Grief Olympics

I’ve been inspired to write this post from a podcast I’ve been listening to. It was an episode of Strangers that featured another podcast I also really like called Human/Ordinary. The podcaster mentioned something called the grief olympics which means sometimes people often feel the need to one-up others’ sadness because they feel the situation they are in is actually worse than an anyone else’s. But why do we do this? We definitely don’t get some kind of award for being sad and we definitely don’t get a gold medal because we are the saddest. When I have a problem that causes me deep sadness, I often feel trapped. I would like to think I’m a positive person all the time because I try to be, but sometimes I’m really not. I always think about what’s causing my sadness. If there is something I can do about it, whether it’s a long-term or short-term solution, then it’s easier to be less sad because there’s a solution that will fix the problem. But of course, it’s not always that simple. And when it’s not simple, when there seems like there’s no way out, we often seek sympathy. For me, knowing that someone out there shares my problem and can relate to me doesn’t directly solve my problem, but it makes me feel less alone. It’s extremely reassuring to know that I’m this tiny part of this huge world full of human beings of which some can also feel what I feel. That’s pretty amazing isn’t? How unique humans can be but yet share common grief. Perhaps sometimes we compete in this so-called ‘grief olympics’ because it justifies our feelings towards a situation. If people know that we have it way worse than them, then somehow we have the right to be upset…right?

For me, it’s mentally exhausting to compete in this way. It makes me feel worse. I could be wrong, but I don’t think it makes many other people feel better either. And they shouldn’t. If you are competing against the whole world on the basis of how sad you are, you will never win. There will always be someone happier than you, there will always be someone sadder than you. Curing sadness doesn’t have one specific formula. Sometimes it’s as simple as letting time pass and sometimes it takes a complete life change. Sometimes justifying our sadness could help but it seems temporary. You’ve justified it, and then once it wears off you’re back at square one.

If you ever find yourself competing like this just stop and think that maybe it's okay to be sad. That being sad is a process you have to go through right now. It doesn't matter if someone is doing a lot worse or even a lot better.  Focus on what you can do to (if there is anything you can do) to improve the situation.  Be patient and let some time pass. Reach out to someone who might understand how you feel rather than isolating yourself as the champion of sadness. Because maybe that’s what you actually need to get back up when you fall.