Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Envy Update

I've been doing some online research on that dreaded topic, ENVY. This is what I've come up with so far.

- Envy is related to wanting something you don't have, whereas, jealousy has more to do with taking something that isn't yours or having to give up something.

- Envy is considered a very negative trait and that is why it is hard to openly discuss. People are very uncomfortable admitting feeling envious and those who do face criticism.

- But it is a very common and normal reaction in grief or otherwise.

- In relation to the "Stages of Grief," envy is tied in with anger, which is the second stage (although today, the order of the stages isn't considered as important and it is acknowledged that they can be mixed and matched, and returned to time and time again.)

- A grieving person tends to be envious when they feel they have been wronged through no fault of their own. They also tend to feel powerless in regard to turning their lives around.

- Interesting enough, a person usually is most envious of people they identify with and are similar to (in my case middle-aged, middle-class moms).

- Also, what is usually the object of the person's envy is that which the person holds most dear to them (in my case marriage and a husband/intact family).

- Although I came across numerous references to envy being a part of the grieving process, there were very few recommendations for how to work through the emotion - except strongly worded references saying how bad it is to be envious. Suggestions I did find are related below.

- You can't just tell a person to stop being envious. Doesn't work.

- What does work is for the person to fully experience the emotions behind the envy vs. stuffing the feelings or denying them. That means staying with the feelings when they take over and to try and understand where they are coming from and why.

- Once a person has an idea of why they are feeling envious and about what, ways to manage the envy include diverting your thoughts to another topic (changing the subject). Also, and this one made a lot of sense to me, when the feelings overtake you, to start thinking about your personal strengths, successes, etc.

There is another football game on Friday so I'll see how I feel sitting in the stands with my lonesome. It'll still be hard - I'm not expecting the envy to just go away. But I tell you I will be holding my head up and will not be down on myself for feeling envious for what I long for and so dearly miss and have been missing for many years now, simply because the cancer hands of fate took my husband away from me and my boys.


  1. Great post. Thank you for this. I am big on Envy. Not big, in that I think it is so great, but big in that I am quite often consumed by it. I try to call myself on it. "Admitting you have a problem is the first step to getting better." LOL Perhaps a 12 step group for the envious would be good.

  2. The football and baseball games seem to be the time when you are feeling the strongest pangs of envy. I wonder if, when you are sitting off alone, you have ever stuck on some earphones and listened to music on an ipod and just enjoyed the visual part of the game, but drown out any conversations, etc... In the past, when I used to fly more, I always carried a walkman and stuck it on so that I didn't have to listen to crap I didn't feel like listening to. It probably wouldn't diminish your enjoyment of watching your sons play in their sports, but would allow you to cut the annoying chatter out of your life and that in itself, might make things more tolerable.
    I do agree that envy is probably a common feeling associated with grief. Lately, as I watch other people struggling with cancer and death in their own marriages, a part of me is now feeling a kind of relief that that part of my life is over with now and I don't have to relive the hell of caring for and watching my spouse die, so maybe I'm actually in a better place. I have time to recover and have a few good years left. Maybe it's better to be on my own earlier than to be older and trying to deal with all of this death and grief.
    Btw, if it ever seems that I'm not listening, I am. It's just that I'm a "solver" type and look for solutions when I see a problem. I hear your grief, frustration, etc.. but I can't do anything about that except listen. However, I can tell you what I would do if I were in your place - not go to a stupid picnic that made me uncomfortable, listen to my ipod instead of stupid chatter around me in the bleachers at my son's game, find somewhere to get a reasonably priced facial, etc.., order my glasses online for 1/5 the price of buying the same frames at an opticians. I guess that, being alone with absolutely no back-up behind me (no kids, very few "real life" friends and they all live 800 miles away, etc..), has made me become very mercenary in finding ways to manage my life and deal with people and situations that make me feel bad about my lot in life.

  3. Dan - Appreciate that you can also say that you are dealing with this demon! Along with all the crap I feel about widowhood, losing my financial status, etc., I find that the widowed are also held up to this overly high standard that we have to take and deal with everything with grace and strength. But I tell you, for whatever reasons, I just don't have it in me to be a saint. It is yet another tough thing to deal with when I'm looked down on for struggling emotionally. I just want a break for truly trying to do the best I can, even when others seem to think I should be doing better (e.g., not fighting with the envy demon).

    Bev - Whenever you comment it is valuable and appreciated. You are right that it seems to be the hardest for me when I'm at school or sporting events, although sometimes it hits me at grocery stores too when everybody shopping is a couple. For me, being a part of a couple is so valuable, it wouldn't matter if there was illness, death or other hardship to face. But I see what you mean about counting your blessings for where you are right now in life.

    I am dearly thankful for being able to get all this stuff out, because Lord knows, if I didn't, I don't know what would come of me. Just knowing that you care to read my rants is meaningful.

    Despite all my gearing up for it and trying to handle my reactions better, I know that I'll be hit with an emotional onslaught at Friday's game. I'm not sure tuning out the noise will help because I also am haunted by what I see. Maybe if I add blinders in addition to the headphones - there's an idea! I might capture a little attention when normally I'm pretty much ignored or overlooked in the stands!