The past 24 hours have been a very intense learning experience for me. It is always hard when you see aspects of yourself that you are not proud of. Unfortunately, last night I realized my own selfish empathy. You see I have several friends that have lost children to rare/undiagnosed medical disorders. In this I have so wanted to be there for them. I so eagerly wanted to have them share with me what they were going through that I never stopped to think what it would be like to have to talk about the death of my child or share how I was feeling to someone who had not been through it.
You know the experience you have when you are trying to hold your emotions together and not cry, but then someone says "are you ok,?" ever so sweetly, and you just loose it in tears? Or when you try to approach an introvert to make them feel welcome because they are sitting by themselves, but instead of making them feel welcome they have anxiety that all eyes are on them?
I can imagine that asking a friend to talk about their child's death or share their feelings with me is on some remotely similar level.
It saddens me that my friends are going through such a difficult time. In a perfect world people would only die from natural causes at a ripe old age.
But my need to make them aware that I am here for them and asking them to confide in me; is in fact making them handle their grief in my way, not theirs.
This does not make it any less difficult for me to know what to do when the period of bringing meals and sending cards has come and gone. It does not make my prayers and messages of encouragement any less important.
It just makes me remember that their grief is just that, theirs. That they can do with it what they must to survive and that no matter how empathetic I am, I will not fully understand what they are feeling unless I walk a similar road.
I am still very firm in my belief that everything is relative. However different a situation is, nobody can ever fully understand what you are going through because they are not walking in your shoes. The saying "walk a mile in someone else's shoes" is a great reminder for us to stop, think, and empathize. Yet, it is an impossible task to ever fully comprehend all the variables a person is dealing with at any said time. Some things are definitely more painful than others. Some things are no doubt more difficult than others. But that doesn't make someone else's struggle any more or less real.
It just presents us with a greater opportunity to actively love someone. And by truly loving someone you take responsibility for how you affect that person. So if you unintentionally hurt someone, it will be your love for them that will spur you on to reach them with love and kindness. Likewise, if you are hurt by someone, no matter how difficult it may be, your love will urge you to seek them out and express your thoughts in hopes of growing in understanding and compassion.
All of that said, this process will only work if you are open to understanding and the other person in the relationship also wants to further your relationship. Lessons of the heart are never ever easy, but they are the most rewarding!
I am ever so grateful for the friends that cared enough to share their thoughts with love so that I could learn and hopefully grow in more understanding.