The Selfish Side of Grief

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The Selfish Side of Grief |

It almost sounds heartless for me to say grieving people can often be selfish people.  In fact, we almost EXPECT grieving people to be selfish.  Something terrible has happened to them.  They should be allowed to walk around in their own little world, thinking only of their own grief and pain.  I even said in my post on How to Help Someone Who Grieves, that you need to let them grieve because all too often people on the outside just want the person experiencing the tragedy to get on with it.  A few weeks or months (or even days ) after a death, people on the outside forget and their lives go on as normal; whereas, those experiencing the tragedy have to find a new normal based on their new circumstances.

For instance, I had to relearn how to get up in the morning, how to cook for my family (now minus one child), how to care about anything other than my daughter’s death.  But, I never expected to have to learn how to not be selfish in my grief.

You see, when Emily died, I never wanted to want again.  I had lost my daughter and I had to go on living here on earth without her.  I felt deprived of her presence.  I felt I had lost enough.  I never wanted to feel any kind of deprivation again.  So, I started filling the void.

I bought fabric.  Every time I saw fabric on sale and it was even semi-cute or something I thought I might use one day, I bought it.

I went to thrift stores.  I brought home all sorts of things we didn’t need.  I nickel and dimed our family week after week.

I ate too much.  Any time I wanted to go out to eat, I begged my husband to take me.  I bought coffees, ordered appetizers, brought home more groceries than we could eat, and cooked and baked my way up the scale.

I know many people touched by tragedy who have eventually gone bankrupt.  I know people who have gained a tremendous amount of weight.  I know people who have hoarded their lives into oblivion because of grief.  All because the kind of self-control it takes to avoid this behavior feels too much like letting go of something you love.  But at the root of this is selfishness…a selfishness that will tear a house down to the ground…marriage, family, and all.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 has become my prayer for my life and my blog, especially any time I blog about grief.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4

But before I could get to this place, I had to learn to think outside myself.  I am still seeing nearly 6 years later, selfishness that stems from never wanting to want again.

As you walk through the murky waters of grief, you have to be willing to ask the hard questions.  You have to be willing to ask the Lord to reveal your own selfishness to you and help you through the process of rooting it out.  And as you root it out, you have to consciously think of others and how you can offer them the same grace, comfort and peace you have been offered.

All too often the selfishness we have to deal with as we grieve ends up directly affecting our marriages.  The walls we build to keep from feeling the want are walls that ultimately keep our husbands out as well.

I lost a dream.  I dreamed of a beautiful little girl with curly brown locks running after her siblings, sitting down to do school work at our table, walking down the aisle.  My husband lost the same little girl, the same dreams.  And even when our grief doesn’t look the same, I know he’s hurting too.  I don’t get to selfishly act as if I’m the only one grieving.  I don’t get to tear my house down or rip my marriage apart.  And being aware of this is half the battle.

Today, I’m posting at Yes, They’re All Ours on the topic of Marriage & Losing a Child.  It’s tough when a marriage is faced with something of this magnitude, but it isn’t impossible.  Cling to each other so that as you heal, you heal together…one wound, one scar, one flesh.

Please visit my Grieving Mother page for our story and more articles on grief and healing.

28 Comments on The Selfish Side of Grief

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28 thoughts on “The Selfish Side of Grief

  1. Thank you for this post! We have had two devastating losses in the past two years, and both me and my husband are fighting this selfishness. Just this morning I was praying for help in identifying what is happening so we can fix it. Your post is an answer to my prayer! I am going to show my husband this post so we can work on this together and help our family.

  2. Thank you so much for sharing this! I appreciate everything you have written about grief and losing a child. I had never really considered the selfish side of grief, but I can definitely see that in my own heart after my miscarriage.

  3. Wonderful insight, obviously written from one who knows! I have been well-acquainted with grief, having had 5 miscarriages and lost my best friend to cancer in 2008, then lost my only sister 9 mons. later to a respiratory infection. When my sister died, I felt like I lost everything and everyone because I struggled so much to engage other people…. even my own 8 children. They were also going through the loss of a beloved aunt, but my own grief was so huge, it was difficult to take on each of theirs. It has been four years now since that loss, and I have come a long way, but I still have to work hard to intentionally engage with my children and really “be there” for them….. the selfish temptation to withdraw is always there for me.

