All Suffering is Relative

Fun Fact:

“80 percent of people trying to conceive get pregnant within six cycles.”

Excuse me while I wipe away tears of laughter.

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Everyone is, of course, talking and thinking about the school shooting in Connecticut. I’m definitely not immune to the voyeuristic consumption of media, which I don’t feel honors the dead in any way. But for some reason, this shooting hasn’t hit me as hard as shootings in the past. At first I thought it may have been because it was too abstract, and there was no connection to me, the way there was with the Virginia Tech shooting. But then I remembered my reactions to Columbine and to 9/11 (not a shooting, but a mass killing/disaster event) and I realized that couldn’t be it – I wasn’t connected to Columbine in any way, or to 9/11 (except for having family live in Washington, DC) and those events threw me for a serious loop.

There’s part of me that wants to say it’s my own selfishness that’s holding me back from fully feeling sadness and horror, but I don’t think that’s fair or accurate. My heart seems to be full of its own sorrow about my miscarriage and infertility, and it just doesn’t have room for more. My body has simply rejected additional anguish.

Now, you might be thinking that it’s incredibly self-centered to be comparing my experience to the fact that parents have lost their children. And you’re right, it is selfish. But I’ve recently come to the understanding that grief and suffering are all relative. Just as we don’t grieve the same way, we cannot tell each other that one person’s suffering is worse than another’s. I was reading a blog the other day that a friend from college writes, and the entry was about how she had recently been laid off at work. Obviously, she was devastated, and she called it the worst week of her life. When I read that, my initial reaction wasn’t one of sympathy (am terrible person, obviously). But when I stopped sucking for a second, I realized that it probably WAS the worst week of her life. Her job was very central to her identity, and losing it was like losing part of herself.

Just as it’s wrong for me to say that somehow her suffering isn’t real or her experience isn’t “bad enough”, I also need to be gentle with myself. My suffering isn’t any better or worse than anyone elses. It’s genuine, and it’s painful.

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