Selfish?

In the first week after Mike’s suicide, someone told my stepdaughter that she was being selfish, not thinking enough about other people. I thought that was a shitty thing to say. “We’re grieving,” I told her. “You’re entitled to be selfish right now, and so am I.”

Ironically, the only other situation in which I’ve given myself permission to be selfish, to make it all about me, was my wedding. And I had to give myself special permission, in both situations, to override the lifelong habit of taking care of others before I took care of myself.

Grief, I find, makes it easy to be selfish. In the immediate aftermath of Mike’s suicide, there was nothing but grief, no space in my mind or heart for anything else. Finding my way through the dark, murky forest of grief required all my attention. Six and a half months later, the grief is no longer all-consuming… but I never know when I might step on an emotional landmine, so I’m still intently focused on my own journey.

Sometimes I look around and realize that I’ve missed a birthday or anniversary, forgotten to check in with friends who are also dealing with major issues, and am completely unaware of what issues other friends may be dealing with. I wonder, have I unwittingly cultivated a habit of selfishness? Have I gotten *too* comfortable with the focus being on me and my healing process? At what point does the free pass of grief expire? At what point will my friends and family be so tired of hearing about my stuff, so frustrated with my lack of attention to their stuff, that they stop wanting to spend time with me? (My phone rarely rings these days and most of my non-spam emails are from the same two people, so maybe it’s already happened.)

Relationships require give and take on both sides, and I didn’t have much to give for a while there. I’m working on getting back to the thoughtful and supportive friend, sister, daughter that I was before… while NOT slipping back into the habit of neglecting my own needs. It can be a tricky balance. Until I find that balance, my friends, I may need some gentle reminders that your world didn’t stop when mine did.

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~ by hourbeforedawn on September 25, 2010.

3 Responses to “Selfish?”

  1. Lira, I hear you. It’s perfectly understandable that you had nothing to give. It’s time like those that your friends and family and loved ones step up and they give for you and of you. They carry you. I don’t think there’s any “right” time for you to stop being “selfish.” For some people it’s business as usual shorty after their loss. That was me- business as usual, no hugs please, I’m fine. And let me tell you- that is not the best approach. I should have taken more time. I think if you are asking yourself these questions then you know that it’s time for you to make a shift, perhaps in a new more balanced direction. It’s ok for you to still need your friends. Just know that they’re going to need you, too. xoj

  2. What a great post, Lira. Its odd that we label “self-care” as “selfish.” Unless you’ve been through grief, its hard to know what to say or do – at any point in the journey. And even then, its so personal that sometimes the ‘wrong’ thing gets said regardless of intention. I think that is why people stay away. I’m not tired of checking in on your via FB – you are the only reason I still am on FB! Keep telling me your story – I’m listening.

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