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Weekly Doses of Pop-up Psych

We all witness or become involved in icky social situations and deserve to move on, rather than feel confused or regretful. Each week, I will break down a murky social, life cycle, or pop culture topic to give you the perspective you didn't think you need to help you understand, learn, and move on from it. As a former academic, you know I am posting solid research data and other resources.

Avoiding Trauma Comparisons: Respecting Individual Experiences

Many years ago, I miscarried when I was 11.5 weeks pregnant.  I had already seen a heartbeat and felt completely devastated. My physical complications were rough, but they were nothing compared to the tangle of sadness, anger, grief, and shame that pushed me down a dark hole. I would randomly burst into tears and it took months to feel like myself again.


Then, a family friend delivered a stillborn at 38 weeks. Of course, everybody was heartbroken for her, myself included. Although her loss was “worse”/farther along than mine, I still felt awful about what I had been through. Then, through a lot of work, I learned that everybody had a right to grieve, regardless of the timing and severity.  


It’s not a trauma sword fight 

Seventy percent of adults in the US have experienced trauma- which is 233.4 million people. In addition, women tend to experience trauma more than men. At the end of the day, we are all human beings just doing our best to do our best. We all have a right to our feelings and own perceptions of experiences. There are no gold stars for the Imaginary Traumatic Situation Contest.


Respect individual traumatic experiences by validating everyone’s journey


Pain is pain.   We might not know each other’s story, but does it really matter? Just because they don’t want to talk about it and you can neither see it nor relate does not mean their pain is invalid.  Respect when people are going through something and do your best to support them, regardless if you don’t understand. One person might have broken a toe, while the other broke a whole foot. Yes, one has it “worse” but they are both in a whole lot of pain.


Respect individual traumatic experiences by letting go of other people’s opinions


I definitely got “how dare you be sad about your situation” vibes and felt guilty about them. Take other people’s opinions for what they are worth; sometimes they are valuable and other times, they are not.  Always consider the source and their own experiences. One of my sources of negativity never experienced a pregnancy loss, so the opinion was about as valuable as a nickel in Bloomingdales.


Respect individual traumatic experiences by avoiding toxic positivity


“At least your baby was less than 12 weeks, not 38 weeks”.  Very, very true, but I still felt cruddy. I was stuck in grief and my hormones were all over the place. Toxic positivity when people try to give a bright side, because it’s about their own discomfort, while invalidating your feelings. It’s usually well-intended because people want to help; despite that it hurts. Saying nothing and being there is the best you can do.  


What About You?


  • Who tends to do trauma comparisons?

  • How can you be more empathetic of other people’s experiences?

  • How do you need other people to show empathy towards you when you have had traumatic experiences?

Hi Beautiful Readers and thank you for reading this! I'm Dr. Joanne Broder, Media Psychologist, Author, and Fellow of the American Psychological Association. Please consider me to help you write your memoir, blogs, speeches, e-books, as well as coach you on your dissertation or thesis.  Click here so we can connect!

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