Empathetic Grief

Your friend's baby has just died, she is raw and unfiltered and grieving.  You want to be supportive and love her, but you don't know how.

In order to be empathetic you know you must put yourself in your friend's shoes and imagine what it would be like if it was your baby instead.  To imagine your own worst nightmare.

But you don't want to do that.

You can't let yourself do that because even the thought of that makes your stomach clench and your heart race and you start to sweat.  You can't let yourself do that because you are honestly not sure that you would survive the purely empathetic experience.  Your friend is strong enough to handle that, but you are pretty sure you are probably not.  I mean, you have your own family to take care of and it would not be good for them to have a mom that is grieving right now.  That would be extremely inconvenient and just not a good idea.  You can't fall apart.  You are the mom so you don't let yourself go to that place of true empathy.  Of putting yourself in another's shoes.

And you are right....sort of.

It would be a bad idea for you, a bad idea for your family, and honestly a bad idea for your friend for you to fall into despair or grief due to her crisis.  In truth, that level of empathy is not all that helpful anyways.  Your friend kind of needs you to be pulled together, because she knows that she is not.  She is having a hard time with her own emotions over the event and has absolutely no idea how to process yours too.  It's bad enough that all this hurt and pain is present in her own life, she certainly doesn't wish more of it to fall upon her friends.

And yet she kind of needs it to.

She needs to know that if she calls you for something you will try to be there.  She needs to know who she can call or text at 3:00 in the morning and who will at least get back to her the next day.  She needs to know where it is safe to be, because leaving the house sometimes takes a great amount of physical and mental effort.  Yet she hopefully knows she needs to leave the house.  She already knows that insensitive comments are going to happen.   Don't be so afraid of making one that you avoid her.  Don't be too proud to apologize if she is honest and brave enough to let you know that something you said rubbed her the wrong way.  Then move on and forget it unless she brings it up.  Your friend wants to move on.

Even when she feels stuck like glue.

It's ok to say, "Thank God not me" but remember that someday it might be.  Someday it might be you that needs the empathy of friends and loved ones because your child has died, or another grief provoking crisis.  Please don't fall apart, but please don't be afraid to imagine just for a moment that the situation really was reversed.  Don't be afraid to spend five minutes meditating on life in your friend's shoes.  It will be overwhelming, but it will also help you find the patience to be a true friend.  To offer the support that she needs or at the very least what she is brave enough to ask for.

And by all means, count your blessings.

Your friend is hopefully still counting hers.

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