Empathy is an emotion that I have struggled with in life. Sometimes I can’t always connect to another person’s pain so it can be difficult to know what to do. I didn’t expect to be on the other side of something so traumatic where I am the one struggling and everyone else is left trying to figure out what to do. I won’t really write a lot about this because some of it has already been mentioned before.
When everything first happened, empathy took the form 24/7 support which was exactly what I think Leah and I needed. Those things have transitioned over time for me. I don’t expect that everyone in my life who was there before be here as they were. I understand that no matter what happens, time will move on whether I want it to or not and that same principle applies to everyone else in the world. Bills have to be paid and families have to be taken care of.
Empathy for me is as simple as, “How are you doing?” These days I don’t require much. I don’t ask that everyone I ever knew ask me every day how I am or do things for me. I am always moved by the occasional, unexpected showing of support. But overall, empathy for me is just reaching out on a regular basis to see how I am and how I am managing things.
As the grief project mentioned, where people can sometimes struggle is what to do or what to say. I know there isn’t any way the average person is prepared to talk to someone who has lost their child, whether it’s recently or years in the past. For people that know us, just asking what to do or what to say is really the only way to figure out what to say when you don’t know. Heck, I don’t always know. Everyday is different.
Talking about Ava is always okay. Does it mean that I need to talk in such a way that her name is mentioned every sentence? No. I just mean that sometimes I do like talking about her and other times I don’t. It isn’t easy for everyone else because of all the uncertainty. Grief is unique to me, in that it changes every day. Some days you are more outgoing and willing to talk and other times you are introverted to the point where you want to be around no one. I think the gold standard is always, “How are you doing?” That is the safest thing anyone can ever say. It’s when the choice to say nothing happens. That’s when it is harder to understand from my perspective.
I am usually not helped by positive spin or making light of Ava’s death. There are definitely aspects of my life that are forever changed and strengthened because of Ava. That is not a justifiable reason for her not to be alive today. I pull inspiration from a very personal place and usually carry those conversations with Leah, at least at an intimate level. The point of this post for the grief project was not to vent about what people do wrong with empathy so I didn’t want to go down that road very far.
To wrap up this post, I have found that empathy is usually directed towards Leah rather than me (I am not complaining). I have a great deal of respect and understanding for the fact that Leah went through the birth and loss of Ava in a much different way than I did. I do sincerely believe that because of her bond with Ava in a way I will never experience, she has more to grieve than I do. In my journey, I have noticed that I am asked less how I am versus Leah. Again, not a complaint, just an informative observation.
I think society just grooms men into being the strong ones who are supposed to be the source of direction and support in times of difficulty. Thankfully, although rocky, my return to work and getting through some of those difficulties has helped me cope with life while keeping Ava close to me at the same time. That doesn’t mean that men don’t have serious grief that comes with losing their children. I still have my days. My point in saying all of this is not to be asked how I am more often. I hope that no one changes any behavior because of this. I really just wanted to say it because I know how men can be forgotten.
I pray that any parents out there tonight find the empathy that they need. I hope that you are granted peace and comfort through your own journey with grief. I know it sucks. I hope you can find your way through the darkness into the light again.