(originally published March 2, 2009)
A frequent caller "issue" is this: someone in the family has died, and somehow, in the midst of everyone's grief, the caller has the time and energy to put anger and resentment toward someone who did not write, call, send flowers, show up, nor acknowledge the events in any way.
Well of course this sounds strange, and perhaps even insensitive or even hostile, but there usually is another side to the story. The caller never seems to have any information or insight which might explain why this happened, and I'm left with a suggestion that they simply call or visit and see "what's up." This is generally met with even more anger as though I'm putting some extra burden on them when indeed they're the one who has been hurt or slighted.
There are two explanations for this situation:
First: when we are emotionally devastated by some sort of hurt or loss, it is not unusual (since we feel so out of control of our life's circumstances) to focus all of that pain towards something that we perceive as a slight. The "offending" person literally becomes a kind of emotional dumping ground for all our chaotic and excruciating feeling. In other words, we displace our grief into anger at someone or something concrete, because events often are not within our control.
Second: sometimes, in our hurt, we feel unique and the center of the universe. Our pain is the only pain that matters or, at least, it is the worst pain imaginable and we expect everyone to care and be solicitous of us. When someone has issues in their own lives, we resent even having to consider that as important, and we can't imagine that interfering with our needs (or narcissistic vision of the world).
For the sake of compassion, let us consider the "first" understanding as the most typical and powerful motivation and re-direct our energies into helping others who are suffering the loss right along with you - and not worry about others whose stories we simply don't know.