  4. Thank you for this. We are at just over 7 months since losing our 7th child. It is so hard to know that you have to get up every day, seemingly pretending that all is ok with the world. I can really relate to the spending/eating. I am really struggling with that. I will be eating things I know I don’t want, or even like, just because I can, and there really isn’t anything else to “want” to do. I never put it in the light of not wanting to lose something else. Even that control over what I buy/eat. This makes so much sense to me. Thank you Thank you Thank you!

    • It took me a long while to realize WHY I was overeating. God brought it all front and center for me a couple of years ago, but it took until a few months ago for me to be willing to do something about it. I’m a slow learner, but grateful for the Lord’s patience with me.

      • Thank you. I am on that slow road to *wanting* to change the why! At times all I want to do is curl up in a ball,, go to my room and shut out the rest of the family/world. Thank The Lord I have a few children to keep my mind occupied, when I feel like I am losing my mind. I seem so scatterbrained since he died…

  5. Thanks so much. You know, after my mom died 5 years ago, I started doing that. I started buying things unchecked and indulging myself. I knew it was a change and was due to losing my mom, but I never knew why I was doing it really, I don’t know, it’s weird. It wasn’t even anything major I was buying, just stuff. I still do it. I kind of knew/know it isn’t right but still do it anyways. This is such a ray of light on the “why” and that alone makes me want to hand it over to Christ for healing. Thanks so much..

  6. Thanks Amy. You have played a big role in my life as a ‘Grieving Mother’! Thanks for the encouragement today. Today is 5 months since we buried our son. Our lives are changing so much every day. So much is out of my control as we are moving to another state. I know I’ve been eating out of control and I pray for the strength to stop. Your story is so inspirational. I pray for the strength to stop burying my grief in food, the energy to parent my four living boys with grace and love, and the ability to love my husband unconditionally as is right! So glad I read this today…I will focus on the selfishness of this behavior. May the Lord bless you today and always, Leah

    • God bless you, Leah. My heart goes out to you. We lost our oldest son (he was 7) 3 years ago. And then we moved about 7 weeks later. And then moved 8 months later after that. I’m going to pause and pray for you! God is with you. Cling to Him. <3

    • ((HUGS)) Leah – it’s not an easy road, but so much glory comes from it if we just surrender and stop trying to control things ourselves (which always seems to lead to UNcontrolled behaviors.).

  7. Thank you for sharing this post and your heart. Last week I had a online friend unexpectedly lose her darling son. He has a twin brother. She has been stronger than I could ever imagine. But I worry and pray for her when all the outpouring of love stops and it gets quiet. We as an online group are gathering to support her but I know that fails in comparison to those that are physically near her. My heart is breaking for her.

    I also can relate to not wanting to want anymore. I think that even though I didn’t loose a child in many ways I lost parents and often wonder how my actions are a direct result of never being able to fully be allowed to grieve absent parents.

    Thank you once again.

  8. I went through some very hard times early in my marriage coupled with 3 miscarriages. This describes my mind set to a T. I’m not nearly as bad as I was, but this puts into words something I never realized.

  9. Sincere thoughts and prayers for all of you who have walked this, the toughest of all roads. Amy, I’m so glad that you use your toughest trial to minister to others in a way that those who haven’t walked it couldn’t possibly do.

  10. What a timely blog post. We just lost twins, born at 19 weeks and 23 weeks, just a few weeks ago. I finally came to the realization yesterday that I was allowing myself to wallow in self-pity that this happened to me. I was being very self-centered about my grief. Do you have advice on helping children get through their grief? My DD 6 is taking it pretty hard. She had been praying daily for a baby for Christmas. She’s very sad we lost both (at one point we thought Noah might make it at least to 24 weeks and be able to get the steroid shots for lung development).

    • Julie, I am so sorry. I have had to deal with this as well. My now 8 year old had beenrayi g for another sibling for over a year when Ben was born and then subsequently died from complications. With all of mine, I have just let them talk about Ben. Anytime, anywhere. I pray with them when they are upset, and yet do not let them get ugly with one another when they seem to be grieving adder. It is so different with each one. 2 oft hem came to me after 6 months, asking when he’d be home. My 8 year old got really angry and ugly with her attitude about 5 months or so after his death. (We are just over 7 months now). I don’t discipline them for that, but so let them know that we can’t get angry with each other, and while we may be angry with God, or want to be, that He ultimately has a reason. We may not know what it is, but we have to trust that it is good. But overall, just let her vent and talk as much as she needs. They grieve very bit as much as we do, I think. But they can’t process it quite as well, because they understand even less than we do. Praying that you all heal from this loss.

