent time pruning his vineyard, and working to upgrade our internet. It was a nice day, like many other wonderful days in my husbands’ life.

In the early hours of the next morning, walking to the bathroom, he fell and hit his head. My son found him the next morning at 9am, after I called to wake him up, he hadn’t answered his phone.

I often think about the last time we were together. I had left our farm the morning before, to have a visit with my mother for a few days. It was like all of our partings, full of hugs, kisses and “call me” later. We spoke a few times during the day, and again just before we went to bed. I have no regrets about things not said, or love not shared. We loved each other, each day.

So what does this have to do with self care? When I arrived back home my sister offered me a glass of wine, and a lightbulb went off. It went like this:

My sister: “Here, Hol, have this.”

Me: “No thank you, I’m not sure I’ll ever drink again.”

My son: “Mama, I don’t think I’ll ever start.”

In the midst of great mourning, this simple exchange lightened my heart and affirmed how I can best care for myself and son.

As a mother of a young teenager, you can imagine my relief hearing this statement, but the nutritionist in me felt sure that my work and how we lived as a family made a deep imprint. We both instinctually remembered the strength that comes from living in a healthy way. And we wanted to feel stronger. Or at least strong enough.

I found myself immediately rejecting all sugars (which create chaos) and inflammatory foods like dairy (I didn’t need a foggier mind). They weren’t conscious decisions. I knew I needed to eat, even though I had lost all desire, but because of my training and lifestyle, I intuitively turned to high quality sustenance, and what I’m now calling radical self-care. The foods I’m eating are holding me up, and enabling me to keep my balance. I know that weathering the ups and downs of this new life of mine would be scarier if not for dedication to self-care through nutrition. It’s kept me sane, at a time when it felt like the world had gone crazy.

The below “rules” have kept me afloat this past month. I share them with you because you may be suffering yourself, or know someone who is.

I’m living proof that choosing good nutrition habits is a foundational way to support you when tragedy or profound stress occurs. I’m taking it day-by-day. Since my husband’s death I’m less sure what tomorrow will feel like. And I continue to choose radical self-care as my way to navigate this new normal.

1) Eschew alcohol.

Alcohol of any kind is a depressant. I was depressed enough. A glass of wine has that short-term lift, but would have brought me down eventually, that night or the next day. I couldn’t afford to go down any further.

2) Avoid inflammatory foods.

The Bad Boys of nutrition, dairy, gluten, sugar, caffeine, are inflammatory to many people, especially me. Inflammation leads to foggy brain, depression, aches, pains, and more. I was already foggy, a characteristic of grief; perhaps a way of allowing the shock in, in small doses. I didn’t need or want any more discomfort. I was already devastated. Avoiding the Bad Boys, helped me stay as clear as I could, and as calm as possible.

3) Move.

Sadly, one of my best friends lost her husband three years ago, at age 45. Her advice to me was to move every morning. She advised “It’ll keep you sane, clear your head and allow you to get some fresh air.” I listened to her and my sister came along to make sure I did. Best advice ever.

4) Drink tons of water.

Grief is dehydrating, from the extra stress to the tears washing down your cheeks, you need to drink a lot of good, clear, pure water. This will help your energy, and mind. I’ve been drinking water, and herbal tea constantly, for weeks. It helps.

5) Get your Greens.

My entrepreneur girl friends, bless their hearts, live far and wide. One of them organized what I call a “green juice trust,” at a local pressed organic juice bar. They delivered juice, and still are, twice a week. Green nutrients are crucial; uplifting, balancing, energizing. Make sure you get them in some way.

6) Breathe.

I am a fan of essential oils, and always diffuse lavender or doTERRA’s Serenity blend each night, before I fall off to sleep. After my husband died, this practice became a lifesaver. Essential oils help me fall asleep, and sleep soundly—these days rest has become even more important. And during the day when I put a little on my wrist, the aroma seems to assure me that life won’t always be sad. That there is still peace in the world, and that I am safe.

