It’s often easier to accept the loss of a relationship or experience that has been excellent than it is to recover from a bad one. Paradoxically, it’s simpler to let go of a relationship that’s been outstanding, because the memory of it is positive, so you don’t feel guilty about it not working, and you’re not still trying to put it right. It’s by mourning a loss that you recover from it.

Grief is when you accept the loss. You don’t shrink from the real suffering it causes you, and your concern is more about the person who has died than about yourself.

You let the pain act on you, let it change you. Then it forces you to let go.

By contrast, self-pity is what you feel when you don’t accept the loss. Instead of letting the experience change you, you want the world to be different; you want the clock to move back as if the loss hadn’t happened.

Unfortunately, a lot of books on bereavement don’t make that difference clear; they can make it appear as if self-pity is a virtue.

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