A few days after we lost Cohen someone came to my house to visit us. While at my house the woman went on and on about how her daughter had jumped off the sofa and hit her lip on a table. That this was so tragic and horrible and awful and that her daughters lip was swollen and her two front teeth had been knocked out. She kept using the words tragic and tragedy and trauma and traumatized.
All I could do as this woman rambled on and on was think to myself, “Really, you’re talking to me about being traumatized! Because of a lip! You have got to be kidding me! You carry your child for 9 months only to be told in what should be your next to last appointment before you deliver your happy healthy child that your child no longer has a heartbeat. Then go through labor, deliver you child, and bury him two days later. Then have your breasts swell up with milk to feed the child that you should have and have all of the other post postpartum issues and then you can talk to me about trauma, tragedy, and being traumatized.”
Thankfully my mother was there to see the look in my eye that said I was about to explode and quickly escorted the woman to the door before all the thoughts that were brewing in my head came pouring out of my mouth.
After this happened I was extremely upset. How could she even think to talk about her trauma after everything I had just been through? What in the world was she thinking?
As I was ranting and raving about this to my cousin one day he said something that has stuck with me ever since. He might not even remember saying it to me. He said to me, “Kristen the worst thing that has ever happened to a person, is the worst thing that has happened to them.”
In other words if the worst thing that had ever happened to that woman was to have her daughters lip be swollen, then she has nothing else to compare that to. I can’t expect her to understand the worst thing that has ever happened to me.
When I was 20 years old the worst thing that had happened to me up to that point in life was having my boyfriend break up with me. I cried and cried. I sat in the dark and isolated myself. Looking back now that pain is nothing compared to what I feel now losing Cohen but back then that was the worst pain I had ever felt and I had nothing else to compare it to.
Losing Cohen is the worst pain I have ever felt and I feel like a swollen lip is such a small unimportant thing that could never be labeled a tragedy. But then I think about women who have to watch their children starve to death and can do nothing to help them. Or women who watch as their children are killed and/or raped. Or women who lose not one child but all their children. And I think to myself, to those woman losing Cohen the way I did and only losing one child would be like the swollen lip is to me.
My cousin’s words to me have helped me keep things in perspective. What happened to us is horrible, it does hurt, and I would do anything to have Cohen. But just because we hurt so bad doesn’t mean other people can’t hurt too. And just because what they might be going through doesn’t seem to us as bad as what we are going through it may be the worst thing that has ever happened to them.
His words have helped me to be more sympathetic to others. To really listen to what their problem is. To not just write off what they are going through because it doesn’t seem as bad as what we are going through.
This doesn’t mean that I don’t get annoyed when people say things like, “This is the worst day of my life, Starbucks ran out of my favorite coffee and I had to wait for them to make more and then I was 20 minutes late for work.”
It doesn’t mean that I don’t get a little mad when people try to compare our loss of Cohen to loss of their adult sister or grandparent because losing a child is just different.
It doesn’t mean that it doesn’t sting when people complain about being up all night about with their baby when I would love to be up with mine (but honestly if we hadn’t lost Cohen I would be right there with them because I love my sleep).
But it has helped me. Helped me to see things differently. To be more empathetic and loving.