Grief and Loss: How to Have a Pity Party
13 Dec 2016


I think self-pity is underrated! If we do not feel pity for ourselves, then who will? Yes, of course people can make self-pity into a career (trust me, it doesn’t pay well!), but on the whole, many of us avoid feeling the pain of grief. We prefer to eat it away (guilty!), drink, gamble, talk, exercise or drug it away. Anything but face the grief, talk to the grief, walk around it and let it do its thing. A Pity Party is one way to give resolution to your grief.

In my previous blog post Grief and Loss Counselling: 7 Tips I mentioned having a Pity Party… what is the point of doing this?? The point is that we are human beings not human doings, and sometimes we need to be, just be. Also, if you don’t respect the grief with quality time, it will catch up with you in physical symptoms, emotional outbursts or implosions, or in relationships

So how do you have a Pity Party?

  1. Make a regular appointment with grief (sadness, tears, loss, pondering). It could be every day for an hour in the crisis phase, or once a week soon after. Some just have a pity party once a month until things settle, or as part of life’s routine. Have a set time for beginning and for ending the party. I have always had the party alone, but who knows? Maybe a friend might join you?
  2. Make sure you have privacy. Turn off phones and technology and carve out some time for your party.
  3. If necessary, watch a sad movie to get into the mood…My movie of choice is a worn copy of Stepmum. Or listen to sad songs… Look at photos, emails, cards received and sent. Anything that helps the grief flow.
  4. Have tissues nearby, a journal to write if you want. You might want some art materials if that is your thing.
  5. Get right into it! Some people indulge Hollywood style: ice cream, chocolate etc. (Probably not good for your health!!) However you do it, go for it and really indulge your self-pity. No half measures. Some people have told me they wail, loudly. Others scream or hold themselves tight and rock back and forth. No stiff upper lip! Or you can just feel sad quietly…
  6. Allow quiet recovery time so you can enjoy the calmness which should follow.
  7. Observe yourself and monitor if this approach gives you increased emotional freedom and a greater capacity to cope. If it doesn’t lead to greater capacity do not use Pity Parties as a strategy. It may be that you need to seek out a counsellor or other professional help.

The benefits of having a Pity Party?

  • You will learn to trust that a grieving episode will end. You do not cry forever. You WILL be able to stop crying….your fear of, “If I start I’ll never stop” is simply not true. Feel good hormones will kick in.
  • You will learn to trust your own rhythm of grieving.
  • You will be able to meet some of your own emotional needs, not always dependent on the company or soothing of others.
  • The grief can be moved through so that it has a natural end over a period of time.
  • After allowing space to experience the grief you may find the way forward feels more open, even hopeful.
  • When you feel overwhelmed or distracted by the grief when you are at work or at a time when you need to focus on what you are doing, you can promise yourself you will keep your grief appointment at the set time. This helps develop the skill of containment.
  • Pity Parties are different from “wallowing in self-pity”. Wallowing implies over-indulgent, never-ending self-pity without forward movement to acceptance and resolution.
  • When you do connect with others for support, you will have increased resilience and a deeper understanding of your own grief process. You will be clearer about what you need from others and what you can and can’t do for yourself.

“It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to, cry if I want to, cry if I want to/You’d cry too if it happened to you.”

“It’s My Party” song lyrics – Lesley Gore 1963

If you are struggling with grief and loss and you need to see a qualified grief counsellor, I can be contacted on 0432 275 468.