Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Worst Pain

Is divorce worse than losing a spouse through death? Unless you’ve experienced both, I don’t think you can compare the two. Even if you have, it is likely that your experience may be different than someone else’s. I’ve never been married, so I’m in no position to say. But what about that saying, “It is better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all?” Perhaps that isn’t true. I can tell you straight up that I would rather spend my whole life single than to go through a divorce. As for whether divorce is worse than the grief from losing a spouse through death, logic tells us that it is. The widowed person has the memories of the good times to look back on. The divorced person is unable to enjoy those memories as much as he should. He can’t look back a the times his wife did something nice for him without wondering if she really did it because she loved him or if she was just going through the motions.

But here’s the thing: It really doesn’t matter. The person whose spouse has died doesn’t care whether her grief is less painful than that of a divorced person. It hurts. That's all he knows. As a single person, I know that I’m better off having never married than to have married and then divorced. But when I start feeling sorry for myself, that has no solace for me. To put it another way, your pain has less meaning to me than my pain. When someone is going through pain, it does them no good for someone to belittle it. For all we know, the pain they are experiencing is the very worst pain they can possible handle. Our own pain may come from a worse experience, but our ability to handle it may be greater.

At some point, I think we have to conclude that grief is grief, no matter where that grief comes from. That doesn’t mean that we can tell someone who has been widowed that we understand because we lost a dog when we were five, but we should never belittle another person’s grief because we don’t see it as being as bad as something we went through. To that person, whatever they are going through is far worse than anything we have been through, because they haven’t experienced our grief any more than we can experience theirs.