I have been thinking a lot about "comparing." There is a lot of talk about the pitfalls of comparing among grieving people.

One might lose multiple loved ones in the same event, another has a partner of 40 years that they lose over a protracted period of time. Another may have had numerous miscarriages while her neighbor had to make decisions about life support. It is such a mish-mosh of experiences that we address when we talk with grieving people. When you get together people wanting to deal with their losses, it can invite comparisons.

I do see some dangers in comparisons. How it is so limiting of our awareness. How it side-steps the universal nature of our pain when we lose a beloved mortal. How our weakness makes us grasp for more manageable bite-sized data. She has this. I have that. At least I did not have this. My pain is worse than yours. Your pain is worse than mine.

There is a nuanced use of comparison that may not be all bad, however.

After an earthquake, there comes a time in the great loss for a village - the clean up - where one inevitably starts an inventory. You almost have to start assessing what in your village is gone, damaged but repairable and what is salvaged, what injuries to flesh and bone you must nurse. Sometimes you look up and around and see that another village is left standing, another is partially down, another is leveled... and so forth. There is a helpful aspect of doing an inventory. It assists you in gaining bearings, figuring out the work to be done, making decisions to rebuild here or move there. If you have a spell of jealously it may not be so bad if you do not get stuck there. Sometimes you are given a gift of knowing a suffering you are spared from.

It seems to me that in the process of re-building a meaningful existence somehow involves an inventory. Maybe the trick is to keep your eyes largely on your own village and not to get caught up in wanting to raid someone else's village.

Even jealousy can be a messenger. It can inform us of our most passionate work to address. When I feel jealous, it is more about me, my longings, my unfulfilled places that I need to work with - than it is about them and what they seem to possess.

In the end - about rebuilding - these are my thoughts...

Our bonds to others represent our longing for meaning. You may find comparing yourself to someone that has something that you have lost to be like battery acid in your soul. You may find that feeling jealous over another person's grace in their loss to be damning.

The love and bond that you have for the departed can be a painful, searing messenger. The pain and longing inform you of your future path. As long as there are others still on the planet, there are new people that need your love and affection, and hence, the opportunity for this kind of meaning still exists. It may not appear like your original vision. But if you have love and can share it, you are on your way.

Love, Kim