It Should (Not) Have Been Me

September 9th, 2021

There can be an odd guilt with grief that, if understood, can actually be a good thing.

I often talk about all these tools I’ve learned as an adult, sober person, but I usually refer to them in the abstract. One of the specific tools I have to take out of the shed daily is the ability to pull myself out of self-pity.

When someone dies, it’s a common phenomenon to feel like you should have been the one in their place.

I know I do.

You start down a path by imagining a world in which they survived and you did not, and because you can’t possibly know that world, you believe it is a better one. I know there were specific things I had felt; that I should have been the one who was sick, for example, because maybe I would have had a better chance, but at the very least the world would have still had her.

This is a very deep swamp of self-pity. I see people buried in it every day.

Being able to recognize my self-pity — the swamp — and lift myself out of it like Luke’s ship on Dagobah gives me the perspective I need to not only survive, but to live.

Because when you get over a swamp, you can see it’s only a small part of a multitude of waterways, spreading out towards the horizon in every direction. You have choices. You can go anywhere and do anything.

So I take moments throughout my day and I recognize that. If I make someone smile, I remind myself they would not have smiled then if I wasn’t here. If I help someone, I remind myself that that person would have had to do it alone today. If I write some words down, I remind myself that those words would have never existed.

And all of those things happened because it wasn’t me.

And it pushes me to do more.

So if you’re feeling that way, for any reason, just remember the words of the wise philosopher, Shrek — get out of your swamp. Remind yourself of everything that exists only because you exist. And if you’re running low on examples, go out and make some more.


Published by dennisvogen

I'm me, of course. Or am I?

2 thoughts on “It Should (Not) Have Been Me

    1. For sure. That’s why there’s not just one foolproof technique in dealing with it. I’ve met a lot of people who either have at least thought about switching places, or live their lives seemingly wishing they had. Grief is a powerful, weird beast.

      Liked by 1 person

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