Heartache on a Scale from 1-10

How can she complain about being fat?  I weigh twice as much as she does.  She gets a 3 from the judges.  I get at least a 5.I may be having trouble in my marriage, but at least my husband doesn’t yell at me in public.  I have nothing to complain about.  I can only claim a 6.

I was only 13 weeks along when the baby died.  I guess I don’t really know what it’s like to lose a child.  It feels like a 9, but I’m sure it’s only really a 4 or a 5.  You don’t get a 10 for suffering unless your child reaches at least age 5 before they go.

She talks about how miserable it is to have a boyfriend who cheats on her.  Her suffering is her own fault.  She should just get out of the relationship.  I don’t think she should even get a place on the scale.  At least she’s not single like me.  I’ve been so lonely for so long.  I’m an 8.

Your best friend is moving away.  You’re 6 years old.  You’ll get over it.  I know you think your heart is broken, but you don’t yet know the meaning of suffering.  This is merely a 1.

sad boyThese are all exaggerations of things I’ve felt or heard from other women.  Sometimes it feels like there’s a giant scale.  We judge our own suffering and the perceived suffering of others and we do it with comparisons.  Laylee’s heartbreak over a canceled play date just doesn’t seem to hold a candle to the sadness I felt when my family moved from Alberta to Houston when I was in High School.

Now that move seems like a walk in the park compared to some of the things I’ve gone through at this point in my life.  I’m sure someone in their 80s could tell me stories to make me question whether I’ve ever really suffered at all.

Does it mean that when I was 16 and leaving my one true love in a foreign country that my heartbreak wasn’t real or valid?

When I look back through my life, there are times when I’ve said, “This is the worst day of my life.  I don’t how I’ll ever make it through.”Â  I FELT my sorrow pressing all around me and it seemed that nothing could be worse than what I was going through.

There are other times that I’ve gone through something hard, looked around me and thought, “I’m not allowed to be sad.  My heartache isn’t nearly as bad as hers.”

Why the comparison?  Where is the compassion?  We are all broken in some way or other.  We all need it.  We are all allowed to suffer and we should all have compassion for others in their suffering and for ourselves. 

In some of my darkest hours, I’ve had the most empathy for those around me.  I remember days where I walked around like a silent zombie, staring at the people I passed and wondering what secret pain they carried around with them.  I wanted to hug strangers and ask them if they were okay.  I wanted to heal everyone.  I knew I couldn’t.  I knew the Savior could but it wasn’t immediate for me or for them.

At times I have been embraced by people who barely knew me.  Friends have cried and prayed with me, not knowing why they were.

So when we suffer and wait and pray, let’s throw away our mental ranking systems and treat every person like they are worth loving, like their heartbreak is as big as it is to them.  In loving and validating someone else, you will feel your own burden start to ease.

If a heart is young or unscarred, it may not take much to break it, but oh how it feels the pain.  Give the owner a break, even if it’s you.

the reasons: salamanders alive or dead, broccoli that tastes like cheese with a hint of broccoli, prophets

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35 Responses to Heartache on a Scale from 1-10

  1. Becca says:

    I remember thinking when I was 8 and my parents were divorcing, that at least I was getting all my life suffering over then, and the rest of my life would be pain-free, since it was so hard then. I also remember my mom’s wry smile at my belief in the eternal pain quota system.

    It’s so true that everyone has their secret heartaches. Compassion and empathy–that’s what it’s all about!

  2. chris says:

    What an excellent post.

  3. “In some of my darkest hours, I’ve had the most empathy for those around me. I remember days where I walked around like a silent zombie, staring at the people I passed and wondering what secret pain they carried around with them. ” –Yes, this is so true. That’s why I don’t regret those dark hours; I learned compassion there that I couldn’t have learned anywhere else.

  4. Owlhaven says:

    How true, Kathryn….
    Mary, mom to many

  5. It’s so true. Thank you for sharing what you learn with me.

  6. “Loving and validating”, having compassion for others. Sometimes it’s not all about “ME”, amazing as it might sound.
    Excellent post, thanks 😀

  7. a fan says:

    GREAT post. in our group of girlfriends, one stands out as having a killer body that the rest of us would die for, yet she has her own self-image issues. another couple of acquaintances were quarrelling over fertility. one was experiencing primary infertility while the other was experiencing secondary infertility. “well, at least you have ONE kid.” ouch. in these and similar situations, i always try to remember that other peoples’ sadnesses are as real to them as mine are to me.

