Exploring Empathy

We haven’t all learned the skill of showing affection, and gauging the extent of an accident victim’s pain. I believe empathy is grounded on the ability to pull within oneself the suffering of another person, to experience it at a deep level.

IMG_0111So what is Empathy—that thing that most women do so well? What is it composed of?

It’s the ability to imagine what it must feel like to be inside another’s skin, to face another’s problems and fears as if they were your own. To be able to gauge their needs before they even voice them.


The brisk necessity of emergencies takes over. Activities surround the victim, as well as calculations of cost and projections. (How long, how much, will disability pay for the wage-earner.)

The shattering earthshaking results of any catastrophic event be it a traffic accident, or a tsunami, on the victim and surrounding family bear attending to. Because life goes on for everyone anyway, and that’s the part that is hard to bear. Being involved in such catastrophic events makes it natural that you should want the entire world to stop and note what is going on with you.

Events of such magnitude within a family demonstrate both emotional toughness or callous disregard. The young and those who would be expected to respond with services, do not. Close family members ignore the victim, perhaps stunned, perhaps baffled on what to do precisely. Which is where some work colleagues, neighbors, friends from school, chance acquaintances play their part in creating a warm and loving helpful network to render life bearable.



Most importantly, how local is the help? Small tasks performed by neighbors have a great effect. Niggling details of plant and pets, fetching groceries and supplies, laundry, housekeeping, when organized by rota are no burden when shared. A leader steps forward to organize a team, and suddenly life becomes bearable again. Participants experience the pleasure of having done what they could.

The most difficult thing is to look forward to are the months of recuperation. War veterans can probably respond to this. Seeing a paraplegic in the grocery store enlivens people’s sympathy sometimes. But it is curious how often people turn away, and perhaps the victims themselves prefer that, but I don’t think so. Anyone wants to be recognized and however the life plays out that’s the way it is.

So how empathetic are you?

Do you call, send postcards, email or do you prefer to be more practical?

What practical services would you offer? How much, and when?

Empathy involves such matters as washing a patient’s hair, a careful manicure, can give so much relief.

What emotional support would you provide?

Talking through problems can help mitigate the profound shock that comes with a life-changing incident.


What must be faced often is that the condition may persist for months, sometimes longer, and that’s  something to tackle frankly if you’re not to feel a heartless twit. You have to make allowances for the fact you can’t do all you would like to do.

For example doctor visits, therapy session often involve sessions several times a week, and need someone to drive the patient pack and forth. This can extend for months. To be able offer this  kind of constancy means your own life and ambitions go into suspension. This is where long-term team-mates fit into the care puzzle. Get out your calendar and plan for it. Sign up for duty if you can.


About helenscribe

Helen is a long-time writer, with experience in both fiction and non-fiction. Her latest fiction, an English cozy mystery "The Domino Deaths" is available on Amazon. She is also an amateur painter and sailor.
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