Grief is Grief: On Loss Comparison

Grief is Grief: On Loss Comparison

November 19, 2013

Grief is Grief: On Loss Comparison So many emails I receive from readers start or end with, “Not that I’m comparing my loss in any way to yours.”

And my heart aches reading that.

Because most of the time – their loss makes an impact on me. I know it’s changed their lives completely. The loss of my sons is significant to me and to many others, but mine doesn’t trump anyone’s. It doesn’t make yours less traumatic or painful. I do it too though. I read emails from parents who lost a teen and can’t fathom that pain. I hear about multiple first trimester miscarriages and don’t know what to even say back.

How do you survive that?

How do any of us survive any of this?

There’s something about the community of loss that brings comfort in many different ways to me. Your stories normalize my feelings and bring a balm to my hurting heart.

Someone else out there gets my pain.

This is a strange example but it’s never left my memory. About a week after Kaden died, we were in PetsMart getting stuff for our dog. They have a vet’s office in the back of the store, and I looked up to see a woman walking away from it, towards me, crying. In her hand was a leash and a collar, with the little tags clinking together. Her eyes met mine and in that moment all I saw reflected back was the intense pain I felt.

For a split second I wanted to grab her into a hug and cry with her. I wanted to just be near someone who was feeling their loss as raw and new as I was mine. All I could think of was her heading home without a little dog to greet her, putting away the food bowls and bed. My eyes stung with tears for her and for me and for everyone who has to go through the loss of something or someone they loved.

You might think this is odd, associating the loss of a pet with one of my child. But it isn’t. I’ve also lost twins at 20 weeks, held them on my chest as they died. I can tell you that losing them was just as painful as losing my full term son at 3 weeks old. Different. Vastly different emotions tied in – but the exact same feeling of pain inside me.

It’s not that I want to open an email that says, “I know exactly how you feel,” but when someone reaches out in a familiar way, “I know a little of your hurt” I do get it.

Because I only know a little of your hurt too. No matter what I’ve been through, I’ll never walk in your shoes with your loss. We can’t compare.

A “bigger” loss doesn’t equal more right to grieve or share your story. I haven’t ever had to justify my feelings for Kaden dying like I did my twins. A baby less than 24 weeks seems to come with an expectation of thinking, “They’d have never made it anyway, what’s she upset for?” I hear women so often downplay their feelings with, “Just a miscarriage, just 6 weeks in, just…”

Just nothing. Losing my child doesn’t mean when my beloved pet dies I won’t care now. Losing Kaden made me miss my twins even more. I still miss my grandpa and I knew him for 25 years. Heck, I lost a parakeet at 14 and I still feel sad when I see one that looks like him. It’s not the same, each come with different levels of pain and memories. Of course my sons hurt more than the others, they always will.

But it all hurts. All of it. Grief is grief.


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    Diana Stone

    Diana is the editor of Still Standing and also blogs at Diana Wrote about her life with two daughters here and three sons in heaven, life as an army veteran's wife, and her faith. Smaller glimpses into her day are on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

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