Thursday, February 17, 2011
We all do it. Upward comparison and downward comparison. Who is "better" than us, who is "worse". Make ourselves look better or feel worse, justify actions, validate ourselves. People do it with physical comparisons: thinner, fatter, stronger. People, mostly in the church, compare with a sort of moral scale: he does these things, at least I don't. Material wealth, education, careers, social status...this comparison goes on and on in so many areas of life.
Sadly it exists even within the world of grief. The end result may be the same: a mother or father have lost a child, yet a hierarchy of sorts appears to be shared by many.
The loss of a three month old is deemed greater than the lost of a newborn or child in the womb. Is it the act of giving birth to a living baby what people consider the threshold of parenthood? Is that what makes the difference? Suddenly you are a parent and the death of your child is automatically more painful?Or is it the child had a life here on earth and other people were able to interact with the child? See his face, hear his voice, watch him play, etc. Does that make the loss greater?
Some may compare to make their loss seem greater or compare to reason that their loss is not as great. One who has lost an infant has commented that losing a baby before you were able to hear her cry, look in her eyes, feed her and comfort her is unimaginable. I've heard gratefulness for any brief amount of time spend with one's child; pity for those who lost children before given that chance.
My loss has been brushed aside by some, Lydia's life not truly recognized as human because she did not draw a breath outside my womb. Hurtful words have come because I did not carry Lydia to term. As if several more weeks in my womb legitimizes her life as more real and the loss greater. She could have been born at the time she did and lived. Yet if a baby is lost before his or her life was viable outside the womb, it does not diminish that loss. How is it that a loss at 40 weeks can be conceived as more painful, greater, more tragic than a loss at 26 weeks?
I've heard comments stating estrangement from their living, adult child is worse than the death of a child. I cannot speak from experience as to the suffering of that state, but it certainly serves to invalidate my loss, my grief, my pain. One commentator even had the audacity to try and relate my feelings of motherhood (i.e. my struggle to be recognized as a mother and have the mother identity while not having my baby with me) to a broken engagement. Death is something different.
Comments from well-intending people and maybe those not so well-intending, even comments within groups hoping to provide support can cause pain when words of comparison are spoken.
The conclusion I draw for the reason of this comparison in grief is the desire to feel our loss is recognized. Affirmed. Seen as significant. Validated. Whether the loss is an infant 10 days old or at 28 weeks of gestation, the fact remains that the mother has lost her child. A mother she will always be. The loss is great. The pain is real. Comparison does not help.