Grief is incredibly messy, long and terribly inconsistent.
Worst of all, as one woman discovered on the “Am I the A**hole?” (AITA) subReddit, everyone handles and perceives grief differently.
Redditor graciecelestesmom found herself struggling after her husband’s cousin repeatedly compared their reasons for grieving.
After she finally had enough of it, the Original Poster (OP) wondered if she was out of line.
She asked the sub:
“AITA for telling my husband’s cousin that she can’t compare her loss to mine?”
The OP and her husband have struggled since the loss of their child to cancer.
“My 2-year-old daughter passed away early last year.”
“It has been h**l on my husband and I. We’re slowly putting the pieces of our lives back together but I know it’ll never be the same.”
“Most people in our lives have been great, others say things they think are helpful but honestly aren’t. I try to ignore them for the most part because I know they’re well-meaning.”
But one family member has been making it even more difficult.
“However, my husband has a cousin, A. She told me for months she understood how I was feeling because she lost three children.”
“I had never heard about this and was shocked, as I’ve known her for 10 years. She then elaborated and said that she had tried IVF with three embryos a little before I met my husband.”
“None took. She views them as children.”
“While I respect that and do not undermine how hard it is for IVF to fail (we had two failed attempts before I got pregnant with our daughter), I don’t think it’s comparable.”
“She had hopes and dreams, but she was never pregnant. They never existed.”
“I didn’t feel this way with people who compared miscarriages to me losing my daughter because I get it, no matter how far along you are, you can be attached.”
“But this just seemed like a huge stretch.”
The OP struggled to put up with it, until she just couldn’t anymore.
“I tried to let it go, but anytime I’d talk about my daughter or make a post about her, A would talk about her embryos. Not just in a ‘I know how you feel’ way but basically direct the entire conversation back to her so she could talk about it.”
“I started getting annoyed. I told her that she was never pregnant. It’s a loss, of course, but she cannot keep comparing it to my daughter that I carried in my stomach, then cared for 2 years and got to know, love on, and then had to watch slowly deteriorate (she was diagnosed with cancer at 11 months).”
“A got upset and said I was ‘gatekeeping’ loss and that I can’t tell her what a loss is.”
“I said I was never trying to undermine her loss but she can’t keep comparing it to mine.”
“Now a good chunk of my husband’s family is mad at me.”
Fellow Redditors weighed in by declaring:
- NTA: Not the A**hole
- YTA: You’re the A**hole
- ESH: Everybody Sucks Here
- NAH: No A**holes Here
Some posited failed IVF treatments and a lost child are not the same.
“Once you have held a child in your arms, kissed their ouchies, lifted them out of their crib for those first early-morning snuggles, once you have fed them and bathed them and sang them to sleep, they become something entirely unprecedented.”
“There’s a little girl I know, not my daughter but still very dear to me, and when she went through a health scare a while ago it was the most terrifying thing I had ever experienced. And that would only be a tiny fraction of what her parents were going through.”
“OP, your loss is something that most people would struggle to fathom.”
“The level of compassion and understanding you have extended to your husband’s cousin is admirable, especially considering she does not seem to be sending much of it back your way. It is not gatekeeping grief to ask for yours to be respected and given the space it deserves.”
“You are NTA, and I hope that in time you will be able to find peace in the happy memories of your daughter without being overwhelmed by the pain.” – JangJaeYul
“My toddler is 2.5 and I swear I love him more every day. I loved him the day he was born but now? It’s so all-encompassing. He surprises me constantly and it’s all a delight.”
“Losing him now would destroy me in a way my miscarriage couldn’t even hold a candle to.”
“OP, I’m so so sorry for your loss. What a cruel thing to have to endure.” – EmulatingHeaven
A few thought the cousin was grieving the missed opportunity at being a mother.
“I think the problem here is that the cousin is equating the grief of never becoming a mother with the grief of losing children. She projects her grief as ‘i lost three children’, but it sounds to me that she’s actually grieving never being a mother.”
“Which, I think, can be as deep a grief as losing a loved one. But it’s not the same. And it’s not about the individual embryos that are lost.” – Farahild
“I think it’s some of this, some of the cousin saying indirectly she’s probably not going to be a mother.”
“And that’s the part that stings that she’s not addressing. It’s twisting her up because it feels big (as big as losing a child to her) and it is but for different reasons.” – lkattan3
Others thought the cousin simply wanted attention.
“Given the context, NTA.”
“While I don’t usually agree with people comparing their trauma and pain with those of others to see who had it worse, you clearly suffered more than your cousin-in-law (if that is even a real term).”
“The fact that she draws attention to herself when discussing your pain also shows that she isn’t that great of a person anyway. I’m sorry you have to deal with the fallout OP.” – kmn053
“NTA. This cousin is a focus stealer. You have a fresh immense grief that you are living through right now. She wants to redirect the attention to her own losses that are TEN YEARS in the past.”
“This is not helpful nor kind. There are people who always compare and share and it often feels like one-upmanship. Well, who wants to win at grief?”
“It’s ridiculous to compare the loss of the life of your beloved 2-year old daughter versus the hopes represented by frozen embryos. Incomparable. This cousin is demonstrating that she lacks compassion and is inherently self-centered.” – IllustriousPomelo152
Everyone’s processing of grief is different, as are the reasons for grieving in the first place.
The subReddit had no reason to think the OP didn’t have a solid reason for grieving, but beyond that, the story gets more complicated. Was the cousin simply trying to bring the attention back to herself, or was she grieving something completely different: a lost opportunity at a life she wanted?
Whatever the case, it seems both women have their reasons for their grief, and undoubtedly, they will handle the process very differently of putting it behind them.