Quantifying Grief

The Kindergarten team at my school hosted “Pastries with Parents” before school on Friday.  When I remarked to one of my friends (and a truly incredible teacher) how much I loved that idea, she told me that I had inspired the change when I wrote about how painful Donuts with Dads was for Parker this year.  So, in that same vein, I share this post hopeful that my words will be meaningful for someone out there.

A woman that I work with suffered the devastating loss of her daughter recently.  She and I have been talking a bit as I try to do what I can to bring comfort to her, usually in the form of coffee gift cards.  As we were talking this week she mentioned that she is going to counseling and has been learning strategies to cope with her grief.  I told her to feel free to share any with me that she found particularly helpful.  She commented that she knew that I had lost my husband but that losing a child who was made from her body is not the same as losing a parent or a husband.  Immediately I conceded that I could not begin to imagine what she is going through and that of course, it was different.

Today as I sat mindlessly prepping some things for my K enrichment groups, I thought back to that conversation.  Her daughter was in her late teens and would not get to experience so much in life.  Dave was almost 50, had been married, had kids, found his dream job and had experienced a lot in life.  But we both still grieve for the years and experiences that they are both going to miss.  She carries the pain of losing a child in a tragic way.  I carry the pain of losing my partner in a unfair and devastating way.  Is one person’s grief greater than another’s?  I grieve for my own loss, but even more than that, I grieve for my children who lost their dad.  I grieve for the experiences they will go through without him.  I am responsible for their mental well being and for picking up the pieces when they fall apart.  Can grief be ranked and measured?

The answer is “no”.  To the person grieving, their grief is a sucker punch to the gut, can’t be compared, one of a kind experience.  This person is so fresh in her grief and certainly did not mean any harm when she said that to me.  To her, her grief is the worst grief there is.  Just as mine is to me.  I think the best way that we support each other is to be there, to listen and to at least outwardly, resist the urge to compare.




10 thoughts on “Quantifying Grief

  1. Maybe some ‘other’ school we know should take a cue from yours….
    And no, my grief isn’t greater than yours or hers, it’s just different. Just like our love was, just like our men were… Just like we are.

  2. Grief is grief, can’t be rated or ranked. It hits like a lightning bolt when you least expect it. No one should say one is worst than another.

  3. Thanks for writing this, Robyn! It’s so true. Everyone is different, everyone feels different, every loss is different and all we can do is be there for each other with understanding and love. Even though I don’t post comments that often, please know that I really appreciate that you have shared your experience the last few years. It’s such a generous gift from you and your family to us all. (And, I’d love it if you would ever consider publishing your blogs into a book.)

  4. Robyn – so profound and so true, even more so considering your personal grieving. That you recognize this in the midst of your devastating loss is remarkable. I agree with the comments of many – your posts would be a wonderful book, and I know would be received eagerly by those you also are living through their losses.

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