There is stuff I should be doing today, other than sitting here writing. And I have things planned: finalizing the Life Celebration party for Bunny, my wife who passed away not quite 2 months ago, party scheduled on the 16th; a phone “date” with a new friend with whom I have become quite fond in a short period of time; laundry, which always makes me wonder how a single guy can generate so much laundry over a seemingly brief period; helping one of my neighbors with some light chores (she recently broke her leg and isn’t very mobile); a phone call with my daughter at some point (she regularly checks in with me to be sure I’m okay.) If I wanted to, I could attend a concert tonight but I’m not really sure about that just yet.
You know what’s missing from this list? Sitting in a chair, feeling sorry for myself that my wife died and left me alone.
I’m not talking about grieving; I’m talking about having my own pity party for one. I grieve every single day, all day. One doesn’t live a wonderful 35 year existence with another person and not miss them deeply. But I realized that I don’t need to just sit here feeling sorry for myself and looking/acting pitiful. That foul mood is like a disease on its own, creeping into every pore of your body, crushing your spirit.
A friend/acquaintance lost her husband 5 years ago, somewhat unexpectedly but, truth be told, he was never in the greatest of health and did little to correct that. My friend, 5 years later, is an equal mess to how she was the day her husband died. The difference is that, now, it’s not the immediate deep cutting loss you feel when your partner dies or the feeling of overwhelming grief that hits as reality sets in. Sadly, here at WV we all understand grief, we all understand deep sorrow. In my friends’ case, she has settled completely into the pity party mindset.
For example, she decides to have a party last summer and invites several folks over for a barbeque. As folks arrive she is sitting in her house, curtains closed, leaving the invited guests standing on the curb. Her after-the-fact response to questions? “I can’t believe (her husband) left me here to do this all by myself.” Not “I’m sorry”, or “I should have called to cancel”, just a feel-sorry-for-me-the-lonely-widow crying jag.
Sounds like I’m being mean or cold-hearted here? How about if I were to tell you that this scenario, or something very similar to it, has played out many times over the past 5 years? Or if I were to tell you that I have personally sourced out, paid for and transported my friend to 3 different counselors over the last two years and in each case she has refused to continue to go for additional help. She would much rather ask you to feel sorry for her than to try to repair herself.
Perhaps this is how she expresses her grief. We all have differing ways of going through the process, but my friend has chosen to ask for us to feed her pity, not mourn her husband with her.
It’s quite easy to settle into pity-party mode, I most definitely had a touch of that myself the first week or so. Those of us that have found this community understand the crushing loss of a life-love. Some of us may even be angry at our deceased partners for leaving us broke, homeless, stranded … and still grieving. But giving in to self-pity resolves nothing; it’s not motivating, it has no reward, it darkens our very soul, it drives friends and family away.
I’m lucky, I chose to ignore self-pity. I get enough pitiful looks from those who find out in hushed voices “his wife just died last month” … I don’t need to add to that. Grief is not a choice; it comes on its own whenever it feels like it and I have no magic words of wisdom to give to those dealing with it. But I can control being pitiful, and look at what has happened for me:
And that is just today. Tomorrow will be a new list and I’ll do that, too. And through it all I continue to grieve the loss of the most wonderful person I have ever known, but because I don’t have to fight off self-loathing and pity, I can give 100% of my love to mourning her absence, just like I gave 100% of my love to her while she was here. It’s much better than simply feeling sorry for myself.