Taking Time to Grieve
Dear Annie: I have been good friends with Wanda for over 20 years. Though our friendship has lasted a long time, it’s not been without its trials. This is mostly because Wanda has a tendency to make everything about her.
Recently, my beloved mother passed away after a long illness. When that happened, Wanda called me — to tell me that it reminded her of her own mother’s passing several years ago. She said this was very difficult for her, and she asked if I would be there for her during this time. Since then, she has called me twice to reminisce about her mother. She has not asked about me or my mother even once.
I am not unsympathetic to Wanda’s feelings. I know she misses her own mom very much. Despite that, I feel like it’s incredibly selfish of her to make my mom’s passing about her grief. Though she’s been selfish before, this seems like the worst thing she has done. It was my mom who just died, not hers! Am I being unreasonable here? I know there is no timeline for grief, so I’m not expecting Wanda to be “over it.” I just might like a little acknowledgment of my own loss. Should I say anything to her? — My Mom’s Death Is Causing My Friend Grief
Dear MMDICMFG: Where to begin. I am so incredibly sorry for your loss. And I’m sorry that you have to deal with your friend’s behavior on top of that.
Psychologist and grief specialist Megan Devine writes about the tendency for people to make others’ losses about them, in a post titled “But What About MY Grief” on her website Refuge in Grief:
“As a culture, we don’t make space for loss. … That means that nearly every person is carrying a backlog of unexpressed, un-acknowledged pain. Like a dammed up river, unexpressed pain seeks expression. Wherever it can. It’s what happens when we hear someone else in pain, and we rush to say, ‘Me, too! I lost (insert person’s name) when I was young, so I know just how you feel.’ Grief becomes a competition for the scarce resource of love and support.”
While that might help explain Wanda’s actions, it doesn’t mean that you need to offer her that kind of support — quite the opposite. To avoid carrying your own “backlog” of pain, you must make your own feelings a priority now. Give yourself whatever you need during this time of grieving, including space from Wanda.
You are not obligated to say anything to her to explain your being distant; but if you’d like to, go ahead. What you told me really says it all: You feel for her, but you’ve just lost your own mom, and you need to focus on that. You’ve clearly got compassion in spades, so I have no doubt you’ll handle it in a caring way.
Dear Annie: What is the link to the sleep body scan meditation that was mentioned in one of your recent columns? I have looked all over. — Scanning
Dear Scanning: You can find that recording, and many others from the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center, including Spanish versions, at the following URL: https://www.uclahealth.org/marc/mindful-meditations.
Editor’s note: “Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie” is out now! Annie Lane’s debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette — is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to email@example.com.