Empathy vs. Sympathy

Empathy (noun) – the ability to understand and share the feelings of another

Sympathy (noun) – feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else’s misfortune

It is so easy to tell someone the difference between empathy and sympathy.  This video does a beautiful job at showing the difference.  And it’s so beneficial for all situations.

“Rarely can a response make something better.  What makes something better, is a connection.”

 

Advertisements

Dear Best Friend

Usually when I sit down to write I’ve been contemplating what I’m going to write for quite a few days,  so by the time I sit in front of my laptop,  I have a pretty specific idea of what I’m going to write.  This time – while I’ve definitely got an idea of what I want to write about – I’ve sat here staring at my screen for awhile hoping the words would come.  So if the following is just one big, garbled mess – well, then it won’t be much different than most of my other blogs!

When I moved to Kentucky,  I did so at the begging request of one of my best friends.  We met in a funny way,  and she will tell you how much she disliked me because all I did when we first met was ask her questions about a guy she’d dated – that I was now dating.  Well, the relationship didn’t last,  but the friendship has gone strong, and only gotten stronger, for MANY years!  She’s been by my side through some pretty rough moments and NEVER passed anything that can even slightly be conceived as judgment on me.  I can tell her anything – and I mean ANYTHING.  She knows some of my deepest secrets.  I sang in her wedding 9 years ago and when she told me in December that her and her husband were going to start trying to have a baby,  I was very happy for her!!  I knew that she would be an amazing mother!  She has the patience of a saint (unless she’s driving, but that’s a California thing!) and she’s so dag-gone SMART!  But then those conflicting emotions started ranting about in my head & heart once again!  I still remember her saying to me  “What if I get pregnant before you?”  I told her I would be happy for her – and probably a little sad, too.

thinnest line

I remember a few conversations we had in the beginning of their trying to conceive.  At four months,  she was confused and frustrated because she wasn’t pregnant yet – “Why isn’t it easier?” – and believe me,  if I knew the answer to that I’d share THAT with her, too!!  We even had a couple heated conversations that consisted of me trying to remind her to give it more time.  It wasn’t that I didn’t believe she was frustrated.  Or that every negative test or started cycle did hurt her.  But after a certain amount of time and that “label” – if she got there – things would change and she would wish she could go back.  At eight months,  she was frustrated that she STILL wasn’t pregnant and I started getting scared for a new reason…  while I didn’t mind sharing EVERYTHING with her,  this was one thing I did NOT want to share!  The pain, heartache and devastation that are a part of this journey was NOT something that I wanted her to know!  I often prayed that she would get pregnant soon.  Not too long after she returned from a vacation to Hawaii with her husband,  I was sure that every phone call or visit was going to end in that announcement that I’d begun to anticipate/dread – “I’m pregnant!”  And I only say ‘dread’ because as I would sit and play out the announcement in my head,  there were always so many different reactions that I’d envisioned – and every one of them involved tears.  I never actually dreaded that she would become a mother!  I just want to make that VERY CLEAR!!

I’ve often wondered how I would react if I ever found out someone close to me was pregnant.  Someone that knew of our struggle.  I’ve talked to friends that are dealing with infertility and have dealt with such news, and they have told me that the reaction is directly proportionate to the way the news is told.  I was able to put that wondering to rest on Sunday.  I found out that my best friend in the entire world – the woman I share everything with, consider a sister and love with all my heart – is going to be a mother.  I can’t think of anyone else that deserves it more.  She came over and spent a good chunk of time looking up grants for adoption (sidenote: IT’S EXPENSIVE!!!) and as the time came for her to go home, I could tell she was stalling for some reason.  At first, I didn’t think much of it,  but then she said “I need to tell you guys something.”  I knew, and my heart kinda stopped.  The news was met with tears,  but not as many as I’d anticipated.  She was so thoughtful in her approach.  She used such care and caution.  I told her congratulations and apologized for my tears.  She said she understood – and I know that she truly did.  And then she hugged me.  I didn’t fall apart until after she left.

that feeling

I LITERALLY laid awake all night that night.  My emotions did what they do best – waged a full-on war inside of me.  I was SO happy for her!  Why did I feel so sad?  I was so excited for her!  Why did I feel so angry?  I wanted to ask so many questions!  Why was I so afraid of the answers?  As I think about it, those emotions haven’t really subsided much.  And I feel like that makes me a selfish friend.  But still, she understands and doesn’t judge me.  Fears that I hadn’t even thought of have popped into my head.  I cannot – nor do I want to – imagine any part of my life without her in it, yet I can’t help but be scared that things will change.  It was hard for me,  but I know it was hard for her also.  And the fact that she put so much thought and consideration into how she was going to tell me makes me love her even more.  I wasn’t sure what my next words to her would be, but this is what came out:

“I’ve spent a lot of time trying to process my feelings, as I didn’t sleep at all last night…  I want to start by saying, I am VERY happy for you and I know that you will make a wonderful mother.  I know that it took courage to tell me and I can imagine that it probably made you nervous to do so.  I am glad that you left when you did – not because I wanted to be rid of you but – because you didn’t have to see what happened next.  It’s so hard to describe all the emotions I’m feeling. I am grateful that you will never understand this feeling – this heartache.  I’ve prayed many times since you told us for health for you and the baby.  I’m sorry that I couldn’t give you the screaming, jumping up and down with excitement reaction that I’d always dreamed we’d share with an announcement like that.  I wanted to offer to go with you to your first appointment but the pain that accompanied that thought was unbearable.  I promise that I will do my best to stand beside you through all of this.  I will fight diligently to swallow my pride and selfishness and not only be at the baby shower but help plan it.  It’s what you deserve.  But when the moments come that I break – and there will likely be many – please understand that tears of joy will be mixed with the tears of pain.  I am sorry that you have to be so cautious with me.  I am sorry that I’m so fragile.  I am sorry that I can’t offer the unbridled excitement that you deserve from a best friend.  I hope that it doesn’t hinder our relationship, and I also promise to do my best not to let it.  I appreciate how patient you’ve been with me, and will need that patience now more than I ever did before.  I am excited for you.  I am excited to be a part of this child’s life.  I hope someday to have a child that will become as good of a friend to him or her as you’ve been to me.”

And it was met with a response that reminded me why she’s my best friend.  And why she will make the best mother.  She reminded me that she wants to be there in good AND bad times, and that while she wants me to be involved when I could, that it was ok if I couldn’t.  She told me that she wants me to be a part of her’s and her baby’s life forever…  and what kind of friend would I be if I didn’t honor that request after all she’s done for me?

best friend2