Self Pity And Grieving: 6 Ways To Feel Better

Self pity and grieving are very different. Self pity is the stuckness of despair. It can be a bitter feeling of longing for something you cannot have but need. Often what we want does not seem like too much to ask, which is why self pity can be so painful. Sometimes it feels like the end of the world.

Self Pity And The Loss Of The Self

Self pity can be very difficult to handle not only because it can be tied to our dreams but also because it can be tied to the expression of the good in ourselves and our natural drive toward self actualization. So when our dreams – even the simple ones –  do not come true a part of us often loses its optimism and resilience. Self pity is often the loss of our idea of our best self or a life we imagined for ourselves.

Self pity also challenges us. No matter how worked up we get about how the world has done us wrong, and often it has, it always makes us feel worse. Whatever the problem is does not get better with self pity, so hurting ourselves or someone else never helps. Self pity can cause a lot of harm and often feels as if it simply adds to our loss. Having a practice can help us in the difficult moments when we feel sorry for ourselves – and we all have those moments.

Differences Between Self Pity And Grieving

Grieving is different. Grieving is about the loss of something or someone we have had. When we grieve we feel the absence of something that lived in our hearts and lives. Grieving is often about a passing of someone or something from our lives as a chapter ends and another begins.

Grieving is sad but does not come with the same desperation of self pity. Self pity can occur when we lose something we never had a chance to have. An example would be the person who lost their parents very early in life, and who feels sorry for themselves because their life has been such a struggle because not having parents does in fact make life more difficult. That experience is quantitatively and qualitatively different from the person who loses parents as an adult which causes grief but the loss is an ending. In the former case, the lost parents live in the imagination and in a dream; in the latter case, the lost parents live in experience and the heart.

Self pity and grief are both natural feelings. One is not more justified than the other. Self pity comes with a perception of damage to ourselves and our lives and the wistfulness of what might have been. Self pity is a hurt to our willingness to be a part of life in a positive way, because there is a feeling of not getting the chance at something.  Often the reasons are beyond our control. Grief can come at a more natural ending point of a phase of life or of a relationship. Grief accepts the transience of life and as such has a graceful attitude toward change and loss. Grief has its pain but also its dignity. Self pity and grief may be different but that does not mean that they are mutually exclusive. But grief at some point diminishes. Because self pity often comes with a lot of anger, it may not end until we let go of one dream and replace it with another, which can take a long time.

Handling Feelings Of Loss

We live in a culture with few skills for handling negative feelings. When our unhappy feelings are invalidated they go underground but are still there to be processed. When individuals cannot release those feelings, they may turn to “acceptable” forms of expressing their pain like alcohol and drugs. All feelings including negative ones run their natural course and need to be accepted. Here are a few techniques for providing for your self pity and grief feelings whether your companions in life accept your feelings or not:

  • a journal can work wonders. Of course, it should remain private. I had one at one point, and scribbled my feelings in it which was a more energetic discharge of the feelings that also made my writing unintelligible. That worked for me!
  • meditation will help and I highly recommend making time every day for meditation.
  • embrace whatever you are grieving.  Can you make a shrine that you spend time with to honor your feelings and loss?
  • seek out a therapy group so that you can receive some compassionate care from others.
  • do not relinquish your idea of your best self because you are going through a tough time.  Often in our success driven society it can be hard to appreciate ourselves when we have a setback.  Your best self may have nothing to do with fame or social approval. Framing your journey as part of a larger human story can make acceptance easier.
  • good food and sleep are small acts of caring which do wonders.  Try to care of yourself.
We all deserve the best life we can have. Part of life is handling our painful feelings. Hopefully this list will help you find a graceful path through sad moments by dignifying your experience and your life.

About Maria Hill

Maria Hill is the founder of Sensitive Evolution. She is the author of The Emerging Sensitive: A Guide For Finding Your Place In The World. In addition, she has created the immersive Emerging Sensitive Program using cultural and personal development frameworks to help sensitive people master their sensitivity and turn it into the asset it can be. She also offers The Magic Of Joy program for quantum healing and the Emerging Sensitive Community focused on living in the world as a sensitive person and navigating the challenging cultural shifts of our times. She is a longtime meditator, reiki master, student of alternative health and Ayurveda. Maria is a Certified Theta Healer and certified in Spiral Dynamics. She is an abstract painter whose portfolio can be found at Infinite Shape and also very interested in animal and human rights and the environment.


  1. paula on December 30, 2015 at 12:54 pm

    How can I reframe my life as it is.
    I was born with two emotionalky absrnt parents. To deal with that I got an eating disorder. I recovered only to then have my back go out and contract lyme disease which was not diagnosed for 20 years. I still have to work and run a business even though I deal with depression, anxiety and the recurrence of the eating disorder.I cannot get disability. I am 52 and spend most of my money on my health so cannot afford to live on my own snd live with my 86 year old father. He is not supportive emotionally. I have lost most of my friends due to my illness. This will be my life until I die. Self pity is here. No signifigant other, no life but work and taking my meds. No energy to get out and do anything besides work so I can eat and pay bills. What would you do if this were your life. Oh, I have tried altering my diet and relapsed into bulimia so that is not an option. I eat much better thsn most americans but not willing to be extreme in my diet by restricting “bad” foods anymore.

    • Maria Hill on December 30, 2015 at 1:07 pm

      Hi Paula,

      Thanks for stopping by. Your life sounds demanding and I can see why you feel depressed. When we are up against a lot of challenges life can feel bleak. There are never easy answers. However there are some things you can do.

      Obviously you have already found some in working on your eating habits. Your work and that ensures that your bills are paid. Although your father is unsupportive you have a roof over your head. What I am trying to say is that it seems that you have the basics covered. That may not seem like much but for many people they try to go forward in life without having the basics covered.

      When you have suffered extreme disappointment and loss or health challenges one of the things that is most difficult to deal with is a loss of something to look forward to. My sense is that this is where you could do some introspection. I would like to see you journal to get your unhappiness out on paper to release it (this takes time but it does work) and also to start to think about what would make you want to get up in the morning. It may take you awhile to discover what that might be. I suggest that you look for little things that bring a smile to your face. Then you need to start a visualization exercise or dream board to start to imagine a life with more of that. What would it look like? It would start a shift n your energy which you can use to get better and move forward. I would suggest baby steps in the direction of your joy because it will take getting used to and because a change will be like putting in a new foundation for you so you want to take it slowly.

      I do not think your life is over but I do think that you need to find more of what lights you up and bring it into your life. I am sorry for all of the difficulties. Having had many challenges myself I empathize and hope I have helped if even in a small way.