Self Care for NPEs
You have gone through an NPE experience, Not Parent Expected, or Non-Paternity Event. Everyone’s story is different, but there are some similar feelings. For many of us it’s a traumatic event. It can rock the foundation of our idea of family, who we are, and where we fit.
I went through it myself.
I found out that who I thought was my father, wasn’t. When I found out I couldn’t stop staring at my face, wondering who do I look like? What does this discovery mean about the relationships with the family I grew up with? How was I created? This was just the beginning of untangling and discovering a story that I had no control of, of secrets that I was never told. For the first few years this journey consumed me.
It has now been over 4 years since I discovered my NPE story. Depending on the details of your own journey, you might feel betrayed, rejected or angry. It can be devastating to be told that a parent isn’t really your biological parent, that there is deception about how you came into this world, and you weren’t told the truth of how you were created.
Emotional, Physical and Spiritual self care
There is so much we can’t control. We can’t control the people involved, what they tell us, how they respond to us, how honest they decide to be, how happy or unhappy they are if we share our story with them or others. What we can control is how we take care of ourselves, and how we love ourselves. Self care is key to getting through this and finding our way to a compassionate and love filled life.
Expressing our feelings is an important part of processing our emotions. Try to find people to talk to, a friend, relative or therapist. Journal writing, online with a password if you’re concerned about privacy, or on paper, is an amazing way of sitting with your thoughts, and feeling safe to express them without the fear of judgment. I find one of the most helpful strategies at the end of each journal entry is to list 5 things you feel grateful for. It’s a reminder of what we have, at a time where most people are feeling deep loss.
Setting boundaries is also an important part of self care. Well-meaning friends or family can say things that aren’t helpful and can add to the pain of this journey. Joining online social media groups can be a wonderful support and help us feel less isolated to hear others going through similar difficulties. You may also find at different parts of your journey that you need to distance yourself from others going through similar things, it might be too difficult to hear. Connect with others when it feels good, and take a break if it’s not feeling helpful in the moment that you’re in.
Physical exercise and getting outside are important parts of taking care of your body and mind. Try to move your body, stretching, do yoga or an exercise class, whatever interests you. Get outside on a trail if you can, sunlight and nature can be healing. Make sure you eat regularly throughout the day and try to eat whole and nutritious food. Sometimes we don’t feel hungry when we are going through something so consuming, try to eat small snacks if you don’t think you can manage a full meal. Hydrate with water and stay away from too much caffeine or alcohol.
Spirituality can be the belief that there is something greater than ourselves, or someone’s belief in an organized religion, or anything in between. It can involve meditating or connecting with nature. Being present in your body, focussing on your breath and letting racing thoughts pass is so helpful to lowering your stress. Exploring your spirituality can help us feel a deeper sense of meaning and connection, regardless of how our relationships are with the people around us.
Make a list of the self care activities that speak to you and post it where you can see it, include emotional, spiritual, creative and physical ideas on your list. I have mine over my computer, so I can see the list on most days and pick something. It can serve as a great reminder to give yourself some love, as simple as making an herbal tea.
For myself, this has been a time of pain and growth. I have realized that I can’t change what’s happened in the past, or what others think of me. It’s a hard journey to make sense of, to re-examine identity, accept what I can’t change, and focus on changing the things I can. It’s also a time that I have become deeply grateful for all that I have in my life.