There is No Hierarchy in Grief

Have you ever noticed how easy it is to slip into judging and comparing things? From the time we start learning, we are taught to measure, compare and categorize things. Initially, humans were hardwired to make judgments about everything in their environment for adaptation and survival. As we evolved, we began to carry our judgments and comparisons into our social environments, almost as a way of assigning rank to ourselves. It’s perfectly normal to slip into comparisons. We all do it. We compare ourselves to our friends, our family and even our own children.

But there is a potential danger in comparing, especially in grief. Grief doesn’t have an absolute value. You can’t add, subtract or assign and compare different values or levels of grief. The loss of a spouse is not greater than the loss of a parent, the loss of a parent is not twice the loss of a grandparent, and the loss of an older child is not twice the loss of a younger child. A loss is a loss, and it is always felt 100%. When we attempt to compare loss, we lose the ability to really know someone else’s story. We fail to give them the permission to grieve the way they need to grieve and we fail to give them the compassion and empathy they need and deserve. Each person’s grief is unique and belongs entirely to the person experiencing it. We should view other’s grief with a sense of genuine curiosity and acceptance. Only then will they feel comfortable sharing their journey with us. And by honoring and accepting their unique experience of grief, we validate the gravity of their loss and open our hearts to help heal theirs.

WARMest Wishes,

Teresa Bartnicki, MA, LPC-Intern




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