We should not judge ourselves as superficial or dismiss our pain as nonsense simply because someone else’s suffering is bigger or deeper. Someone who loses a pet can be just as devastated as someone who has lost a husband. And losing precious family heirlooms and mementos, things that can never be recovered or reproduced, this hurts. And the hurt is real. This is not nothing!
In group therapy I have often heard abuse victims deny the significance of their abuse, minimize their struggles, even laugh away their suicidal thoughts, because they didn’t believe it was bad enough to be of any consequence. Can we just give ourselves a break here? Loss is painful; suffering is real. Do doctors treating cancer compare the size of tumors and allot increments of compassion to their patients in direct proportion? Of course not!
If we have suffered a trauma of any kind we deserve the time and compassion needed to heal. We need this from ourselves most of all. They say in trauma recovery that witnessing violence can be as traumatic as experiencing it. Certainly attempted rape can be as traumatizing as completed rape; you have been violated physically and emotionally. And two millimeters of cancer can be as devastating as two square inches; you have lost your health and are facing the possibility of debilitating treatments and having to face up to your mortality. If you are hurting because of a loss of any kind then give yourself the compassion you deserve, without judgment, without measurement, without question. You will be able to heal only if you give yourself permission to mourn your loss or to accept the reality of your trauma.