In our second conversation about the five stages of grief, Anna, my therapist, advised me to learn to feel sorry for myself. If you can't, she said, you can't really grieve. That's what grief is, she said. It's being willing to go into the deep parts of your loss: the person, the possibility, even the dream that has died or left you. Grief is truly feeling that loss, being with it, moving through it, not pushing it aside.When we tell our children "stop feeling sorry for yourself" or "get over it," we do them a disservice. We teach them that grief isn't a part of a life, when it is central to life. Love and loss are central to life.
I grew up in a "buck up" family. Keep busy, don't think about it, and it will go away. Of course, it does. But it goes away someplace deep inside, not through you and out. When my mother died, when my father died, I didn't grieve. I didn't become lethargic or depressed or weepy or even particularly unhappy. I pushed all of that aside and went on with my life as if that was the most important thing to do.
Anna wasn't talking about either of these big events or even about the death of Nellie although she could have been. Instead, she was talking about food addiction. If you cannot grieve the fact that you are a food addict, she said, you cannot let go of wanting it not to be so. And if you cannot let of wanting it not to be so, you can't make peace with it. I now see the broader scope of all this in my life. How learning to feel sorry for myself could change everything.