It seems that when someone experiences loss, people feel the need to say something that equates that loss to something in their own life. "I know how you feel," or "When I lost my (fill in the blank)..." I've had conversations with some people discussing the loss of a baby versus the loss of a grown child. How maybe it was easier for us...or for those with an adult child. Which way is easier? To have only three days of memories, as we did? Or to have 21 years of memories, as my dear friend Kathy did? Which is easier...years of Christmases to remember and be haunted by - or no Christmas pictures, no presents unwrapped...no memories to haunt us?
This is, without a doubt, the stupidest conversation I've ever heard.
Even with only three days of memories, we are still haunted. We are haunted by the "what ifs" of our life...what if we'd waited one more month to get pregnant? What if we'd chosen more medical interventions? What if we'd brought her home? What if my sisters had come to town to meet her? What if she was still here? What costume would I have dressed her in for Halloween? Would she have understood Halloween and Christmas this year? What if she had lived?
And my friend, Kathy...whose 21-year old daughter died just eleven weeks after an unpredictable cancer diagnosis. What haunts her? The pictures on her wall? The memories in her heart? The Christmases to come that Allison will never have? The wedding that will never be?
Who's to say which of us suffers more? And frankly, why in the world does it matter? We both grieve...we both mourn...we both love our children...we both think of them daily...and we both find a way to move forward, to find the beauty around us, to keep living the life we were blessed with. We live with more questions than answers. We have days that are good and days that aren't. We have moments that feel amazingly light and blessed...and moments that feel as though our legs have been taken out from underneath us.
We are the same.
My loss is not greater than hers. Hers is not greater than mine. They are not the same, but if there is one thing I have learned it is that no one can, or should, compare loss. It cannot be compared. It is, after all...incomparable. I cannot know her grief...she cannot know mine. I cannot know her ghosts...she cannot know mine. And that is the way that it is.
When we begin to assume that one loss is greater than another, we minimize what it is to that person. No one else can know how it feels to bury their child...unless they have. Even then, everyone's exeriences are their own.
It is a fallacy to believe that one loss is easier than another, especially when those losses are that of a child. I didn't lose Faith...I know right where she is. It's not where I'd choose her to be right now, and it's not where I'd imagined she'd be...but I am at peace with knowing that she's okay and waiting for me and her dad to one day join her. And knowing that there is a lovely young woman named Allison whose mother walks with me on this Earth makes today just a little bit easier...