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Currently showing posts tagged empathy

  • the dying time of the year

    This is the time of the year when the light begins to ebb, to shorten, to fade, when we are reminded of mortality. But it is of course always with us. Children discover it in myriad ways: the broken cookie; the dead bird on the sidewalk; the death of a friend. This essay, by Monica Dux, is a meditation on the ways in which her daughter makes community and makes meaning in the wake of the death of her stick insect, Johnny:

    My grief-stricken daughter put him in a glass bowl on the kitchen table, where he lay in state, while she decided what to do with his body. 

    She knocked on the neighbour's door, to let them know that Johnny was no more.  She spread the word at school too, and it was there that one of her wise teachers comforted her with the words "It's not how long you live, but how well that counts". This was true, my daughter told me. Johnny had lived well. She repeated this solemnly when she rang her grandparents, to break the bad news. 

    If you're wondering how to help a young child you know begin to make sense of death, if you want to offer some ways of beginning to speak about it--as the teachers Dux describes do--you might explore some the following books.

    And if you're with an adult, you might simply hold space for them. 

  • what does empathy look like?

    Brene Brown has created this video to explain the difference between sympathy and empathy. You may have seen it already, but if not, give it a look. Offering empathy is a skill we can all develop, and it feels good for everyone involved. 

    Developing empathy can feel hard because we can feel pressed to respond to the distress we see in front of us, pressured to make it go away. I wrote recently about acronyms to remember when we find ourselves in challenging situations. Here's another. In those moments when someone shares their pain with us, we can WAIT. Ask yourself before you say anything: Why Am I Talking? Consider if your words are necessary. Maybe they are. Maybe they're not. Maybe your quiet presence is enough to start. And if you need to say something, maybe you can start with something like: "I'm right here with you." Or "Thank you for telling me." Or "You can say whatever you need to here." 

    Give yourself a break. Your being right there with that person, not sure of what to say, but hearing their heartbreak--that's a wonderful gift to them, a balm for their wounds.