11/26/2012 11:17 am ET Updated Jan 26, 2013

My Grief Can Beat Your Grief: A 'Widow-Tude' Adjustment (Part 1)

"If love is love, it naturally follows that loss is loss. Your loss should not be diminished or trivialized. Whoever says that it should be 'easier' for you (for whatever reason) is not only woefully incorrect, they are also rudely insensitive. No one gets to dictate how you 'should' feel or how much 'easier' your recovery should be."

I have not written much that is more accurate than this observation.

Why is it, then, that so many think that loss is somehow measurable -- by the presence (or lack) of a piece of paper, by the amount of time spent as a couple, by familial relationship, by sexual orientation or by whatever "yard stick" that people feel like using? Worse yet, why does this often happen within the widowed community itself?

It is obviously time for a major "Widow-tude" Adjustment and this adjustment must begin within our community. I now reluctantly welcome you to Part One of a game that I despise; a game called, "My Pain is Worse Than Your Pain." Today's edition of this game begins with those who are themselves widowed; some of whom clearly need both an education and a quick refresher course in compassion.

Those within the widowed community must remember one very important thing:

We're in this together

If indeed we are in "this" together, why in the name of common sense would any widowed look at another and say, "You were only married for 'x' years and I was married for 'y' years, so my loss is so much more difficult." Or how about, "You weren't married (either at all or 'long enough') so you don't 'count' as a widow." And let us not leave out, "If you're gay, you're not really widowed."

Are you kidding?

We are supposed to be lifting one another up. We are supposed to be there for one another in ways that those outside of the widowed community cannot. We are supposed to be protecting one another from people who simply don't get it and will say as much.

It is an unfortunate fact that people who have not experienced loss in general or widowhood specifically might be inclined to say something as ridiculous as the actual examples above. However, there are also widowed from all walks who have shared stories of other widowed who have tried to (for lack of a better phrase), "out-widow" them. Why? Apparently because the self-proclaimed Widowed Superior had the marriage license that others did not or were married longer or were together longer as a couple or have more children or less money or just felt that in general, their pain is so much bigger, stronger, greater and deeper than anyone else who is, has been or ever will be widowed.

Call me naïve. Call me stupid. I sincerely expected the widowed to know better. It honestly never occurred to me that anyone walking the widowhood journey would be capable of saying things like, "Losing my husband is a lot worse than what you're going through because I have kids" or, "It's harder to lose a wife than it is a husband" or, "It's not as bad to lose someone to an illness as it is to an accident."

Yes folks, this "game" is being played and it is being played everywhere -- in social circles, at grief support groups (take a moment to digest that irony), at churches and synagogues... it is taking place all over. For example, one widow shares that another widowed told her that she was in much more pain because she had been married for 30 years and the first widow had been married for "only" 23 years. Another widow shares that a member of her support group feels that, "It is worse for her because she was with her husband for 40 years and I was only married to mine for 19 years when he passed away."

These are widowed talking to other widowed.

I am naturally assuming that according to the My Pain Is Worse Players, I do not warrant admittance onto the widowed "playing field" because I was married a paltry five and a half years prior to my husband's passing and that consequently, my widowhood doesn't count. And what of the millions like the widower who lost his bride while on their honeymoon after having been married for two weeks? Or those who were never technically married? Or the widowed in the LGBT community? I shudder at what all of these wonderful people must have to endure hearing from the less-than-enlightened.

But having to hear it from other widowed? Inexcusable.

I pray that any widowed who has said or implied anything that could be construed as insensitive or unkind is reading this and will review the following carefully:

Dearest Widowed Friend:

I know you are in pain. We all know that pain; including the widowed to whom you are saying your pain is so much greater than theirs or that their widowhood somehow does not "count." I beg you to remember that the widowed with whom you are speaking also lost a spouse. They are dealing with the exact same pain, shock, grief, anger, depression, isolation, fear, uncertainty and abandonment issues that you are; not to mention financial, practical, physical, emotional and spiritual issues as well. Granted, our loss situations are unique because as individuals, we are unique... but I would remind you once again:

If love is love,

then loss is loss

Please do not try to "out-widow" someone else because pain is incomparable. Please do not discount or otherwise diminish another person's healing journey. Your words carry consequences and the fact is that you are not the arbiter of anyone's loss experience. It does not matter if someone was married fifty years, fifteen years, fifteen months, fifteen minutes -- or even technically married at all. Male, female, gay, straight, married, engaged, boyfriend, girlfriend, the manner in which a spouse passed away... absolutely none of it is of any consequence. The bottom line is that we lost the person to whom we committed ourselves to spending the rest of our lives with. Why not instead be grateful that you have met another widowed who understands firsthand what it is that you are going through and lend a hug of support and compassion, rather than fire what feels like a horrible bullet into an already badly-wounded heart.

We truly are all in this together. We are all paddling the Widowhood Journey boat, taking great care not to capsize into the dark murky waters of Despair. Let's not beat one another up with our oars -- or our words.

Next Monday: My Grief Can Beat Your Grief: A "Widow-Tude" Adjustment (Part 2)

Special thanks and gratitude to the members of Widows Wear Stilettos for your generosity in sharing.

For more information about Carole Brody Fleet and Widows Wear Stilettos, please visit

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