Avoiding the Victim Role while Mourning

Finding your way through the grief maze takes time, gut-level honesty, and personal courage.  Questions keep you awake at night and haunt your days.  Who am I now?  Will I survive this?  What will life become?  Unfortunately, some mourners succumb to the victim role, which is damaging and nonproductive.

After four family members, including my daughter, died in 2007, the victim role was tempting.  I wanted to wallow in grief and victimization.  I’m a grandmother and, thanks to life experience, I was able to resist this temptation.  Becoming a victim would only make more trouble for me at a troubling time of life.

Sharon s. Esonis, PhD, writes about victimization in her Self Growth website article, “Stop Thinking Like a Victim!  Self-pity is a Roadblock to Your Happiness and Self-Confidence.”  She describes the victim role as “a straight shot to pain.”  Worse yet, the role restricts your options, muddies your goals, and kills your dreams.  You also lose your self-confidence.

According to Robert Elias Najemy, the victim role makes it harder for others to help you.  He approaches this role from a communication standpoint in his Not Alone website article, “Communicating with Those who Play the Role of the Victim.”  Najemy thinks the challenge for others is to express caring and love without getting caught up in the role you’ve chosen.

To help you, family members and friends may resort to “I messages,” he continues.  One of his examples: “I now realize that I do not help you by feeling responsible or guilty.”  When all is said and done, grieving is a solitary experience and nobody can do it for us.  Tempting as victimization may be, we have the power to resist it.

Why should you avoid this role?  First, it draws energy away from your grief work.  Second, it’s a nonproductive role and mires you in grief.  Third, it is progressively isolating and people will start to avoid you.  Fourth, it requires negative thinking, rather than positive thinking.  Finally, it prolongs your grief journey.

With lots of thought and work, I managed to avoid this emotional trap.  A week into my grief journey, I sat down at the computer and started to pour out my soul in words.  Journaling helped me immensely and I think it will help you.  Though I’m an independent person, I asked for help and accepted it.  I didn’t want to become isolated, so I kept selected social connections.  I wrote one-sentence affirmations and continue to write them.  The best thing I did for myself was to help others.

Mourning takes time and you have the right to take all the time you need.  But you don’t have to become a victim.  If you do your grief work, your loved one will, in time, become a treasured part of your history – part of your soul.  The fact that life exists is a miracle.  The best memorial you can create in memory of your loved one is to enjoy the miracle of your life.

Harriet Hodgson  2010

Harriet Hodgson

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Harriet Hodgson has been a freelancer for 38 years, is the author of 36 books, and thousands of print/Internet articles. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists, Minnesota Coalition for Grief Education and Support, and Grief Coalition of Southeastern Minnesota. In 2007 four of her family members died—her daughter (mother of her twin grandchildren), father-in-law, brother (and only sibling), and the twins’ father. Multiple losses shifted the focus of Hodgson’s work from general health to grief resolution and recovery, and she is the author of eight grief resources. Hodgson has appeared on more than 185 radio talk shows, including CBS Radio, dozens of blog talk radio programs, and dozens of television stations, including CNN. In addition to writing for Open to Hope, Hodgson is a contributing writer for The Grief Toolbox website, and The Caregiver Space website. A popular speaker, she has given presentations at public health, Alzheimer’s, hospice, grief, and caregiving conferences. Hodgson’s work is cited in Who’s Who of American Women, World Who’s Who of Women, Contemporary Authors, and other directories. For more information about this busy wife, grandmother, author and family caregiver, please visit www.harriethodgson.com.

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