Comparing Suffering


A broken heart is a broken heart, right? Or is it? No doubt about it, some types of suffering impact our lives much more than other types. For example, the death of a pet is painful, though it probably wouldn’t impact and change our lives the way the death of a loved one might. However, I think we walk a thin line when we compare our grief to someone else’s.

It has been said that the worst grief possible is the loss of a child. However, does saying this to someone who has experienced the loss of a loved one who wasn’t their child, diminish that person’s grief? There is a quote I like from the TV show, “Scandal”. A character in the show loses his significant other. His friend has just lost her son. She keeps saying how you can’t compare the two, that losing a child is worse. He responds like this, “I keep hearing that. The loss of a child is greater. I resent that, never having lost a child. I resent having to feel like losing the love of my life….is less of a loss. I am now broken. I’m not me. I’m forever changed. I’m undone. A broken heart is a broken heart. To take a measure is cruelty.”

Many times I have felt like maybe I shouldn’t have grieved as deeply as I did. I would ask myself why is this so hard for me….he’s just my brother, it’s not like I lost my child or spouse. Maybe this is why I feel so strongly about sibling grief, because they are often called the forgotten mourners. Many times the main focus is on the parents of the child lost. I would sometimes have people come up to me and just ask me how my parents were doing, without asking how I was doing. So now, whenever I hear of someone who has experienced the death of their sibling, I try to make sure they know that their grief is significant and acknowledged. I don’t want them to feel forgotten or that their loss is somehow less.

I read somewhere that the worst thing you can say to someone who is grieving is anything that starts with the words, ‘at least’. At least your baby wasn’t older, it would be harder if you had gotten to know them more. At least they died quickly. At least you didn’t miscarry when you were further along in your pregnancy. I really think people are trying to lessen someone’s pain by saying “at least” but all they are doing is making that person feel like they shouldn’t be feeling as much pain as they are. Nothing good comes out of comparisons.

So the next time someone tells me about a trial they are experiencing, I’m going to try to just listen and acknowledge their heartache, without comparing it to my own or someone else’s pain. I don’t think God sits up in heaven and compares what each of His children have been through, but He cares about all of our problems and losses, big or small.


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