For the most part, I have found the babyloss community to be a safe haven. The stories, friendship, and support of other bereaved parents helped me feel normal in my grief after my daughter’s stillbirth.
But like all communities made up of human beings, there are some shadowy aspects that can pop up from time to time.
The “Grief Olympics” are one example.
In short, the “Grief Olympics” are a tongue-in-cheek way of referring to the all-too-human tendency to compare hardship and tragedy. It’s the arbitrary rating of loss on a scale of “mine is worse than yours.”
For many, this is a silent inner demon that whispers judgments about other’s losses on days when you can’t imagine anything worse than what you are experiencing right now. For others, it can be more direct, usually with the effect of damaging relationships, online or in real life.
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We All Love and Miss Our Babies.
When my daughter was stillborn at full term unexpectedly, an event that coincided closely with several other losses, many people would have willingly given me a medal for – at the very least – the worst summer ever.
But when I went to support groups and heard other parents tell their stories, I realized that there really was no way to compare my loss to theirs or theirs to mine.
We had all lost babies at different stages of pregnancy, and very few under the same circumstances. What was similar in our stories was how much we loved and missed and grieved our babies.
Some of us expressed that grief very quietly and internally.
Some could hardly get words out through our tears.
Neither gestational age nor nature of death was a reliable predictor for who would fall into each category. We were all simply devastated.
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There is No “Worse Than” When it Comes to Grief and Loss.
A non-loss friend asked me once what I thought was worse: losing a baby early in pregnancy or late? Losing a child before birth or after? I understood the inclination to wonder, but I explained that these were impossible questions to answer.
There really is no “worse than” when it comes to grief and loss. Every parent mourning the death of their precious child has likely experienced the worst moments of their life through that loss.
It doesn’t matter if they had their baby for eight weeks in utero or for months or even years after birth. The death of that child is wholly devastating to its parents in a way that only they have experienced.
This is why the “Grief Olympics” never really made sense to me. I think perhaps the inclination to compare loss is born of the desire to believe that there is a kind of baby loss that is “better” – less painful or tragic – than another.
A kind of baby loss that isn’t devastating.
Just as there are no actual gold-medal champions of the “grief Olympics,” I don’t believe that kind of baby loss exists.
When we acknowledge that all baby loss sucks, no matter how or when it occurs, then we can get on to the important work of healing and supporting each other in our grief.
Robynne Knight is a writer, educator, and acupuncturist who lost her daughter, Zoë, to stillbirth in 2011. She is passionate about sharing her experience with grief and loss, and helping others find growth and healing through her writing, private practice, and sharing support and resources through The Zoë Project.