The Grief Comparison Game


There is this little game of who has it worse that always seems to pop up in conversations. Someone says something that is difficult in their life, and another person is like, oh yeah? Wait until you hear how bad I have it. Or else they say, well that’s not so horrible, did you hear about so and so? They have it way worse than you.

With grief, there is a lot of comparison. There is even a lot of comparison inside of child loss. I’ve heard many times from both directions. Someone will be talking about another who lost their adult child, and they will say- “at least they were older and moved out of the house, imagine how much harder it would be if they were taking care of them all the time?”. Then from the opposite end of the spectrum, someone loses their child through miscarriage or stillbirth, and people say, “at least you didn’t really know them, imagine how much harder it would be if you had taken care of them and known them?”

These really are hurtful and dismissive comments. They downplay the fact that no matter the situation, a child is lost, and a family is in pain. It doesn’t matter if they were in utero, or if they were 50, losing a child is painful. When you lose your child early on, you live all the memories and moments that should be happening, or all the memories not made. When you lose your child as an adult, you grieve all the memories, moments that were tough, maybe grievances that were not taken care of, and still you grieve the future memories they will not make.

I believe these types of comments come from trying to make sense of the pain, or trying to fix what has happened. There really is nothing that can be said to make losing someone you love better. It doesn’t matter if your child is young or old, it goes against the natural way of life in our brains.

There are comparisons with different types of loss, child loss, parent loss, sibling loss, spouse loss etc. Why do we always need to compare? Loss is loss. Grief is grief. I know the loss of my child and that is incredibly difficult. It’s so painful and life shattering. But if you are grieving your mother, can I tell you you have no idea what it means to grieve? No, your grief is your own. But- when you are grieving your parent, please don’t say you understand because you lost your mom, or you lost you cousin. And we really can’t imagine what it’s like, because it’s impossible to understand fully until you are the one facing your own great loss.


Can we just say I’m sorry? I’m so sorry you are going through such a heavy trial. I’m sorry you know this pain. I’m sorry you lost your mom/aunt/child/husband. Until you lose a child, you cannot understand the pain. Until you lose your husband, you cannot understand the pain. Until you lose your friend you cannot understand the pain. So we don’t need to compare. We just need to have some more love and compassion for all of us who have a heavy loss.

Do you feel alone and at your wits end in your grief? My new program “Carrying Grief” was created by me- a grieving mother, to help support and encourage other grieving mothers in their grief. Sometimes tools and ideas from others who have been through it as well can really help work through what we are experiencing. You are not alone with the pain, and if you are feeling crazy you will know you are not.