©THE FEATHERS NEST 2019

WHAT IS EMPATHY?

August 25, 2019

 Oh social media.......I’m having one of those days where there are more bad things than good about it. Thank God for the timer that kicks me off after 30 minutes each day because this last week it’s been triggering a downward spiral.

 

I chose to share my story early on in my journey with Sage. Writing has been a part of my therapy. It has helped my mental space in so many ways. & sharing has brought about a really special community. When I made the decision to share such a vulnerable side of my life with the world it was in hopes that maybe one person could find comfort in connecting with what I’ve walked through. That it would bring hope or peace or some form of “me too” to someone out there in pain like me. 

 

The down side about being so open with such a tender part of me has been the assumptions people make about being involved. With this day and age with smart phones you can have instant access with anyone. For me, my phone has caused me a lot of anxiety because of this. At any time, no matter what you’re doing, someone can message you anything — even from strangers and people you’ve never met or had any friendship with. The exchange can be beautiful and timely, or inappropriate and destructive. 

 

The other day I received a really upsetting message from a stranger about Sage. I’ve been messaged all kinds of things over the last year and 9 months — a lot of things you probably wouldn’t believe. But this particular message really shook me. And prompted me to share my thoughts on this area of grief. 

 

The message was from a girl on instagram that I’ve never met, and don’t know. She had messaged me before asking to send a gift for her condolences early on and I had given her approval thanking her. More recently she messaged again mentioning she had moved and lost our address etc. I didn't respond at the time. Typically I don’t respond if I’m really struggling, or if I’m simply overwhelmed with life. Since I didn’t respond, she then messaged Ryan who didn’t respond either (it’s really difficult for him to talk about Sage to strangers). Then, I woke up to another message from this girl... it read:

 

“Okay, at this point I guess I’ll keep it for myself. Sorry to bother you in hopes of trying to be empathetic towards your loss. It won’t happen again.” 

 

When you're grieving, do you have to respond to EVERY message you receive regarding your loss??

 

I hope you’re all shaking your heads no, because the answer is NO. Absolutely, 100 times over, NO

 

If you’re on the other end — reaching out to someone in deep loss, please don’t hold any expectations over them when it comes to their grief. And I’m not just talking about the first months, I’m talking about ever. If you ever reach out in regards to the loss of someone else there should never be an expectation of a response. 

 

Expecting a response shows that the message is actually about you, not them, or their loss. We’re all selfish, yes — it’s a part of our nature. I do things selfishly just like you would. No one's ever gonna handle hard situations in life perfectly, but as long as we're checking in on ourselves OFTEN. “What are my real intentions here?”. Such a simple thing to ask yourself before you take action. If we never ask ourselves that, then the more defensive we’ll get about the idea of being selfish. But the more honest we are with ourself, the better steps we can take to TRULY care and be empathetic towards others. 

 

To me, the girl on instagram was not being empathetic. After reading her last message to me I quickly responded with my thoughts and blocked her account. I care too much about the energy that surrounds me, and her false sense of empathy is not welcome in my life and grief. I love myself too much to accept that. Period. 

 

Loss is the most painful thing I believe we experience in life. If you’ve lost someone you love deeply, then you understand why I say that. Processing all the emotions that come with grief is nearly impossible. Overwhelming is an understatement. As time goes on there are new challenges you face, new triggers, new steps you have to take, and all kinds of new battles to fight within your mind. And that’s why having an expectation over someone when it has to do with their loss is so not helpful. Often times it’s hard enough processing on your own, let alone bringing people in on it...no matter how much time has past.

 

I will never forget something my best friend said to me during my first year without Sage. I had told her I was hurt by some of the distance she was giving me and felt so alone. This was a big deal for me to open my heart to her telling her how much I was struggling. She showed up at my house the next day and we had the most beautiful, HONEST conversation about what was happening inside both of our heads. She asked me how she could support me better and I shared some things I felt I needed in a friendship in this season. Since that day she has shown up for me in a way that always leaves me emotional.

 

And one day recently I asked her "How? How were you able to be there for me when so many people couldn't??", and she turned to me and smiled, "Because I love you. That's all."

 

To me, that is true empathy. To love and act out of love. Truly, deeply, selflessly. 

 

B.

 

 

 

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