Is There an Upside to Comparing Our Pain?

I went to a funeral for a lovely man who was 84. When I hugged his wife of 59 years she said to me, “You know what this is like. You’ve been through this.”

Surprisingly, her words caught me off guard. I quickly responded with “I do, and I’m so very sorry for your loss.” But to be honest, I felt like a fraud.

My first thought was, “Oh, but I couldn’t possibly know the pain of losing your husband of 59 years. I haven’t even been on the earth that long! It must be just awful.”

Really, brain? You couldn’t possibly know the pain, huh? What are you talking about?! Of course you know pain!

Isn’t it fascinating what our brains do? Why would my brain want to compare this woman’s loss to mine? What is the upside?

I bet your brain has done this.

Maybe you watched someone lose her husband to an illness and the dying process was lengthy. Did your brain offer you the thought that, “At least she knew it was coming and had a chance to prepare.”? Or perhaps your brain went the other direction with something l like, “It must have been so awful for her to watch him in pain like that. I’m glad my husband passed quickly.”

Loss is loss. There is no upside to comparing our pain. Whether we’re talking about the way our husbands died or having a pity party about how difficult our lives are now, comparison will always make us feel awful. Even when you choose the thought that someone else’s pain is worse than yours, you lose the opportunity to connect with that person, to be present with them, to love them.

How about instead of comparing our pain, we just love each other and show up as a soft place for a another human to fall?

There. That feels so much better.

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