Hello from beautiful Montana:
life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with
the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and
strong. Because someday in your life you will have been all of these. ~
Empathy is a feeling very different from
sympathy. Sympathy implies pity and pity usually implies judgment of the other person and what they are feeling. Empathy is
more a sense that one can truly understand or imagine the depth of another
person’s feelings. People who are empathic and compassionate feel with the other person and see the situation from their viewpoint rather than feeling sorry for them or addressing them with pity.
Often people who are grieving find
themselves put off by sympathy or false words of understanding. No one can truly understand what another person is feeling or experiencing in their life.
We Have All Suffered Loss
Yes, we have lost in our lives, but all loss is not equal or the same. Even though we think we know how they feel, each loss and separation is unique. It may not be possible to truly empathize with another person, but we need to think carefully before speaking. When we truly think about what it must be like for this person and how would I want to be treated if it had happened to me, then we can come closer to having compassion and empathy for others.
What To Say
The best response to another person's pain is to acknowledge that they are feeling pain and that you wish there were something you could do to help them through this difficult time. Often a squeeze of the hand, a warm hug or a card that says "My thoughts are with you."
Some form of acknowledging allows the grieving person to know they are not alone and that others really do care. Even if the person who has had the loss cannot respond or ignores your hand of friendship right now, they will remember and be grateful.
I know, because I have been on both ends of empathy and compassion and those who made the effort to reach out will be treasured forever.
With love and support,
Judy H. Wright aka Auntie Artichoke, family relationship coach and author