    i’ve had many “this is the worst day of my life” moments. earlier this year, we almost lost our youngest child. it was a waiting game as she dragged out toeing the line between life and death. my husband was gone on business and i had to try to figure out a way to tell him over the phone that our sweet baby might die. THAT was the worst day of my life.

    our daughter recovered miraculously and i am now grateful for that experience because it’s put my entire life into perspective. a month later, my husband almost lost his job… his dream job that we moved 3000 miles for, took a HUGE paycut for, lived apart from him for six months for, and greatly inconvenienced our lives for. that was the first time since the accident that i started to say, “this is THE worst day…” and then it hit me. it’s not. not at all. we may have to struggle, realize the loss of a dream, live with family, whatever, but none of that comes close to losing a child or even almost losing one. when our transmission unexpectedly blew a couple of weeks ago, it was upsetting to fork over savings and credit card debt to repair it. that time, i could almost laugh. a year ago, i would likely have sobbed (transmissions are expensive!).

  8. It’s not that I don’t feel empathy for others – it’s that I feel so alone. I have pain, and it’s bad, and I’m overwhelmed by it – but no one else understands. They aren’t experiencing it. It’s just me.

    Thank you for pointing out that it isn’t. It really, really helps to know that someone else has felt what I feel, whatever the reason for feeling it.

  9. It’s important to remember that everyone experiences and deals with pain in their own individual fashion. So often you hear people judging how someone who has recently lost a loved one grieves. “They need to cry it out.” “It’s not healthy to keep it all bottled up like that.” “They must still be in the ‘denial’ phase of grief.” I think mostly people make these judgements to help alleviate the awkwardness they feel when trying to figure out how to help someone.

  10. Stephanie says:

    What a thoughtful post, Kathryn.

    And not to change the subject, but will you PLEASE come visit my new blog? You can link to it from the old one, or you can go to


    Stephanie (The Princess Mom, ruler of the Mommiverse)

  11. sarah hart kingston says:

    As a bunch of wise people quoted over the weekend, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” After having a 10 kind of day on Saturday, I heard those words, came out of it, and feel like I can survive the next week. (I’m due next wednesday, I’m for sure heavy laden.)

  12. jodijean says:

    wow, what an excellent post. it’s nice sometimes to take a step back and realize that we are not alone, and that others have their separete problems and that we should not judge. we never know what are their hidden sorrows. how true and enlightening, i hope that i never forget how i felt when i read this post.

  13. Susan says:

    This is such a beautiful post.

    I think compassion–the ability to love and be loved, without comparison or judgement–is something we need more of in this world.

  14. Edge says:

    One thing I’ve learned from my own pain and sharing that of others–some things cannot be measured, divided or compared. They simply do not obey the rules of math. Pain is one. Love is another.

  15. HLH says:

    pain is pain regardless of who is feeling it. There is no point in comparing people’s suffering. We each have our own individual trials that are- for us-extrememly difficult; regardless of what another person is suffering.

    Your trials might be a cake-walk for me, but regardless of why- they are hard for you. A true friend will offer wisdom and advice and cry with you in your pain.

    Althouhg, not always literally, becasuse some of us simple aren’t cryers. We feel with you and hurt with you, but we just can’t cry with you.

  16. bon says:

    Timely reminder for me. Thanks.

  17. What a remarkable post! Truly amazing. You, my friend, hit the nail right on the head.

  18. Tressa says:

    Well said. Thank you for that.

    Who says you’re not a smart mommy already? 😉

  19. Sarah says:

    Simply beautiful. Thank you.

  20. dadweiss says:

    Comparing. Reaching out. Great topics.

    I thought the other day. He has all the answers, yet often we don’t ask. He has all the cures, yet often we don’t seek his healing. He has all power, yet we don’t seek his influence. He loves us at a level we can’t understand, yet we often don’t understand what it means when we say that He does love us.

    So I guess Cyndy and I need to learn to experience some of the same stuff He lives with all day. Even when it hurts us. After all it hurts Him too.

    Finding a way to love other more perfectly, especially when we aren’t that confident in loving, is all to often a trial and error process. Please be patient with me when I do the trial thing and it ends up an error thing.

  21. RGLHM says:

    So true. I so felt that way too in dark hours. Just wanted to cry as I looked around me and wondered what sad dark sorrows everyone was hiding. I love your writing…and your brain and heart that give it its subject matter.

  22. Squishy says:

    So I know that I should tell you that you wrote a great and inspiring post (which you did bytheway) but I just can’t stop asking myself who/what was your one true love that you left in Alberta.

