Discounting your experience

Kevin Carlin, a Family Support Practitioner at Very Special Kids, shares some insightful words around grief and the implications of comparing one’s own situations to another.

Sometimes, when I am listening to bereaved parents, they will make the comment that there are other people worse off than they are. That comment has always surprised me when, for a parent, having a child die, must be the worst experience they could possibly have to endure in life. I have often reflected on why parents sometimes make this comment.

Clearly there are people who have experienced multiple, unimaginable losses in life. However, grief experiences cannot be compared and each parent’s experience is unique to them. It is what the loss means to each individual that matters. Perhaps the comment is a way that parents endeavour to comfort or console themselves in the belief that there are people worse off. It is a noble comment in the light of what a bereaved parent is going through.

As noble as this may be it is important that a grieving parent does not feel pressure to discount or devalue their grief and what they are actually experiencing.

By minimising the depth of their own grief, parents might be protecting the feelings of others around them. This can be socially rewarding as many people, including family and friends, can find it hard to sit and listen to another person talk about the pain associated with loss. However, there is a substantial price to pay for this socially rewarded behaviour, and that is emotional isolation.

Allowing themselves to share their grief openly and honestly with someone whom they feel is truly present for them can provide a degree of relief for grieving parents. This person might be a friend, a counsellor, an acquaintance whom they may have recently met, or it may take place in a support group setting.

If you are feeling isolated in your grief there are counsellors available at Very Special Kids. Either speak with your Family Support Practitioner or call 9804 6200 and ask to speak to the duty worker.