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Comparing our losses to the losses of others

By Joyce Alexander, RNP (retired)

One of the things I have heard from victims of psychopaths here at Lovefraud, seemingly over and over, is that people compare their losses to my losses and Donna’s losses and Dr. Liane Leedom’s losses, etc. and think that their losses don’t “count” because they haven’t lost X, Y, or Z and we did. They seem to think that because I lost a child, or Liane lost her medical practice, or Donna lost a quarter of a million dollars, that they are not entitled to feel as injured as we were/are.

The people expressing this somehow seem to have “survivor’s guilt” about feeling so devastated when their losses were somehow “less.” Or they feel that we are somehow “super heroes” because we survived “big losses.”

I felt that way too when I was reading Dr. Viktor Frankl’s book, Man’s Search for Meaning. Dr. Frankl wrote the book after his years in a German Nazi concentration camp, in which he lost everything except his life, and barely retained that.

Pain is like gas

I felt that my own losses didn’t compare to Dr. Frankl’s losses, and that somehow I should feel guilty for feeling such great pain and desperation. Then I read Dr. Frankl’s explanation of how pain operates like a gas.

In science, we learn that a gas, because it has atoms that are far apart, will expand until it completely fills an empty container. It will also compress easily so that a larger amount of the gas can be put into a small container. In any case, the container is full. It is totally filled.

I realized upon reading this that my pain was just as “total” as Dr. Frankl’s, and that my losses were just as “big” (or “small”) as his were. All pain and all loss is total. If something is important to us, we value it and when we lose it, we grieve for that loss. We feel pain, which is what grief is.

Grief process

The “grief process,” as Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross explains it, is an emotional process where we come to grips with loss, and eventually come to acceptance of that loss.

Dr. Kubler-Ross’s grief process consists of denial, bargaining, sadness, anger and acceptance. These five stages of grief are not processed in a linear 1-2-3-4-5 formula, but in alternating steps, more like 1-3-4-2-3-4-1-2-4-5. Eventually we come to and stay in the last stage, which is acceptance of the loss.

A baby who drops his pacifier is totally in misery and pain. He cries from the depth of his soul’s loss that his grief is total, his pain is total and his life is ‘ruined,’ because he doesn’t have his pacifier. Of course we know that his life is not ruined, he will recover, but he doesn’t know this at that time because he doesn’t have the knowledge and experience to know he will come to acceptance of his loss and recover.

Pain is proportional

When we lose something that we care about, our pain is in proportion to how much something means to us. If we drop a penny, usually we will not be devastated. We know that we will still be able to buy lunch, pay the mortgage and go on with life. But if we drop the bank deposit for our business and lose it, it is another matter entirely. Now we may not be able to make payroll and things will get very bad, so our loss is bigger and we grieve over the problems this will cause, the bigger loss.

When we are devastated by the loss of a “great love,” or by the betrayal of someone we trusted, depended on and cared for, we have suffered a great and grievous loss that rocks our world. It isn’t anything we can put a dollar value on; it is an emotional attachment that has no price. How do you quantify “love?”

When we have lost something that is of utter value to us, whether it is something that we can quantify, or whether it has no monetary value, only value of the heart, the soul, then we must realize that our grief is total. We must not compare our losses to what someone else has lost and feel that their loss is “greater,” because it isn’t greater. The pain isn’t greater. It is all TOTAL LOSS. The pain is total.

So if you start to feel that your loss is nothing compared to someone else’s loss, Stop! Realize that your loss, your pain, is your loss and pain. No one else’s is more or less.

 



140 Comments on "Comparing our losses to the losses of others"

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  1. blossom4th says:

    Joyce,
    Ah,another of your very insightful articles!I like that point~that pain is Total,no matter how different it might be from that of someone else.

    I know when I first found lovefraud and read stories and posts of those who had lost alot of money,I thought “wow,I was fortunate,I didn’t lose a fortune!” Well,I’ve NEVER had a fortune.But something we all have in common is that sense of BETRAYAL,no matter what our story is.And that’s PAINFUL!Many of us have experienced the dizzying emotions that go along with disbelief and shock.We’re left with all these broken pieces of our lives and we wonder HOW and IF we’ll ever feel WHOLE again.

