Feeling Disconnected to My Characters

I’m sticking to my NaNoWriMo schedule, but I’ve developed an aversion to my character. She sounds whiney and self-pitying, though she’s only grieving, but I need to make her sympathetic, special, someone a reader would care about. She is not coming alive for me.

Often books start with a scene that shows the hero in action, perhaps doing something noble or self-sacrificing, or just being strong and vulnerable. Something that immediately makes the reader feel a connection. But how can I make the reader feel connected, when I don’t feel connected to the character? Which is odd, considering that she is me. Sort of. I only know my grief, so that part of me is part of her. The story, of course, is fiction.

One of my problems is that she carried on a cyber affair when her husband was dying (her daughter caught her at it, which is why the mother and daughter are at odds). I have to make the widow realistic enough so that people will believe that she can be in love with one man (who she hasn’t met yet) while grieving another. In today’s society, loving another negates grief, but from talking to people who have had more than one husband die, grief for one man and love for another can live side by side.

So, what problems are you encountering in your work in progress? How are you making your characters sympathetic, special, someone readers would care about? Do you feel a connection to them? Do you need to feel a connection to write the character?