Whenever we see a friend grieving over the loss of a life, we want to comfort them with words.
But what is the right thing to say?
Some people respond with:
"I have no words."
And maybe being bereft of speech is better than doling out forced platitudes.
Redditor "Infamous_Ambassador" asked if he was the a$$hole for "telling a friend that her dog dying is not the same as my kid?"
Before readers would be quick to assume that the OP is not the a$$hole, he provided some context before delving into the heated discussion about whose grief was more significant.
"So yesterday, my friend's 16-year-old dog that she had since she was ten passed away."
"The dog was her best friend and she's been a wreck. We've all been visiting to take care of her because all she wants to do is just lie in bed and cry."
"Today she was a bit better and she asked for me specifically. She said, 'Now I know what it felt like for you. Losing a kid is so, so hard'."
The OP shared his background being a young parent and tragically losing his son.
"I'm 26 [Male], my girlfriend got pregnant at fourteen and I was a father at fifteen. He was the best little boy ever and I was in love with him."
"I had a job and her parents kicked her out so she moved in with mine and by the time I was 19, I was happy and me and her moved into an apartment together."
"But when the next year, when he was five years old, he got hit by a truck and passed away. It's been six years and I still think of him every day."
"I told her, maybe a little insensitively, 'You didn't lose a kid'."
Regardless of anyone's point of view on the comparison between losing a pet or a child, he continued making his point.
"She looked taken aback and said she did and something about how 'fur babies' were kids too."
"I said losing a kid is nothing like losing a dog and she started getting angry and told me she raised her dog for way longer than my son."
"I got mad, and yelled at her to never talk about my son again and then I stormed out."
A friend intervened to diffuse the tension.
"Her best friend sent me a long message about how she understands I'm grieving about my kid but her grief is fresh and I've had six years to deal with it."
"My friends are divided on this, some say I should have just nodded along, others say she was out of line mentioning my kid. AITA?"
I can’t think of anything worse than the death of a child, significant other, or pet. Heart breaking is an understatement— Lioness queen (@Lioness queen)1574335548.0
People weighed in with their respective thoughts, with most identifying the OP as NTA (not the a$$hole).
"Everyone saying you're TA doesnt realize that you willingly take on the death of a pet when you adopt them. It hurts and we all hate losing them, but that's just life."
"Losing your child is 100% different because you plan for them to bury you, not the other way around."
"Your friend may be grieving but she had no right to bring up your child like that. Even people who have had miscarriages 20+ years ago can still hardly talk about it because it's so painful." – Initial_Elderberry
"Very well stated. For pets, unless you are past 55, you will bury your pet unless you have bad luck in the health department."
"It's ok - and expected to grieve the loss, but it's a grief that accepted when getting a pet.The same isn't true for a child. No parent expects to bury a child." – ShoelessBoJackson
"This! Especially when someone dying younger means they had a lot to do and more life to live, as opposed to a pet that's at the end of its lifespan." – Veioralis
"I mean, you could argue that grieving actual time spent together is more painful than grieving for potential."
"Do you think when the spouse of a pair of newlyweds dies soon after the wedding that it's worse then when one member of a couple who's been together 50 years dies?" – sillykinesis
I don't care what anyone says, losing a pet is like losing a sibling or a child 💔— ᴿᴬᶜᴴᴵᴱ ᴹᴬᴺᴼᴮᴬᴺ (@ᴿᴬᶜᴴᴵᴱ ᴹᴬᴺᴼᴮᴬᴺ)1385451438.0
"This is where we begin to see that quantifying grief is difficult to futile." – paradisepickles
"My elderly German Shepherd passed away a couple of years ago and while it was devastating, no one could possibly be surprised by a 15 year old dog dying."
"That's one of the tragedies of pet ownership. I still get a little choked up sometimes if I watch old videos of her or even sometimes if I see someone else's sweet elderly GSD, which probably makes me a little more sensitive than average."
"Still though, as a parent I'm certain that losing one of my children would be a stark contrast to losing my beloved dog."
you can call me dramatic or say I'm overreacting I don't care I feel like I lost my own child... losing a pet can be just as traumatic— AJ (@AJ)1466998461.0
"Grief isn't a competition, but it's terribly insensitive to compare losing a child to losing a pet with a well known short lifespan." – miserylovescomputers
"I had a puppy die. She was hit by a car. It was the worst thing that ever happened to me, but I'm sure losing your child would be even worse. I haven't gotten over losing my dog, but I don't think of her everyday. OP and most parents who lose a child do." – Akura
"It sucks to loose someone you love, especially a pet... But, the concept of a parent burying a child is horrible."
