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Is One Type of Grief Worse Than Another?

There seems to be a hierarchy of grief, with some perceived as being “worse” than others. Truth is that while all grief is experienced at 100 percent, not all grief is necessarily experienced at the same level of emotional intensity. When facing the death of a loved one in Santa Clara and elsewhere, the grief you witness will be based on three main factors: the uniqueness of the relationship you had with the deceased, the time and intensity of the relationship, and the degree of feeling emotionally complete with the deceased. Regardless of which level you’re at, there’s no doubt that bereavement services can help you navigate the levels of grief as you come to terms with the loss.

Comparing Grief

There’s a natural tendency to compare grief, but experts say this isn’t a healthy thought process. The grief-comparison game among those who have experienced loss is one that nobody can win says What’s Your Grief. While it may be natural to compare our grief to others and how we perceive their loss experiences, you simply can’t compare grief and loss in the same ways in which you can compare measurable facts such as height and weight. That’s because, by its very nature, grief isn’t quantifiable or objective. You don’t have to go through a certain amount of suffering depending on what kind of loss you have gone through.

In fact, loss is about the only thing you can say for sure that all grieving people share. Past that, grief is a completely subjective experience that is impacted by a variety of factors. Focusing on the comparison of grief solely based on type of loss is a mistake that leaves people feeling “less than” and not deserving of the same kind of support.

Fact is, all grief is worthy and important. All grief can exist together. One person’s grief doesn’t have to be any worse than someone else’s in order for it to hold significance, validity, or importance. Grief over losing a loved one in death can be just as real as someone who has lost a dream job, marriage, or pet. Just because you may think their grief should be more manageable than yours doesn’t mean their grief doesn’t exist. All that a grief comparison does is draw unfair boundaries between people who should be supporting one another.

A Grief Hierarchy?

Knowing all that, though, it’s still tough NOT to compare losses. If you have lost a child, are you more entitled to a higher level of grief than someone who has lost a sibling? Who hurts the most? Is it a competition? Certainly not. It can work the other way, of course. Perhaps you lost a beloved spouse to whom you had been married for 50 years, then maybe a friend of yours recently lost her brother to Alzheimer’s. They may have reached out to comfort you in your loss, commenting that she is in pain, but you must really be in pain to lose a life partner. It’s a subconscious tip of the hat, if you will, as many people in their kindness will step aside to let a newcomer into the group no one really wants to belong to in the first place, points out Psychology Today. We as humans seem to be attached to this “illogical logic” — the thought that we should diminish our own pain to honor someone else’s.

The reality is that grief is just as real, sad, undeserved, and brutally unforgiving for one person as it is for another. When you start comparing levels of grief within a grief hierarchy of sorts, you lose the meaning of what you’re going through and vice versa, when in fact, the grief itself is ever-present and just as much “there” for anyone regardless of loss.

It’s also important to mention that grief doesn’t occur at one point on a spectrum. It’s one big loss followed by a series of smaller losses afterwards — sort of like earthquake aftershocks. As such, those aftershocks come with secondary losses. Let’s take the secondary losses after experiencing the death of a spouse, for example. Those can include losing:

  • Your main support structure
  • Your sense of self
  • Sexual intimacy
  • Half an income
  • Financial security
  • Hopes and dreams
  • Half of your social life
  • Opportunity for adventure

Your family and friends may not recognize or support these secondary losses because you largely experience those alone. They only see the initial event and subsequent grief, but it’s the small little losses you experience every day that make the grief journey a very difficult road indeed.

In the end, wherever you fall on the grief spectrum, there is no threshold you have to meet to feel the way you do.

Contact Pathways Home Health and Hospice

If you think you can benefit from inclusion in a support group, some one-on-one counseling, or any other kind of outlet, Pathways can help you with our many bereavement services. Just contact us at 888-978-1306 to learn more.