Comparing Grief – Can It Be Helpful?
Comparing grief is something we all have done at some point.
“But you’ve only had a miscarriage.”
“I experienced the same when my grandpa died.”
“My stillbirth was … in comparison to my miscarriages.”
“I cannot imagine losing a teenager.”
All these are comparisons: a miscarriage versus a stillbirth or neonatal death, the experience of the death of a child versus the death of grandpa, my stillbirth versus my miscarriages, the loss of a teenager versus another loss (or no loss).
Statements that include a comparison are often uttered without any bad intention. They are often an opinion of someone from what they understand or not understand from their vantage point in life.
In many cases, they are helpless attempts at dealing with the unimaginable grief that follows a loss, your own or someone else’s.
In many cases, however, a comparison is invalidating someone’s experience and feelings. No matter the kind of loss, it involves grief and pain.
We cannot truly know what someone else is going through, even if our losses involve the same person or the person in the same relationship (for example grandpa).
Even after an extensive exchange with our partner in regard to the loss of our child we only know what they have shared. And even then, we only have ‘what we understood’ and not ‘what they truly meant’.
If the comparison helps you to see something good and helpful for yourself, then it can be helpful – but only to yourself.
For example, Katja, one of the contributors of the book ‘Surviving My First Year of Child Loss’ said in an interview: “I know the murderer of my child, I know he’s in jail and I’ve got a trial coming up. Some other parents don’t have that option.”
Another example is comparing your own losses. I know that my daughter’s neonatal loss has impacted me in a completely and utterly different way to my miscarriages and my mother’s suicide.
Even the different miscarriages have not caused the same pain, physical as well as emotional.
Does it support your healing?
Comparing your grief experience within the different losses you have experienced can help you gain perspective and understand your varied responses given the different losses.
Comparing your grief to someone else’s grief is only helpful for you if it supports your healing.
It’s not something you need to share with that someone as that again would potentially invalidate their experience.
In my work as a grief psychotherapist, the most important question I ask is: Does it support your healing?
That’s when you know.
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