Would you be rather deaf or blind? I don’t know exactly how many times children asked me this question when I was a child. I usually stammered that being blind probably was worse, used as I was to my hearing impaired ears. Still I wouldn’t wish hearing impairment on anyone. And I think that someone who is blind wouldn’t want to be deaf and at the same time wishes he could see again.
Comparing. How easy we fall into doing that. Sometimes someone said to me that it is good my daughter died so young, that I didn’t have the chance to get to know her and attach myself to her. One of my children sometimes cries because classmates say that it isn’t that bad Sister died, because she wasn’t born yet. But to my child Sister is Amanda and the grief of not knowing her, not knowing how she would have been now, and not being able to teach her skills, doing her hair, taking her somewhere. That grief is just grief.
Sometimes I wrestle with ugly jealousy when another mourning mother tells me her child lived for a couple of hours, weeks or even years. But of course her grief is not less deep because of the memories she could make and hold dear, the love she could give for a while. Just as much as my grief isn’t less deep because I could not do just that.
Grief is just grief. Each of us has to learn to live with the grief we have. Comparing is killing. It isolates you from me, while when your grief is allowed to be there and mine as well, connection can happen. If it is true that misery loves company, than misery that doesn’t have company could make it more miserable.
Acknowledging grief for what it is, without comparison or judgment, is incredibly important and can even be healing. Because if sadness is allowed and recognized for what it is: grief, then there is also room for other feelings. If you have to push away your sadness, all emotions have to be pushed away and having compassion can also become difficult then.
So, I stop comparing your grief to mine. I want to listen to you and accept the similarities and differences. Because your grief exists as much as mine. It cannot be ruled out against each other. It cannot be compared. It both exists.
First published in Dutch on June 21, 2019