This past week has been a whirlwind, and unfortunately, it has meant little time for blogging. Or little time to compose thoughts enough to even attempt a blog post. Over the course of the past 2 weeks, I’ve been told about 3 tragic losses – 2 through miscarriage and one stillbirth. My heart literally broke when I heard the news. Loss is so much more real after having lost my own child. **I found out today that one of those precious babies is actually still alive so praise the Lord for that! Please be praying for that little one to grow well and develop a strong heartbeat in the coming weeks!**
Loosing Andrew has definitely given me a greater capacity to empathize with others. Just tonight, I looked up the meaning of the words empathy and sympathy, trying to get a little more grasp of what the differences are.
According to Webster’s online dictionary, empathy is “the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner.” I’m not totally sure that I get the whole objectively explicit manner part, but overall, it makes sense, right? (by the way, this is the second definition listed – my brain was hurting after reading the first one).
So, according to Webster’s online dictionary, sympathy is “the act or capacity of entering into or sharing the feelings or interests of another; the feeling or mental state brought about by such sensitivity.”
They are both very similar. But, what stands out to me is the extent to which feelings and thoughts are expressed between the people involved. The definition of empathy mentions “experiencing the feelings, thoughts and experience of others” while sympathy mentioned “sharing the feelings of another.” The difference may be subtle, but in my mind, there is such a difference. Although most grieving individuals would probably greatly appreciate both expressions of love, there is something so healing about being near someone who can truly empathize. Being near someone who literally knows what you are going through, and even if they haven’t experienced the same exact situation, they are able to put themselves there and experience the same feelings with you. They don’t just share your feelings, they experience those feelings with you.
It’s been so meaningful for Kevin and I to talk with people who have experienced what we are feeling. Our support group has been a tremendous help. And talking with other women who have walked this road has been so healing. Thank you so much for all of you women who have shared your stories with us either through blogs and face-to-face It’s also been a blessing to look across at other women who literally are feeling our pain, even though they may have never lost any of their own children. That has been amazing too – the Lord really has gifted some people with the ability to empathize with others, even if they haven’t experienced the same situation.
When I received the news of these tragic losses in the past couple of weeks, my heart literally sank. My eyes filled with tears, and I was reminded of the deep emotions I felt when we found out Andrew was no longer with us. Hearing about one person’s pain as they looked at the ultrasound screen and saw no heartbeat brought back every feeling of shock, sadness, and utter despair that we felt on August 5th, 2009. You can never be prepared for something like that.
But, as I hear about losses (whether the loss of children or other relatives), I pray that the Lord will allow me to show empathy the way that it has been expressed to me. I pray that He will allow me to empathize with others, just as He has empathized with me. Even as a fellow griever, I don’t have the right words to really bring comfort. All I can offer though is my understanding of how difficult life can be sometimes, but also the hope that we can find if we put our trust in Jesus. I pray that as the Lord continues to heal our broken hearts, He will prepare me and give me opportunities to show love to others through empathizing with them in their pain. After all, He is the greatest example of all.