There are a lot of different kinds of loss, and a lot of different kinds of grief. When you experience a loss, people come out of the woodwork, seeking connection, hoping to bring comfort. As is human nature, the natural starting point is to share ones own experience, and so, in a time of pain, you become very aware of all the myriad layers of loss and suffering that are woven throughout the lives of those around you.
This is where we are most human – in our reaching for each other, our fumbling to find a way to ease each others pain, and in turn, our own. As woefully poor as our culture is at embracing grief and loss, you still see the shining moments, the way people put aside their own spinning world to help you find your feet in yours.
But it’s easy to compare grief, to compare pain. I can’t tell you how many times people have said, “well, it’s not the same, but…” The thing I’m learning is, it doesn’t matter whether something is harder or easier or more cruel or less fair. We all experience pain. And yes, people should probably be sensitive and not compare losing a job to the death of a child, but even so – what else binds us together like being at the mercy of the world around us in a way that can change everything in a second?
Many suggest that a miscarriage is not as painful as a stillbirth (and it does seem true that the more time goes on, the harder it becomes) – but at what moment do you cross from one to the other? From careful optimism to blind love? Surely not at the technical marker of 20 weeks – as if suffering a loss at 19 1/2 weeks would hardly be noticed but a loss at 20 would be debilitating. Before Aiden was born, we experienced a miscarriage at 11 weeks. At the time, we were heartbroken – but felt instinctively that getting pregnant again right away would ease our pain (I’m not saying that this is right for everyone). We got pregnant immediately, and it did ease our pain – but that easing came at a loss that I only understand now. The loss of making a place for that child in our lives, of honoring him or her. I’m not saying I would do it differently. I just know that now, I grieve even that child in a way that I didn’t know how to then. In a way that makes me say who cares if you lost a baby at 11 weeks or 9 months or 27 years. We are all in this together.
We HAVE to be in it together, or we lose our connection, our humanity. We lose our ability to recognize the vulnerability around us. And even WHEN people around us may be going through something harder than we’ve ever had to face, it doesn’t mean we’re any less equipped to reach them. The people whose support has meant the most to us during this time aren’t the ones who can say “I know just how you’re feeling”. They’re the ones who put everything aside to just BE with us, to help us feel like we’re not alone. Because not feeling alone doesn’t mean that we’ve all got the same story. It just means that we are invested in each others stories.
One thing is for sure. I want to be better at reaching for the people in my life and helping them hold their pain, whatever it looks like.