Thursday, February 10, 2011

Pity Party

Def: A feeling of sympathy: a feeling of sadness because of
another person's trouble or suffering, or the capacity to feel this

A regrettable thing: a sad or regrettable thing

Mercy: a willingness to help or forgive somebody

Synonyms: commisserate, console, sympathize, empathize,
be there for somebody, show concern, comfort

(Encarta World English Dictionary)

Just reading the definition, pity doesn't sound terrible. "A feeling of sympathy" sounds sweet. Empathy is a good thing, isn't it? As a parent of a child with special needs, I can say I tire of other very well meaning parents assuming I will accept some pity. It isn't just a person's statements that can be troubling. There is a look of pity that I get....well, basically everywhere. I'm so familiar with that look. That look makes my skin crawl. It's a look that says any combination of the following:

Poor thing!
I could never handle that!
How sad!
That's unfortunate!

It's a look that needs no words. You feel sorry for me and think I'm a poor pathetic mother who can't in any way be happy with her life. That's the part that is so disturbing. I often find myself defending my happiness and contentment. I love my family, my children, and my life. I'm, really. I am truly happy with my family and my life! That doesn't mean I have a smile on my face 24/7 and never have a sad feeling. It means I have just the same potential for happiness in my life regardless of my challenges.

I'm sure I went through a period of adjustment after we got J's diagnosis, but now I don't think about how unfortunate our situation is because I don't believe it is. When I talk about J's eating issues or an upcoming surgery or procedure, it's just what is happening in my life. By communicating this, I'm not searching for sympathy. It's just information.   

It's the assumption that others think I'm suffering or that my child is a "regrettable thing" (as stated in the above definition). But most importantly, I worry about J noticing that look someday and being as distrubed as I am. Because I don't want her to think she is weak and pitiful. I want her to be strong and self-sufficient. 

When I'm carrying my four year old on my hip because she isn't confident in her motor skills if bumped in a crowd of people, don't give me a look of pity. If you want to help, come over and hold J. My arms do get tired! Because pity doesn't help my situation. I don't have time for it.


  1. What a beautiful post, Kate! I have a nephew with cerebral palsy and absolutely loved the studies and work I did in the area of special education. It's so true that just because your daughter's needs are different doesn't mean your life isn't good. I love that your focus is on being happy with your family and your life - and on helping your daughter become strong and self-sufficient. Well done!
    Deb @

  2. I know just what you say, Kate. We lost a child and I got tired of the pity. If I was feeling sad, I wanted a hug but not pity or other NOT helpful comments. Strength comes from adversity. You would probably like "Children: The Challenge" by Rudolph Dreikurs and the chapter "Don't Feel Sorry." It's my favorite parenting book. It starts by saying "Pity is damaging, even when justifiable and understandable," then goes on to give some great practical examples. We just listened to "The Secret Garden" on audio and loved that too. Bravo, Kate! You are doing an amazing job.

  3. @wonderinthewoods

    I'll check those out, Cori! Sound like good parenting books. Thanks!

  4. @Deb Chitwood

    Thank you for your comments, Deb! I appreciate the support. Always good to hear it!