There is no question that losing my husband was a massive and devastating tragedy in my life. Sometimes when people first hear about it, they search for a relative experience in their past to find some common ground. This is natural and it is compassionate. But then for some reason, many people add a caveat to this by assuring me that whatever loss they went through it was in no way comparable to mine.
Where does this need to compare loss come from? What is the outcome of comparing? Is there a winner and a loser?
While I had my “poor me” moments in the past, I never considered I lost more than another person. How does one compare loss anyway? And why would you? Perhaps it is because we remain, in our modern day culture, quite uneducated about the process of grieving. Someone may feel that losing a grandparent is less significant than a spouse. But what if that grandparent raised the person and was like a mother or father?
Gary was only in my life for ten years whereas a significant grandparent may have been there for twenty-five or thirty years. Should we measure based on the duration of the relationship? Or its intensity? I had an amazing marriage. Does that mean me losing my spouse is more significant than someone whose marriage was headed for divorce?
When I find myself in this situation, I gently offer up that each person’s loss is significant. Loss hurts. Out of loss, we can isolate. Perhaps for some, comparing loss is a way to find common ground and bridge the isolation. Instead, let’s just reach out and honor each other’s grief. Mine is not more or less than yours. I cannot fully understand what it is to lose, for example, a child. No one lived our lives as they were before the death of our loved one. No one can know our very personal journey through loss but they can relate. And out of relationship we can find support, caring and understanding.