      *time does NOT heal all wounds. It is what you so with that time*

  11. Thank you so much for this very personal post. I can’t imagine how painful for that must have been to write. My struggles do not even touch the loss of a child but we have been in and out of unemployment for 6 years now and I am going through a period now of wrestling with extreme selfishness as I wallow in my frustration and depression. I truly appreciate this. I was very convicted. I am sharing it with others!

  12. Thank you for this article. I really needed it today, what should be my daughters birthday is tomorrow and I’ve been having a very hard morning dealing with the loss of her.

  13. Emily’s story made me cry. I have two children left from seven pregnancies. A couple of miscarriages, a stillborn daughter, a son who lived sixteen hours, and my oldest daughter died in December 2010 from complications after surgery. So while I don’t understand exactly what you’ve been through, I do know what it’s like to lose a child.

    I think grief takes many forms. I didn’t need things to get through those times. I tend to turn inward and work myself into exhaustion. That and keep my mind so busy I can’t dwell on it.

    That’s what I continue to do whenever my thoughts turn to those children, especially my oldest daughter. I don’t enjoy Christmas anymore, but I’m working on it. My family doesn’t deserve to have me only partially available to them during the holidays because I’m too busy trying not to think.

    I’m sure that would fall under selfishness, too, but it’s the only way I can deal with it. As humans, we will never be perfect. I think we can only keep doing the best we can, and trusting God to heal us, though I don’t know if it’s ever possible for a parent to totally heal after losing a child.

    • ((HUGS)) and prayers, Kristy. I don’t think you do totally heal this side of Heaven, but there is joy this side of Heaven. For that, I am thankful.

  14. This post has been sitting in my inbox unread for nearly 10 mos (we had some busy transitions last fall). I was scrolling way back catching up on random unread posts, but now it’s actually relevant, as I just suffered an ectopic pregnancy less than 2 wks ago.

  15. I woke up this morning eight years after losing my best friend. When we were in the seventh grade he got diagnosed with cancer. He was an amazing witness to God and you couldn’t look at him without seeing Gods hand on him. I saw miracles every time I woke up and he was alive. I believed so strongly in him and in God that I never thought he would lose the battle. I fell head over heels for him and loving him and God was my life. We never dated but we did not have to my love for him and him knowing I loved him was enough. I just knew how my life was going to go. Either he would get married to me or he would marry someone else but either way I was happy with my visions because in both of them he lived past the cancer. I played God and He showed me I was not Him. A year after we graduated almost two weeks shy of his birthday the day after we gave thanks. He passed away in Texas at MD Anderson. His cancer had gotten his lungs and he did not survive. I died. In every way someone can die and still live. He was my life. He was my link to God. My dreams were gone. For two months I was dead yet still alive I honestly don’t remember anything after having to leave the funeral half way through. I couldnt put him in that tiny box he was bigger to me. I left because i was hyperventilating I was made to leave because that response was bad for the child I carried. A child that was made out of an evil act. that is another story though. So for two months I was dead. He was still there though. The only difference being that I had all this love to give him and he was no longer there to give it to. I swore I would never love again. Then God made me wake up. He made me live and love again. With the birth of my daughter two months later. She was two and a half months premature and weighed 2lbs 8 ozs. I had to live for her she had no one else. I learned then that you never stop loving to love someone else but that your heart grew and expanded so that you could love others. I still love him with a major part of my heart however I also love my daughter and the man God has placed in my life now. My grief is still there but it stopped being selfish the day my daughter was born. I could not be selfish because it was no longer about just me. I ran from God. I was so angry at Him and when i hit rock bottom He picked me back up dusted me off and put me back on His path. Walking beside me and guiding me. I learned alot and I am still learning. It is never easy losing some one and for his parents and you I cant imagine what it is like to lose a child. I do know what it is like for all of those dreams to be shattered and for there to be a lifetime of love left over in your heart with no where to place it. Kevo’s father has written a few books and has a website called I always encourage some one who has had to deal with the loss of a child to check out the website and I am forever telling people about Kevin. He was an amazing man and his father has took his grief and turned it in to something to help others that grieve as well. It really is an amazing thing how God works in our lives. As Kevo always said Keep Pounding and God bless you.