  23. Lei says:

    Thank you for this! It is hard to just let ourselves/others feel sometimes. Like sympathy must be earned or something.

  24. Sheri says:

    I remember one time, in a moment of sheer exasperation (and not one of my compassionate moments…hey I was a teenager) mentioning to my brother that I didn’t understand why all “These kids” were committing suicide. Yep, me, all of 15, was fed up with it. I rolled my eyes. I looked at him and said “Life isn’t THAT bad!!!” He pulled his car over. He looked at me and said “Well at that moment, it WAS that bad to them.”

    I felt scolded, and so sad. Something in the way he looked at me really made me realize that it was that bad for them. That they couldn’t muck their way through another day of whatever heartache was tearing them apart.

    I really think I can pinpoint that to the day I grew compassion.

    Now I am very much a “grey” person. I don’t see much as being black or white. There are far too many if’s. Too many factors to be considered. I can see both sides of almost any issue, and not only that, I can FEEL both sides. And I know, how much it hurts.

  25. Tess says:

    Thank you for putting us all on a level playing field again.

  26. belmomma says:

    Thanks for the post. Where were you from in Alberta? I lived in Edmonton, now in Boston

  27. surcie says:

    You have such a sweet heart, K.

  28. Misty says:

    Your sister “H” is one of my bestfriends. My name is Misty. Here’s a tid bit I’ve told her. I, myself, have suffered, as we all have. I have been abandoned by both biological parents, disowned my my adoptive parents, abused and molested before I was adopted, abused again, after I was adopted. I’ve heard the comment “I shouldn’t complain, because you’ve been through so much more………..” Well, my general thought on that is – – I know for a fact we are all sent here to wade through the sorrows and trials that are deemed ours. They are different in many ways. I know for a fact though, we ALL suffer to the extent our compacity allows, we all suffer enough, to reach out and slide our fingers across the breaking point. We all suffer the same that way, for different things, we all suffer to the extent we have to, we all share the same breaking point, even if different circumstances get us there.

  29. KYouell says:

    My son spent a week in the hospital after his heart surgery (at 10 months old). My husband and I were lucky enough to be able to stay at the hospital’s version of a Ronald McDonald House. I was never able to really connect with any of the other families there because I felt so guilty. We were there because our baby was finally getting his heart fixed and when we left it would be because he was all better and we were going home together. Most of those people were there with a child that was sick and would probably be sicker before they got better, if they were that lucky. I felt like a total fraud and like I just didn’t belong. Not that I wasn’t grateful for a bed to stretch out in (instead of the fold out chair-bed in my son’s room) that was close enough I could be by his side in 5 minutes if the nurses called. I don’t know if I grew in compassion, maybe that’s the lesson I should have learned, but I sure did thank God all day long for the blessing of a defect that could be repaired.

  30. Pam says:

    I have been thinking about this exact same issue lately! I struggle with it more then I should. But it all comes down to compassion. Compassion for your friend or neighbor or even just the stranger on the street AND compassion for yourself. Great post-

  31. Caryn says:

    Fantastic post, and so true. How can we possibly rate others’ pain until we’ve felt it ourselves? And how can we rate our remembered pain, when it has faded into the past?

    You may like the book Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert. I rarely read nonfiction, and when I do read it I usually don’t finish the book, but this one I read and finished. It covers some of the same areas you do in this post.

  32. Bonzo says:

    Kathryn, so great!! You know I always learn so much from you. As many have already said I also have been thinking a lot of this particular topic, empathy. But in a slightly different context. I have REALLY been trying to be more empathetic to my children. ESPECIALLY when they make a mistake. It sounded crazy at first to me because empathy doesn’t come naturally in my mothering techniques. It seems like when they mess up I want to remind them they screwed up and explain what not to do next time and to give them a good dose of I told you so. My kids have been so much kinder to me and I like being around them so much more now that I am really trying to treat them with more empathy. WHO KNEW???

  33. Jenny in Ca says:

    A really well done post. You really hit on some important truths. You are so right, pain is pain to the one feeling it. All my babies were in intensive care at birth, my last had 2 minor heart defects- I remember feeling so guilty sitting in the intensive care, while parents were there with their really sick babies. My 4th’s heart problems were minor, but I still felt intense pain over possible complications, and the possiblitliy she wouldn’t be able to have children. It was painful, but there was so much guilt too, and that made it impossible to share with anyone how I felt.

    first time to your blog, and I am enjoying it!
    Jenny in Ca

  34. Sarah says:

    Well thought, well said.

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