Monday, August 25, 2014

On Being the Victim: Embracing Self-Pity

Self-pity is taboo in our culture, tinged with shame like suicide. No one has any patience with a “pity party.” We are supposed to be strong in the face of grief. We are not supposed to feel sorry for ourselves or to want others to feel sorry for us. But with suicide loss, we can feel small rather than strong, less than instead of more than . We can need sympathy and empathy from others, not just in the early months but later as bitterness sets in.
Self-pity is part of the process. Survivors are the living victims of suicide. The lost loved one’s pain is passed on to us, along with shock, remorse, abandonment. Our worlds are in pieces on the ground. We are, quite simply, bereft.

As if there isn’t guilt enough, I feel bad when I’m crying for myself rather than for my son. A mother should feel her child’s pain and howl at missing that child, and I do. Then sometimes, I tumble into the victim pit and feel cursed. I am reminded of other grievous losses--my father’s suicide, and my mother’s death when I was 19. Self-pity engulfs me and leaves me feeling small, helpless, and exposed. Sometimes I feel like a motherless child -- and a one-child-less mother.

I cannot summon any strength or spiritual connection in those moments. I retreat into self-pity and wallow. Maybe we survivors need those moments away from the stress of striving to reclaim our lives.

“A victim,” writes Karyn Kedar, “is a person who feels less than whole.” In her book, The Bridge to Forgiveness (2006), she urges us to “keep moving away from hurt, keep moving toward wholeness” (p. 22). She sees anger as an antidote to victimhood, a necessary stop en route to forgiveness (p. 43):
“Well-placed anger is a healing agent. It tells you that what happened is wrong. Really wrong. It reminds you that you did not deserve the offense. Anger can restore a sense of self, of self-worth. It allows the victim in you to disappear. . . Anger can transform a victim into a person who believes he or she deserves goodness, wholeness and love.”

My anger gets spent in short bursts and quickly dissolves into tears of self-pity. I need to give full vent to anger, yes. But too, I need to feel whatever I am feeling without judgment. All emotions are welcome here, says a sign at the children's memorial garden where we now have a stone for Noah.

To my fellow survivors: It’s OK to feel sorry for yourself. I share your sorrow.

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