December 14, 2012 -- Empathy Versus Sympathy
In the past few days we have heard about shootings of innocent grownups and children. What a waste of precious life. We DEEPLY understand this now....
After our child dies, we become even more sensitive to other tragedies. At least that's what I've encountered. Please do not get me wrong... I've always been sensitive to suffering but now I can empathize. Empathize. Hmmm. How is that different from sympathizing?
I found this on a website...
Sympathy and empathy are separate terms with some very important distinctions. Sympathy and empathy are both acts of feeling, but with sympathy you feel for the person; you’re sorry FOR them or pity them, but you don’t specifically understand what they’re feeling. Sometimes we’re left with little choice but to feel sympathetic because we really can’t understand the plight or predicament of someone else. It takes imagination, work, or possibly a similar experience to get to empathy.Empathy can best be described as feeling WITH the person. Notice the distinction between for and with. To an extent you are placing yourself in that person’s place, have a good sense of what they feel, and understand their feelings to a degree. It may be impossible to be fully empathetic because each individual's reactions, thoughts and feelings to tragedy are going to be unique. Yet the idea of empathy implies a much more active process. Instead of feeling sorry for, you’re sorry with and have clothed yourself in the mantle of someone else’s emotional reactions.
After such a horrific change in our life like the severe grief of losing a child, I began to feel really empathetic. Every time I heard of a child who had died, it hurt ME TOO to know the devastation that is being felt. I stopped watching the news. After a while, the protective mechanism of shutting out the world isn't entirely healthy BUT listening to the news and soaking in every horrible detail of tragedy isn't either. There must eventually be a balance...
As many of you know, I had a series of horrible events that occurred after Logan died. I turned off the news. I just ceased listening to anything. My parents made fun of me when they asked- "did you that know Michael Jackson died?" Well, yea.... I heard about big stuff but not the details. In the fall of 2011, I went to see my son in Tennessee and I listened to the radio on the way. When I arrived, I asked him, "so tell me about this Penn State thing." His mouth flew open and said "Mom! Do you live in a cave?! This isn't about football!!" It was at that point that I desired to maybe step back into the world and participate in life again. It was a truly pivotal time in my life! I was finally at a place where I was able to understand that it's THEIR bad day. Please remember that it took me over four years to get to THAT place where I was able to understand that I didn't NEED to grieve with every single bad story.
I now see that as a "mama" who has lost a child, it is different when there is a loss in our community. When Logan died suddenly, I looked for any person who had experienced the loss of a child and I sought advice and comforting from those people. I wanted someone to give me HOPE! The only advice that I TRULY can give is that "Where you are now, you will not always be." If anyone knows someone enduring the tragedy of a child (of any age!!), please let me know. I have put together resources to help these "new mamas" and I will be glad to forward them to you to help guide these parents.
Know that with the Christmas season and winter approaching, it is important to protect ourselves. Try to not listen to every tragedy in the news as often. It may help your outlook. This is the first Christmas for MANY of you without your child. This will be one of your most memorable Christmases for your family. Please email me if you desire to receive the "How to get through the holidays" email with concrete tips.
Girls..... Not one of us has asked for this type of understanding of life-- This type of awareness that I NOW can consider truly sacred. Now, stop and reflect for a moment. Not all that happens during times of grief are bad. I can tell you from personal experience, my core values are now really truly in order. In my world, true happiness can NOT be purchased by money. People matter.... things do not. My living children have heard me say this many times. Also... the most surprising people have jumped into my life to bless me. It may be too early for many of you... that's OK! GRIEF IS A PROCESS! NOT AN EVENT! It took me YEARS to come to this point!
So to summarize...
- You now feel EMPATHY when there is a tragedy and loss.
- Try to not absorb yourself in the tragies in the news.
- Grief is a PROCESS, Not an EVENT!
Hugs to each of you!! As always, I enjoy feedback!! :)