Last summer, my Grandma entered her heavenly home at the age of 89. She and my Grandpa were married for close to 74 years. SEVENTY-FOUR YEARS! Can you imagine it?! Their love story was not without its challenges, which is true for any marriage. But they loved each other through the challenges of WWII, raising four children, the ups and downs of farming and more. My whole life I observed them with a watchful eye and saw them as an example of faith, love, commitment and partnership. Although my love story was a great one, theirs was one for the history books.
Having both lost our spouses in 2016, my Grandpa and I have simultaneously lived our first year without the person we married. We often talk about our experiences in grief. And yet, whenever we talk, he sometimes downplays his pain by reminding me that he had almost 74 years with his wife, where I had less than 12. He sometimes thinks he shouldn’t complain.
I have other friends who shrink their grief as well. One lost her best friend, who also happened to be her father. He was her champion, her protector and her greatest love. And yet she too will say, “but it has to be so much worse to lose a spouse. Parents are supposed to die well before us, but not our husbands.”
I have friends who have lost their siblings long before we find it acceptable for life to end. I know they hurt from their loss, and probably also lessen the importance of their emotions because it wasn’t the loss of a parent or spouse or child.
I, too, find myself thinking of my friends who have lost children – some at birth, and some later in their youth. And I find myself thinking how much worse THAT must be.
Why do we do this? Why do we compare and contrast loss? Is it because we want to make sure the other grievers know we aren’t assuming we know how they feel? Is it because we don’t want to appear as if we are trying to one-up them? Is it because we desperately need to know it really could feel worse than the dark and murky grief pit we’re stuck in? I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately and I’ve decided I don’t know. I have no idea why we do this, but we need to stop. We need to stop minimizing our grief by giving it a higher or lower score than someone else’s grief.
Losing love is a terrible thing, no matter the specific circumstances. No matter how young or old. No matter how many breaths you were granted together. No matter the circumstances that led to your loved one’s death. No matter if there was a chance to say goodbye or not. YOUR GRIEF MATTERS! It doesn’t matter more or less than the next person’s grief. It all stinks. It all hurts. And whatever time you had is never, ever going to feel like it was enough. That’s how we know it was love.
Do you know what else? Your pain matters to God. YOU matter to God. He cares about my hurt every bit as much as He cares about your broken heart. So let’s allow our grief to matter. We can comfort, understand, love and support each other without dismissing or denying our own pain. We sabotage our healing from the pain of our loss when we minimize it. So let’s stop the grief score board and just love each other through it with the kind of understanding only a fellow broken heart can provide.
“Jesus wept.” John 11:38
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