Do I Know How You Feel?

I had a conversation about grief recently, which made me think about how we talk about grief in groups of people who have experienced it. and how often there's a statement like, "we all know how this feels, we've all dealt with it before." 

I agree to some extent. I think that if you have experienced grief and loss, and you process and deal (of course ongoing) with that grief and loss, there is a collective wisdom and solidarity there. You can see someone else who has experienced grief and know that you have both had a loss of some kind and there are probably similarities to how you felt.  

BUT, and this goes back to fifty billion posts I've done about "we're all in the same boat" and "I've been in your shoes," I know MY grief. I know what feels right to me in moments where I am deep in the pit. I can offer that to someone else, but it might not work for them. 

While I have experienced losses and that gives me heightened empathy (in theory), I haven't experienced your particular brand of loss. I know what it is like to have parents divorce, to have a parent that you don't see more than 2 weeks per year, to have a bad marriage, to go through a divorce of my own, to lose my identity and remake it, to lose the idea that I could have a baby unassisted, to lose pregnancies, to lose genetic connection, to lose pregnancy as an experience, to lose parenthood as an experience, to lose a grandparent, to lose so many things. 

I do not know what it is like to lose a baby to stillbirth. I do not know what it is like to lose a pregnancy after a heartbeat has been detected. I do not know what it is like to lose a parent, a child, a friend, a sibling. I do not know what it is like to lose someone I love very suddenly. I do not know what it is like to be estranged from family. I do not know what it is like to be in someone else's proverbial shoes, because even if we've had a similar loss, our feet have traveled different paths which make it not. the. same. 

This is not to make it Pain Olympics. It's to say that there is a huge difference between "I know what it is experience loss, and I feel for you in your loss" and "I've experienced loss, so I know EXACTLY HOW YOU FEEL." I don't. No one does. 

But, we can gather in our collective wisdom and experiences to offer empathy, and support, and a listening ear. We can use our experiences to be there for someone else in their experience. 


  1. Very good post!

    I think this is why I am so interested in researching what it's like to live life as a childless not by choice woman. I only know *my* experience. I want to learn from others' experiences.

    1. Absolutely! I think we can appreciate others' experiences, and seek to understand how others feel in those moments, but it's impossible to know exactly how anyone feels. We all see through our own lenses and do the best we can with empathy. 💜

  2. I'm always amazed when someone thinks they know exactly how someone else feels. Um no - especially as the answer after a statement like that probably is ... "right now, annoyed!" lol

    But I do think there are commonalities in loss, in childlessness, in infertility, etc that bring us together. I have seen it on message boards and blogs over the last 20 (gulp) years - there are a lot of things we feel in common, themes that are repeated over and over again. I hope they make us more empathetic and willing to listen to others. That is a comfort to me. Even though I don't know how you felt about your ectopic, despite having had them myself. But I am always willing to listen.

    Excellent post giving me a lot of food for thought.

    1. Yes! I think there are so many common threads, but our unique histories mean that we experience things differently. I love that this community is so good at listening and abiding with others.

  3. This makes me think of This Is Us, where Kate and Toby (before they were Katoby) started going to some sort of weight support group. Madison is there, all 112 pounds of her, because she feels hefty (at least that's how I remember the scene).

    Yes, she feels hefty. I get that. But no, she's not in league with the others in the group. In a weird way, though, I wonder if she CAN empathize with them, because she feels it, too. How much of a factor is degree? That's the question I came to when I watched that episode and started judging her.

    As for your conversation, perhaps that person knew that no matter what grief those in the group had experienced, she was feeling held in their love and understanding and in-common-enough histories. xo

  4. I think there is always good intention behind any kind of connection or commiserating. I don't see it as seeing one's experience as more or less than anyone else's, or rating anyone's experience with grief. I just know for myself that I can't say I know exactly what someone else is going through based on my own experience. We can seek to understand others' grief and experiences, we can show compassion, which I'm sure are the common goals. I hope that makes sense! 💜