Is Grief Selfish and is it me?

I have been thinking a lot recently and reflecting on what grief is and what it isn’t. Of course this means that I have researched so many posts and quotes on Pinterest, but from day 1 I have wanted to be assured that however I felt it was okay and whatever pains and behaviours were a part of my life that it was normal. I wanted to be sure that grief was a phase and not an identity!

Periodically people ask or imply that maybe I am depressed? and it winds me up something rotten.  Why? they’re only concerned surely? Maybe so, but to me its not only trying to label me and make it into my identity, but also because my biggest fear from loosing Poppy was that I would become depressed because of the difficulty of it all and that I wouldn’t be able to cope. I worried that people wouldn’t be there for me, get bored with it all or stop remembering. That they would misunderstand or not get it would take time and affect me and think it was more than grief.  I just wanted to survive and so I love to be assured (through SANDS and when I had counselling) that I am normal; my emotions, feelings, thought patterns, questions etc are all a result of GRIEF and not a mental illness, but that grief does cause a whole host of emotions, feelings and behaviours
UntitledI know that grief is a result of love, it is a feeling of broken heartedness, an escape because love had no where to be channelled.

Grief is lonely, it causes you to feel alone as no one else understands, no one else gets it, and it becomes frustrating that they stop asking because they have no answers to your questions.

Grief is angry, it burns up inside, it makes you mad at everyone, everything and every situation. On angry days nothing is right, everyone can do one!

Grief is bitter…it makes you resentful, annoyed and ticked off with how it turned out. Others lives are mint so why isn’t mine?

Grief is irritable – not patient, not submissive, but no time for anyone or anything and easily provoked and wound up over things…its the end of the world and no one gets it!

Grief is debilitating..intensely emotional and painful.

But is it Selfish?

I was told a while back that I was being really selfish, moody and more recently expect too much. When you are not yourself or cannot control this roller coaster, comments like that cut deep and are confusing to someone battling grief. I’ve never been told I’m selfish or expect too much before any of this.

Since this whole thing began, I have been told to “take care of me”…”let it out”…”be honest”, “only do what you can manage”, “ask for help” (the list goes on) None of those things are easy for me, I am not naturally a person that only considers me and my needs. I am naturally one who will look at others and their needs and want to help and just plough through and get on with my struggles. so how is that selfishness, to be aware and not want to put others out?

I love to talk when I have a problem, but only to the few people I trust have my best interests at heart, and when I talk it takes a lot to show myself that vulnerable and then being honest about thoughts and emotions you know people will never understand, or being honest about how it feels, how others make you feel etc having a rant when your angry and don’t even know why so anyone that day will get it. Its not personal, it hard and confusing…its not moody its pain and it is even harder to explain, but I have tried and sadly it hasn’t always gone down well. I find that people cannot deal with me letting it out, they do not like to hear the pains of your soul or how you don’t want to socialise that day, there must be an issue because you cannot take any more. Taking care of yourself suddenly becomes a concern. Not wanting to chat to people or asking for help without offering anything, wanting support and being mad or frustrated with people suddenly is a selfish trait, never being satisfied because life is a mess means you are ungrateful.
UntitledThey say they care and love you so why Is it selfish to behave like this because your burdens are so heavy? Why am I selfish because I want to do what everyone is advising me to do? Why is it selfish to not have the energy to give people what I used to? Am I sick because I am still suffering and don’t know what I need? Maybe grief is selfish or maybe it is me…

I hate that this happened initially, no one should have to loose a child, let alone have the people around you view you as selfish because you are trying to muddle through and protect yourself. Then be told you ask too much of people? Grief may appear to make one selfish but it is because the hurt is so bad they must protect themselves, they want help but they don’t know what help it is, they want love, but can’t always handle it.

I have found that the only way to survive a crisis and trauma is by having people to help you through it and having someone to listen, lift, support and  be there unconditionally. This is a hard role to fill, especially when you can not understand or know what to say. Often I don’t need anyone to say anything…I just want hugs, someone to put their arm around me and say “however selfish, lost or angry you are I will not abandon you, this isn’t about me, its about you and I will stand by you through it all”, I need someone who will hold my hand until I am steady enough to walk alone.