  2. still reeling says:

    Blossom, you are so right. I’ve posted here before about how stupid I feel in the company of those who were “married to it,” custody battles, being physically battered, or even in short-term relationships w/affection and sex.
    I had none of that, Thank G-d, but the “dizzying emotions” (ergo my screen name) as well as the still today, “shock and disbelief” are still so real in my mind.
    Driving home from a lovely evening with my best friend, I thought about when he first truly hit on me (or so it seemed, who knows why or what he was really doing). I could still feel the butterflies in my stomach as what he said registered with my brain. The first time he said, it, it went right over my head, it was so shocking. So he repeated it and I just walked back to my desk in total and utter shock. I felt like a brick had been dropped on my head. After a weekend of complete numbness, I started to have feelings for him and then I was smitten with someone who never brought up the topic again, showed me nothing concrete, only threw bizarre, flirtatious generalities my way when he felt like it and once in a blue moon, said or did something that was kind of outrageous and kept me on the string. Of course, I was so bereft and needy, I took the crumbs to heart but my morals are so strong, G-d knows why, I knew I could never get truly involved with him. I won’t say that if he was truly interested in me, he couldn’t have manipulated me into whatever he wanted me to do, because he probably could have. But I do not know and don’t want to ever find out.
    The betrayal, as you say, was as shocking to me as the “hit.” I couldn’t believe anyone could just get fired (as he thankfully did), then completely leave my life. He no longer had anything to lose, he lost it all. So, there was no reason why he couldn’t contact me. Fact is, he didn’t care, not one little bit, yet I still hurt over it.
    What yanks me most is that I don’t remember my dreams at all anymore but the one I had about him over a year ago, is a sharp in my mind as the night I dreamed it. Why, why, why????? They definitely do something organic to your brain or maybe it’s just the way I’m wired and the part of the brain that responds to feelings of love and obsession holds memories like a thirsty sponge. If it weren’t so sad, it would be fascinating.
    Take care, blossom, thx for your post and to you, Joyce, I will go read your story.

  3. still reeling says:

    Joyce your article is priceless and so meaningful. Thanks for sharing it. You’re correct – grief is grief and though we hope that we will reach the full acceptance stage, getting there can be gnarly and for me at least, is very complex. I actually use my experience with path as a go-to for analyzing, etc., trying to figure it/him out, when I’m in a quandry over real-life situations so forgetting him is so difficult as emotions begin to churn when I get into it.
    I like the Victor Frankl reference. It truly illustrates how one can berate themselves for their level of grief as you compare it to others who have suffered so greatly. I used to kind of berate folks (in my head) at times for grieving over things that seemed so trivial but now, after reading your article, I’m not going to be so quick to judge. Thanks for this valuable learning experience. It truly gives new meaning to the old platitude about each of us and our individual battles. No ne has a right to judge anothers’ pain. Thanks Joyce.

  4. Ox Drover says:

    Dr. Viktor Frankl’s book, “Man’s Search for Meaning” that he wrote about the different psychological reactions people had to being in the Nazi prison camp where he was and then he talked about pain acting like a “gas” and it was a big AH HA MOMENT for me, because as I read his book about how he had lost EVERYTHING except his life, I thought to myself, “Wow, this man lost everything and I still have x, y and z,” and I started to actually FEEL GUILTY about my pain, which my losses compared to his were MINIMAL. But then when he explained that all pain is TOTASL, I “got it” and realized that my pain was total, his pain was total, and WHAT CAUSED the pain, big or small, didn’t matter, the pain was still total.

    I was also fascinated by the ATTITUDES of the people who had been in the camps, some were very bitter, angry, some were beaten down, and others went on to still be optimistic and to ACCEPT WHAT IS, but not apparently have a need for revenge. Why were these people who had also lost everything, just as Frankl had, respond to the loss differently?

    I’ve still been trying to answer the same question Frankl was trying to answer, but answer it not for others, but answer it for MYSELF. What is *MY* SEARCH FOR MEANING? Answering that question in a way is a life time search, but on that search I’m learning about myself and what has meaning to me.

  5. still reeling says:

    Forever and always, Ox…this quest for meaning. I’ve always loved a good philosophical discussion, but today as I was driving, I thought, “Ya know, I’m really not into trying to analyze things I can’t measure anymore. I’m just bone tired of trying and imo, it doesn’t work anyway.”
    As I read your post about Frankl’s book, it just further impresses that truth upon me. Some mix of nature, nuture and other known and unknown factors and variables as well, makes people the way they are. The camp dwellers had different outlooks and responses to their horror based upon what was inside their brains. We don’t know why. Neither does Frankl. He just knows what worked for him and that what worked for him also worked for *some* others. Not all others.
    I’m with you on trying to figure out what my purpose is here in this life and I’m also ready to believe that I have no purpose other than to exist. I would very much like to know if that is true, and if not, why *I* am here.
    In the meantime, as you said, keeping eyes and ears open during the search is a way to learn many lessons about yourself and others as well.
    I think for me, purpose and meaning have something to do with self-acceptance, not thru introspection, meditation, readings, yoga, etc. Hell, I’ve done so much of that, I could write 50 books. No, for me, it’s got to be about reaching out, not in, being purposeful and letting go of negative or unkind thoughts. Just being and accepting, first others, and myself along the way.
    Thinking out loud here.
    Please share your journey!!

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