Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Empathy

As a budding psychologist/therapist, I foresee the importance of clearly understanding the difference between empathy, sympathy and support. As I've experienced in my own counseling sessions, therapists straddle the line of caring and becoming too invested, not crossing appropriate boundaries. It seems a tricky line to walk, but walk they must.

In my usual blog hopping I came across one woman's account of her husband's diagnosis of cancer, followed eight-months later by his death despite aggressive chemo, radiation and surgery. Her son was barely a year and a half when his dad died. Despite my best attempts to not mess up my eye makeup (after all, I have my interview for a holiday help position with Williams Sonoma this afternoon--yes, I actually applied last Friday. Stay tuned...) I find myself sitting at my desk crying for a woman at least 2 degrees of separation from me. Her pain is palpable and I cannot imagine having a baby mere months old when the life you'd always expected gets so inexplicably turned upside down. No longer can you freely celebrate the milestones of crawling, solid foods, first tooth, first word, first step. All of the good, despite your best attempts, is overshadowed by this monster that is quickly taking over your husband's body.

For some reason one of my greatest fears is losing my husband only a couple of years after marriage, or worse, in that first honeymoon year. Perhaps it's because I feel I've waited longer than many of my friends to find that person, and so would feel horribly robbed to lose them only a short time after finding them. (And with no special someone in sight at the moment, that means the wait will be even longer.) Although I recognize that God is ultimately in control. and I would strive to lean on and trust in his supremacy, I can only imagine how angry, how royally ticked off I would be. Your life together is just beginning, only to have it cruelly ended without your permission.

The question has been asked, "Is it better to have loved and lost than never loved before?" I believe that most of you married folks would say that yes, it is indeed better and that you are richer for having had the person in your life. I just don't know that I would agree. I suppose I'm just so afraid of the heart wrenching pain that would come; the pain that makes my eyes well up with tears to even contemplate.

I have no eloquent or meaningful end to this post, I was just struck with such strong empathy for this young mother whose every hope, dream and plan for the future changed in an instant the day her husband was diagnosed. Boundaries can come later; for now I grieve with her.

4 comments:

TheWinnFamily said...

In my wedding vows I included "each day that God gives me with you as my husband I will count as a blessing and a treasure" I wrote these words with the knowledge that the Lord could take Adam away at any moment of his choosing and that with that reality comes me having to choose to say that each day I do get with him I will treasure. It is indeed better to have loved and lost then to never have loved at all. However, with that said, I can imagine little worse in this life and my heart aches for that woman.

b said...

That's really nice, Molly. Apparently you are much more of an optimist than me.

This story, coupled with all the other recent junk makes me think that we should all just shoot ourselves to spare ourselves the doom that awaits us all.

DeniseMarie said...

Kell, I also stumbled upon that same blog and read the ENTIRE THING from start to finish in ONE DAY. I simply could not stop reading, and I too cried many times throughout. (I still check her blog almost daily, and it kind of breaks my heart even more that she hasn't posted anything in a long while. I feel invested in her and her son now and am kind of desperate to know how they are.) Needless to say, I got NO work done that day, and drove home feeling sadder and more blue than I have in a long time. When Matt got home I held on to him tighter than usual and then cried some more while I told him all about this dear woman, her story, and how terrified I am on a regular basis that something will happen to him. (I share your paranoia.) But since learning her story I've made an active effort to really embrace the attitude Molly expressed--being grateful for every day, even the bad ones. Not just being grateful for Matt but for you and B and Carol and my parents and all the other people I love so much it makes my heart hurt. On the other hand....I was just thinking about that "loved and lost" thing the other day. Matt and I were watching "Men in Black" on tv while he iced his knee. When Will Smith's character catches Tommy Lee Jones' forlornly watching his old flame on the monitor, he says, "You know what they say--it's better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. Right?" And Tommy Lee responds: "Try it." Having been on the bad end of a couple soul-bruising breakups and losses, AND having been single and horribly lonely for a LONG time before God granted me the greatest blessing of my life (that's you, Bug), I'm of the opinion that both are equally bad.

Sarah S said...

better to have loved...