Is all grief the same?

Daily, I tend a one-eyed guinea pig.  She used to see her world just fine, but a recent scuffle with an older pig rendered her partially blind. This happened on my watch, which was somehow inadequate despite the fact that I have two fully functioning eyes.

It is my daughter’s guinea pig.  A musician, my daughter has been traveling to music venues, multiple gigs in the month of August. She trusts me.  She knows me as one who faithfully waters a dandelion patch in case of guinea pig feasts and sleepovers.  As one who has a Preferred Customer card at Feeder Supply.  As one who knows Timothy Hay and Multi-Pet Odor-Control Animal Bedding.

Private Grief

Yet now I’m grieving.

This has to be private grief, however.  Right-sized grief.

Because in the larger world, the catalog of grief-worthy crises grows and grows:

  • Women in Afghanistan may disappear in burqas. Brutality lurks.
  • Wildfires burn through the western United States.
  • Floods wash away lives and livelihoods in Louisiana and New York.
  • Army worms destroy yards in local neighborhoods—including my own little plat of paradise.
  • A friend suddenly loses her healthy, loving, vaccinated husband to a breakthrough case of COVID.
  • The sweet young couple next door are breaking up. They’ve been together seven or eight years.  Neighbors thought they’d marry once the pandemic ended.  But he’s moving out.
  • Two men my daughter knows have died of drug overdoses mere weeks apart.

And meanwhile, as the backdrop, partisan outrage spews headlines every day.  Disasters abound.

Is All Grief the Same?

I grieve all of these things. I do.

Is it gauche to grieve things thus juxtaposed?  Is it obscene?  Whom can I ask?

I need the services of a Grief Arbiter, one inclined to re-rank my grief inventory. And then to rate each item its appropriate measure of grief, with 5 being most tragic and 0 hardly tragic at all.

The Grief Arbiter would assign the guinea pig a 0, or at best a 1. Probably the same rank as those army worms.

Sense of Proportion

Yet for weeks I’ve clutched warm life wrapped in a hand towel several times each day. Brown and white bundle.  And with tiny syringe coaxed drops of anti-inflammatory and antibiotic into a reluctant little mouth.  I’ve cooed.  I’ve chopped apples and carrots, and harvested those dandelions to tempt an appetite out of its sorrow for what can never be seen again.

I seem to have no sense of proportion.  The larger landscape is spattered with Epic Tragedy, with horrors bursting far beyond the 5 end of the scale.  Whole frontiers can never be seen again.

But somehow in matters of grief my vision, too, is limited.


Learn about the healing effect of writing:

For more stories about hope during grief, Open to Hope, Inspirational Stories of Healing After Loss – Kindle edition by Horsley, Dr. Heidi, Horsley, Dr. Gloria C. . Health, Fitness & Dieting Kindle eBooks @


Becky Womack

Becky Womack is a retired teacher with an M.A. from the University of Mississippi and additional graduate hours from Western Kentucky University and the University of Kentucky. Over a career spanning 45 years, she has worked with developmentally delayed toddlers in Gulfport, Mississippi; middle school students in Nashville, Tennessee; high school students in Dallas, Texas; and community college students in Lexington, Kentucky. She has taught language arts, composition, literature, freshman success strategies, self efficacy skills, and women's studies. Her understandings about grief have arisen from the addiction and pain of family members and friends. Her husband died of a narcotics overdose in 2003. Having worked with students for decades on their writing, she is now finding time for her own.

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