"It's just not supposed to go that direction."
"Yes your child is supposed to bury you one day when your time is up. The concept of it, is so painful there's no term to call a parent who lost a kid."
"We have widows, orphans, but there's really not a word that describes that level of trauma. It's like society went into full cognitive dissonance and pulled a 'we can't label this because it's unthinkable' move. Grief is hard." – BetterNotBlowThis
The pain and intense sadness of losing a pet can be incredibly underestimated. https://t.co/dFWcyGHBwo— The Good Grief Trust (@The Good Grief Trust)1580200334.0
"And it's a human being capable of vast understanding and complex emotions. Something a f'n dog will never be capable of."
"Who ever would try to make these two things in parallel has not lived or loved enough yet." – WhosaskingMan
"even if you are the type of person to only grieve 'for a week or so' for the loss of a pet, it's not fair to assume the same of everyone, and many people will be affected for much, much longer — potentially even 'for life' — and that's ok."
"Pets are very much family members for some people, and they're often one of the few constants through many life changes and difficulties encountered."
"OP's friend shouldn't have brought up his child, or even pretended like the losses were in the same league, but it doesn't sound like the grief she's experiencing now is going to pass in 'a week or so,' and there's nothing wrong with that." – FirstMasterpiece
"I love my dogs like they are my children, and treat them as such. I like to believe they'll be with me forever, even if I know that's not going to happen. Never would I tell someone who lost a child that it's the same thing - because it's not."
"A friend of mine lost her son just over a year ago, and then just this week had to put her beloved dog down. She has even said it is not the same thing, and does not feel the same - the two are completely different losses."
"Anyone with a dog and a kid would give up the dog in a heartbeat to bring a dead child back from the grave." – janesyouraunt
This poster argued that being too emotionally invested over the loss of a pet more than a human is indicative of an underlying social issue.
"It absolutely is not okay to spend the rest of one's natural lifetime grieving (in any meaningful sense of the word) the loss of a pet. Point-blank. That is not healthy human behavior."
"This degree of emotional investment in pets is a relatively recent phenomena that (thankfully) has yet to even go global in this day in age."
"I have a suspicion that it's due to the weakening social bonds between humans and emerged as some sort of poor substitution. It rests on a type of anthropomorphism that borders on the delusional for some people."
"An increasing number of people use their cat or dog as their primary source of affection or support and that is really, really troubling."
"Treat your pets well. Value them. Have a fondness for them. But maintain fucking reasonable boundaries. They're not your emotional equals and never will be." – ThrowItTheFuckAway17
On the topic of bereavement, the discussion should not be about anyone being the a$$hole.
"While I agree with this in principle, grief isn't logical/ it's emotional. And it is different for everybody."
"I've lost two dogs in very different ways and even the grief I felt with both of them is not comparable. Just don't compare grief and try to one-up each others' grief in the first place."
"One person's grief over a dog may absolutely be the worst they've ever felt in their life. I'm going with NAH because both of them are grieving and I feel compassion for them both." – sentimentalFarmer
After some readers took issue over some inconsistencies in the OP's story, he came forward with an update and admitted some liberties had to be taken—perhaps excessively—in order to prevent the story from being traced back to him.
The OP revealed the identity of "the friend" who lost her dog as his wife's stepsister, and he also admitted that his son died from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), not from being hit by a truck.
"She was estranged and my wife and her reconciled after the death of our son. Wife did not own the dog, stepsister lived in a different house."
"Second, my son wasn't five, he was seven months old and the cause of death was SIDS, not a truck. I was 17, and we were in the apartment."
"I am so, so sorry for anyone I offended that was a f'g s**tty thing to do by lying about how he died but I didn't want it traced back to me."
"If this makes me the a$$hole, I accept it. That's why it's possible I was wrong here because my son wasn't a year old yet, and her dog was with her for sixteen years."
He apologized profusely for providing false information but asked readers to respect his late baby boy.
"I fully accept judgement but please nobody mention anything about my son. He was an amazing baby and again, I'm so, so sorry for butchering the story."
Here is the bottom line.
"A good rule for life is to just never compared any single thing you can think of, no matter how terrible, to the death of your friend's... son."
"He can draw a comparison if he'd like, but no one should EVER tell someone they are sharing his experience." – NarlaRT