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Did I Really Just Say That – To Myself?

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I recently wrote an article that dealt with insensitive remarks made by others. This time the camera of life will be a “selfie.” Note if any of these remarks resonate with your own self-talk.

First the common painful practice of “would of, could of, should of” comments that can really hurt. Here are a few examples:

  • First the common painful practice of “would of, could of, should of” comments that can really hurt. Here are a few examples:
  • If I would have pushed her to visit the doctor sooner, she might still be alive.
  • I should have insisted that we eat healthier foods.
  • If I hadn’t asked him to go to the store, the accident never would have happened.
  • I should never have been mad at him when his crankiness was from his illness.
  • I should have done more.
Self Talk

Then there are the comments we make about how we are handling life in the aftermath of our loss:

  • I am nothing without him. 
  • I can’t do any of this business stuff.
  • I can’t cook or clean or do any household stuff.
  • I was never the gardener and now all the plants are dying.
  • I’m watching too much television.
  • I spend all my time on games and apps.
  • Others are going on dating sites but not me.
  • I want to travel but am afraid.

Just mentally think of your own list of selfie comments that can be hurtful. Most of us have a station — “crazy making” — that plays in our heads. You might think you are the only one engaging in self-torment but it is a very human trait especially when we are grieving and in a state of disbelief over what has occurred.   

Why are we so hard on ourselves as well as demanding and demeaning? 

Volumes have been written on the subject. These kind of selfies are a very common reaction to the loss of our life partner. This often comes from our ongoing fantasy of being able to control events that deep down we know were never in our control. It is as though we are attempting to undo what has happened. Creating chaos, anger and regrets inside our heads may lead to strong painful feelings while keeping us from fully experiencing what is even more painful — our deep often unbearable sorrow. 

It is also common to be critical of how we our doing in our lives without our loved one. Do you find yourself holding some idealized version of how you should be functioning without your partner? Are the expectations you have for yourself way outside of your comfort zone? Do you compare yourself negatively to how others are doing? Comparing and criticizing is not unusual after a big loss. Handling so many changes and confusing new tasks can damage our self-confidence, leaving us feeling inadequate as we look around and see others who we think are doing much better. We compare our insides to their outsides — a prescription for a downward spiral.

Hopefully, negative self-talk does not dominate your thoughts or take over your life.  

Sometimes it is just a mild irritant that makes dealing with loss harder to bear.

There are a couple of things you can do that can make a big difference in reducing those negative selfies. 

One is the mindfulness exercise of just noticing without judging the stations that play in your head. Notice the loud ones, the crazy making ones and also notice the times when the selfies in your head are peaceful, calm, pleasant, compassionate. Getting to observe your self-talk without judgement often brings about gentle change, a softening in your relationship with yourself.

Another way to relax your critical mind is through attending a grief group. Being with other people dealing with loss can increase your self-compassion as you give and receive support. It helps to know that others struggle with the same kind of selfies that you do. A group where you are caring to one another encourages self-compassion. It is comforting to know that you are not the only one struggling to be kind to yourself.

Quotes, essays, songs can also lift us when our inner thoughts are pulling us down. One of my favorites is a Native American prayer:

“Oh spirit, let me not fear yesterday’s rain,
Let me walk tall against tomorrow’s wind
And cherish the sunshine of today.”

By Lynne Goldklang, MFT