A few days ago I stopped to grab a bottle of water at a gas station. The man in front of me was talking with the cashier about being tired after a long day at work. When I got up to the register, the cashier made a comment to me about how, “That guy doesn’t know what tired is until he has 2 kids to take care of.”
Well, I’d just had a long day of clients, most of who were grieving and working through painful, emotional stuff. I was tired too and, apparently, when I get tired my brutal, cynical side comes out. I found myself blurting out,
“You don’t know tired until your two kids die on you.”
I was back to my car before my brain caught up with my mouth. After a minute, I went back in and apologized.
Was her statement careless and thoughtless? Sure. But mine was judgmental and rude. Poor behavior doesn’t excuse poor behavior.
And, what I realized in that moment in my car was that I am tired of the constant need in our world to compare experiences as better or worse, more or less deserving of whatever. This is true also for all the comparison of grief experiences I see in loss communities. It makes me sad and exhausted to witness.
The truth is I have no way of knowing if her tiredness from raising kids or the tiredness of the man’s job is more or less than mine from grieving my children. In the same way, there is no way to compare having no living children to those who have a living child before a loss or have a living child after a loss or both.
Loss of a child, or any loved one, fucking sucks. Comparing our loss to others doesn’t help anyone. Not one bit.
I can’t know what it is to raise living children, I have no real frame of reference for it. I have no idea of the exhaustion or stress or joy or heartache of that experience. I also have no idea how it is to birth and raise a living child after a loss. Or to have living children and then experience a loss. I don’t know those struggles or challenges or joys or benefits. I only know my experience.
But I can listen to others and honor what they experience as truth. I can engage in conversation to reduce thoughtless comments and raise awareness in others. I can be clear and honest about my experience with those who are able to listen. I can choose to love others who are hurting and to honor their own personal journey – however similar or dissimilar to my own.
In my tiredness and cynicism, I lost the opportunity to engage in a conversation that matters. I gave up the chance to honor her experience and my own when I let judgment and anger shut down that potential conversation.
I hope next time I’ll take a breath and choose love instead. That next time I’ll take time to listen and engage in a conversation that matters.
Comparison builds walls and isolates us all from the love and support we crave. Love builds bridges and starts conversations.
I want, for one, want to build bridges. I want to have conversations. I want to choose love, again and again.
Even when I’m tired.