Competing at Grief

I was talking with a friend recently about the death of his mother who died in her 60’s. He is grieving for her but said he realizes that other people have it worse. I said “well, pain is pain and grief is not a competition. You’re allowed to grieve without having to compare yourself to others.”

There is always that feeling of “wow, that’s worse than my loss.” I don’t often think “well, my grief is worse” but I do tend to marvel at losses that seem worse. I think the important thing to remember is that people mourn for family members, for their livelihoods, for the destruction of their homes.

I guess there are some degrees of things being worse. I met a widow who was told by her co-worker that she now understood the widow’s grief because her dog died the previous evening. The widow didn’t feel that they were quite the same thing. The man who treats my house for bugs has said more than once that having to put his dog down after 15 years was like losing a child. So, a 15 year old dog has led a long life. The bug guy obviously has no idea what losing a child would be like. It would be better to say, “boy I miss my dog.”

If we go down the path of ranking losses, we’d have to assign points. So many for a parent, maybe more for a spouse, and double that for a child. Oh, and don’t forget our siblings and in-laws, and friends.

I think it’s better just to say, “grief is not a competition.”chess-256510_640

2 thoughts on “Competing at Grief

  1. Grief and pain are very personal. Trotting out one’s personal stories of loss trivializes what someone else is telling you about their own. Listening to someone is often all that should be done. If more needs to be done be prepared for some pain of your own in your effort someone else. Pain and sorrow can be infectious. In an effort to protect ourselves from pain we are often to quick to share our own stories of grief and mourning when another tells us about theirs.

  2. I think your are correct in saying “grief is not a competition”. It is also very personal and very different for each individual. I think it is difficult sometimes for people to express their grief and that not out of competition but out of awkward empathy they make statements of understanding your loss due to the loss they have felt. I also think grief is not something that one must or even can “overcome”. If grief comes in stages, the stages are messy, overlap, repeat randomly and have no connection to our daily idea of time. Grief I think is with one forever but as with anything some days are better than others. With time, we teach ourselves to “hide” the worst of it from the general public but the loss is still there. Time can’t erase grief and there are some moments when time doesn’t seem to have even eased it. We seem to “overcome” grief because life goes on and there are all those things that “need doing”, some just keep us busy others actually bring us joy.

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