7) Reach out to friends.

I am, I admit, often not very good at asking people for help. I am shy about accepting generosity from people, and I prefer to be the one who gives. That has changed. I have let all of my friends know that I need them, very much. I’ve asked them to check on me, to invite me to dinner, or to call me, text me, or email me. They are my lifelines, and they keep me healthy too.

Connection is important, love is everything. @nutrition
(Click to Tweet!)

Grief is its own monster. Friends help, a lot.

HolliHolli Thompson is the author of a new book, Discover Your Nutritional Style: Your Seasonal Plan to a Happy, Healthy, and Delicious Life—available now on Amazon. The books’ forward is written by Dr. Frank Lipman, with contributions by Mark Hyman, MD, Dr. Alejandro Junger, Sarma Melngailis, Natalia Rose, and more luminaries in the wellness field. DYNS is receiving rave reviews from the Environmental Working Group, Integrative Nutrition, Institute for the Psychology of Eating, Dr. Barry Sears, and more.

Holli’s a former VP for Chanel, turned creator of Nutritional Style®, a health and nutrition blog and health coaching. consulting company. Her innovative method of identifying the three types of nutritional styles; Healthy Omnivore™, Flexible Vegetarian™, and Modern Vegan™, was established to allow women (and men) to finally experience an attainable, satisfying and always health-filled lifestyle. An inspirational speaker, and TV guest for several major networks, Thompson shares weekly on her own blog, You can also find her on FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest.

*A Note from Christina:
I’m so excited to debut the Life Starter’s Blog Series. I have had the greatest honor and fortune of hearing your powerful stories of personal transformation and I wanted to share them all. Because I know that together we can help support, inspire and lift one another. Every Tuesday, we will proudly feature your stories. If you’d like to submit a post, please go here for guidelines and more info. Happy reading!
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Christina Rasmussen is an author, speaker and social entrepreneur who believes that grief is an evolutionary experience required for launching a life of adventure and creative accomplishment.

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  • Briana says:

    What a beautiful message of self care. Radical self care. We often neglect ourselves first when there are hard times, but Holli you are so graceful in your living and thriving, it inspires.

  • This was such a beautiful beacon of light for taking care of yourself even when it feels impossible. It reminded me of the “put the oxygen mask on yourself before helping anyone” concept from airplanes.

    Sending so much love!

  • Penny says:

    I couldn’t agree with this blog post more. I lost my husband 20 months ago. Because Greg died of gastric cancer I know too much about the detrimental side effects of eating grains…especially grains containing gluten (wheat, rye, barley and oats)…they are inflammatory and depressive…the last thing a grieving widow needs. Sugar is highly inflammatory and depressive and alcohol is a depressive. Everyone asks me how I’m doing so well. It isn’t just staying away from the above mentioned foods, but it is probably the biggest part of my personal equation to walking through the heavy veil of grief. As a widow I am SO glad this is being brought to the forefront of this website and being discussed. Love and blessings to you all.

    • Dear Penny,
      I am sorry for your loss, but glad that you’re taking time for yourself, and that you realize the connection between food/mood/ and our health.
      For some of us, it feels like survival, doesn’t it?
      I am sending you love, today.
      Holli XO

  • danielle says:

    I love this post, as I know what a sudden loss this was for you. You always find the light in everything, and to write this post to help others through their time of grief is beautiful. I hope that everyone reading this post follows your advice, as you teach, these tips are the foundations for anyone wanting to get healthier.. at any time of their life.. much love! xo

  • Tina Pruitt says:

    Holli, I am sending you and your son love and light. So very difficult, but sharing your story and your path is so inspirational. Thank you.

    Also, thank you Christina.

    xo, Tina

  • Holli thank you for sharing your story and sanity tips. It helps to know we are not alone. Sending you love and healing thoughts.

    A friendly reminder and permission to know self care is essential to maintaining a healing.


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