The only cure for grief is to grieve. So this may mean I am not who I used to be, it may mean I communicate poorly, it may mean I cannot offer others what I once could…that I take with out seeming to give in return. I may have even turned into a selfish person, I don’t know? but what I do know is that I have a lot of love with nowhere for it to go, a broken heart and dreams and a whole lot of questions with no answers (yet). Grief is selfish yes, because all I see is my pain, all I see is the loss, but I am not my grief. Beneath the anger, beneath the tears and confusion and the uncertainty, there is ME – caring, strong, faithful, confident and full of love and joker Mary. Yes often I am overshadowed by grief…demanding, isolated, disconnected, afraid, lost and even selfish in how I react, but I am not my grief and I do not want to be judged for how it makes me, because I am still here.
InstagramCapture_481b5fa7-51f8-4787-92ad-8abb3cf4dbfcGrief is lots of things, even selfish, but I am not my grief, I am just in a phase, a season, a time of life that I have to live with it and hope others can and will too…however long it lasts, and chances are there will be seasons again throughout my life that these emotions and behaviours will resurface  due to anniversaries, dates, smells or just because.

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8 Comments

  1. August 25, 2015 / 9:26 am

    Mary I don’t know you very well, and I have never been through what you are going through but I am sure you are not selfish. It’s so clear from your blog (not just this post but the others too) that you are a daring, thoughtful, kind person and all your energy goes on helping others and being a brilliant mum, all while you carry your huge burden. Xxx

    • August 25, 2015 / 11:37 pm

      Thank you Becky. Im glad that the real me and not bereaved me shines through as I would hope on days I am trying and days I am happy. Carrying on as normal as poss with the kids is one of the hardest parts of it all, I have to put on a brave happy face when it hurts, go out when I want to hide and everything in between…but it keeps me focused and working. Thanks for your lovely words xx

  2. August 25, 2015 / 7:56 pm

    Grief is selfish, undoubtedly. The trouble is with the concept of ‘being selfish’ – it’s usually seen as something negative, self-indulgent. Sometimes selfishness is wrong, but there are plenty of times you need to be selfish, put your own needs first, to move forward from the loss of your daughter, the worst thing possible that most of us can imagine. There is so much in your post I recognise in myself. We’re both the same women as we were before but with a difference thanks to grief, and bereavement makes us insular and all those other things too. It’s not your fault. The people who matter will understand – even if they can’t help you, they will support you by loving you through it all. Lots of love xxx

    • August 25, 2015 / 11:39 pm

      Ahhhh thats it Leigh, you are right! I like how you explain it, you can tell your further ahead and wiser with it all haha

      I hope people can and will understand… supporting us isnt an easy task is it? haha xx

  3. carol
    October 15, 2016 / 10:32 pm

    I see the selfish elements in grief…but no where is it more selfish than in social media context…i am in a closed group with other grieving parents who berate and complain about facebook friends who dont comment on their grief memes or who post a status using a phrase like “a mothers worst nghtmare” when referring to something rather trivial….you would think these people intentionally set out to hurt the grieving parent….why is there such an expectation by those of us who have lost a child that those that havent understand us….its just silly on its face…they cannot understand what we have experienced and shouldnt be held to some impossible standard that they do…not only that it seems as if some bereaved people will actually ask how a non bereaved parent cant get it so to speak….really? A lot of inward focus on your personal pain can eventually turn into a very selfish way of looking outward

  4. Justine
    February 23, 2017 / 9:32 pm

    I lost my husband 3 1/2 years ago. I often have wrestled with the fact that I have become selfish, and self-absorbed in my own grief and loss. I know people get what counselors call “compassion fatigue “but for me I know it will never go away. I find I don’t have a lot of patience for other people’s nonsense and for useless drama that has the potential to siphon so much energy out of you. After watching my husband fight his illness for 18 months and then dealing with his death; I just don’t have the patience for the things that I used to.
    You lose a lot of friends because people just don’t understand. Thank God I have my family but at times I do wonder what they’re thinking and if they ever ask themselves “what happened to Justine? ” this was a great write up today-something I needed, thank you

    • Mary @TheHeartyLife
      February 27, 2017 / 10:59 pm

      Hi Justine – I am so sorry for the loss of your husband and to have had to watch him struggle with illness too. You are so right, these experiences leave us differently and less patient. Our hearts are broken and will never be the same again. I think part of grief is that we grieve for who we once were too..a little less broken, more naive and free. Now the world is more tarnished and unless someone has been through such a significant loss they will never understand how that changes you. Oh man I have zero tolerance for some peoples issues haha Hugs to you Justine, be kind to yourself, its incredibly hard to lose people prematurely xx

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