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 are you now? Will you survive this? What will life become? Some mourners, unfortunately, get stuck in the victim role, which is damaging and nonproductive.
After I lost four family members, including my daughter, in 2007, the victim role was tempting. I wanted to wallow in grief and victimization. But thanks to life experience, I didn’t do these things. In fact, I did everything I could to avoid the victim role. Becoming a victim makes more trouble during 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 thinks the victim role is “a straight shot to pain.” Worse yet, this role restricts your options, clouds your goals, and kills your dreams.
You also lose your self-confidence, something you don’t need right now.
Robert Elias Najemy thinks the victim role makes it harder for others to help you. He approaches victimization from a communication standpoint in his Not Alone website article, “Communicating with Those who Play the Role of the Victim.” According to Najemy, the challenge for others is to express their caring and love without getting caught in the role you have chosen.
In order to help you, family and friends may have to resort to “I messages.” One of Najemy’s 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 you. As tempting as victimization may be, you have the power to resist it.
There are many reasons to avoid victimization. First, it draws energy away from your grief work. Second, it’s non-prodictive 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 makes your grief journey longer and hinders progress.
How did I avoid this emotional trap? A week into my grief journey I sat down at the computer and poured 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. To avoid isolation, I kept some social connections. Helping others is the best thing I did for myself and I still do this.
Mourning takes time and you have the right to take all the time you need. But you don’t have to give in to victimization. If you do your grief work, your loved one will eventually become 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 a loved one is to enjoy the miracle of your life.
Copyright 2010 by Harriet Hodgson
Updated: April 26, 2013