Regina's Blog

The Gift of Empathy

by Regina Clark - on Wednesday, February 13, 2019
The Gift of Empathy

The first time I learned about empathy was when I was taking graduate classes in counseling. We practiced listening and responding with empathy. Empathy is the ability to understand where someone else is coming from. Empathy and sympathy are two different reactions. Sympathy is feeling sorry for someone else's misfortune. Active listening and responding with empathy are skills which can be learned. When you listen and respond with empathy it communicates to the other person that you are really paying attention to what they are saying. You are also paying attention to their visual language and their tone of voice. During the past five months, I have been interacting with hospice professionals. Hospice professionals interact with dying people and their families every day. Their empathy is incredible, so much better than mine. It’s hard for me to understand what it must be like facing death. I imagine that a dying person has mixed emotions, scary on the one hand and peace on the other. I remember when my mother in law was dying of pancreatic cancer, she told me that she was ready to die but the dying process was really getting to her. Watching a loved one suffer and lose their ability to function is heart wrenching. It’s also physically and mentally exhausting for the caregiver(s). This morning I found my 90-year-old father, who is slowly dying of COPD, at my back door with the door wide open yelling for help. When I found him, my empathy did not kick in. I was more focused on his safety. I should try to be more empathetic, my excuse is that I’m tired and sick of being tired. The past few months have given me a brand new respect for anyone who has ever been a caregiver.

Hospice professionals are unique individuals who provide comfort and care to the dying and their families. Special people who have so many gifts to share and provide so much comfort to others by using empathy. The next time you are faced with a difficult situation or find yourself dealing with a difficult person, try using empathy. You just don’t know what that person is going through.

 

 


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