Firstly, before we can consider how to deal with Competitive Grief, we need to understand what it is.
A very simplistic way of looking at it is like a form of 'one-upmanship'. Trying to go one better on whatever it is you have just said. There is no denying that some people are like this, in fact there's a good chance you have a person in mind right now, but is there really a place for that sort of thing when it comes to something as serious as personal grief?
Whether there is a place for it or not, it happens.
If you've suffered a loss there was probably a time you felt you wanted to talk about what happened. Maybe relive some of the events in order to try to make sense of them. They could be good or bad events but you feel you want to talk to somebody and share them. Doing this is part of the grieving process and is extremely important. But, just as important is the response from the other person. In an ideal world the response will be simply that you are allowed to speak about your things. The person listening will be attentive, understanding and sympathetic. They will offer support when you need it.
But how about if things are not ideal. Imagine, instead, that the conversation goes something like this....
You - "My auntie died recently and it was just coming up to her birthday. She loved her birthday and we had a party planned. It's such a shame".
Them - "That's nothing, my uncle died actually on his birthday. That was terrible".
You could, of course, suggest that the person replying is selfish or thoughtless. It may be true but there is also the chance that they are dealing with their own grief and it's the only way they know how. Usually, if you find yourself in that sort of position and you know the person that came up with the reply, you'll have a good idea whether it's them dealing with their stuff or them trying to win the 'grief competition'.
If it's the latter and they are the sort of person that just has to go one better with everything then I would suggest that this may not be the best person to talk to if you really want to open up about what you're dealing with. The more 'Competitive Grief' comes into play, the more chance there is of it having an effect on you. It could simply make you angry. It could lead to an argument where things are said.
However, there is potential for a worse outcome and that is that you can start to doubt whether your grief is worthy of how bad you feel. If you are constantly reminded that other people have had it worse or had to endure tougher times, you may start to think that you shouldn't feel so bad. You can start to get annoyed with yourself that you are struggling with what is clearly a 'lesser' loss than someone else, and they're doing ok, so there must be something wrong with you.
So, how do you deal with the people that want to play the 'Competitive Grief' game?
A simple answer would be to ignore them but that is not always easy. Especially if this is someone you are close to and plays a big part in your life. Once you've acknowledged that what they say is out of your control, you need to focus on what IS in your control, such as how you react.
Remind yourself that your grief is real. That it is yours. That no matter what somebody else experiences in their loss, that is theirs, not yours. Only you know how you feel and if it hurts like hell then knowing that somebody has a different view or experience has absolutely ZERO effect on what is happening to you. When you are really struggling to deal with your own grief after a loss you don't have time to consider why someone feels the need to go one better. You can't change them. But you can change you. You can concentrate on how you feel and how you're going to deal with it to try to move forwards with life.
Don't be scared to admit if you're struggling. If somebody thinks you should be handling it better, again, there's nothing you can do about that. The simple truth is they are clueless when it comes to knowing how you feel so they are in no place to express how you should or shouldn't be.
Accept your grief, along with all the things that come with it. It's yours. Nobody else's. You will find the right way to deal with it either on your own or with help from friends or family. You may even seek out professional help in the form of a grief counsellor.
Whatever it takes, trust that you will find the way that is best for you.
Let them have their win in the Competitive Grief competition. You know what they're like so you don't stand a chance of beating them anyway. They will never let you win. You concentrate on yourself and you'll do just fine.