The Trap of Comparisons


A few months after Mom’s death, I began doubting the validity of my grief. There is so much tragedy in the world. I would hear of the deaths of children, or 20 year-old American soldiers, and I would think of their grief-stricken families and of all the lives that ended too soon. Did I have a right to intensely grieve for a woman who had a long and fulfilling life? After all, I’m middle-aged. Wasn’t it time that I outgrew the need for my mother?

The answer, of course, is no, we never outgrow the need for love and when a person we love dies, we grieve. I had fallen into the trap of comparing my loss to the losses of others. I’ll give you an example on a smaller scale. Let’s say that you have a migraine headache and I have an ulcer. Telling you that my stomach hurts does not make your migraine any less painful. When it comes to physical ailments—and grief—pain is personal and subjective. Grief hurts.

I love books and I am often amazed that I am drawn to the book that I need at the exact moment I need it. Here is a brief passage from On Grief and Grieving by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler that illustrates this fact. It appears on page 30:

When you compare losses, someone else’s may seem greater or lesser than your own, but all losses are painful. If you lost a husband at seventy, there will be someone who lost a husband at forty-eight. If you lost a parent at twelve, there will be someone who lost their parent at five years old—or at fifteen years. Losses are very personal and comparisons never apply. No loss counts more than another. It is your loss that counts for you. It is your loss that affects you.

Your loss is deep and deserves your personal attention without comparison. You are the only one who can survey the magnitude of your loss. No one will ever know the meaning of what was shared, the deepness of the void that shadows your future. You alone know your loss….

….Your task in your own mourning and grieving is to fully recognize your own loss, to see it as only you can. In paying the respect and taking the time it deserves, you bring integrity to the deep loss that is yours


Go to next page, I'm Grieving As Fast As I Can: Thoughts on Closure

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How complicated and individual mending is,
the time required for healing
cannot be measured against any fixed calendar
Mary Jane Moffat
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