Empathy

So much has changed in our world in the last 10 days. I really don’t want to add to all the noise but I also think this is a message that people need to hear right now.

I’m privileged. My life hasn’t changed much during all of this and I feel very fortunate that I’m able to be home with my kids and that I have the resources to provide them with food and with education.

I feel so much for our brave healthcare workers that are going to battle without armor and have to find child care for their children and also worry about bringing this virus home to their families.

I feel so much for the small business owners that will not ever recover from this.

I feel for the service industry who relies on tips and for whom even unemployment will not be enough for them and their families.

I feel for the police, ambulance, firefighters, military who never know what that next call will be but go running to it all the same now as they always do.

I feel for teachers who are being asked to work, even when they have their own children at home to take care of. I feel for the parents who are forced to work at home and care for their children. I feel for the children that are now being put into abusive or neglectful environments, some of which may not even survive this.

I feel for the children who are missing their beloved teachers and friends. The seniors that are missing out on their rights of passage. The kids who won’t get to compete in their last season of sports.

I feel for our friends who won’t get to take their kids to Disney. I feel for the immune compromised (which includes my mom). I feel for the elderly. I feel for kids who already have to deal with cancer who now have even stricter rules about visitors.

There is just so much sadness. Some of it is big sadness and some of it little sadness, but it’s all sad.

I feel for me too. I know I’m not on the front lines and as I already explained, I have a lot to be thankful for. But that doesn’t mean this is easy.

The truth is that I was already going through somewhat of a tough season before all of this hit. I love these children dearly but the winter months and flu season meant we were already sort of living in isolation and Ethan is a very high needs baby. I love that I GET to be home with these children but I felt myself envious of my husband sometimes as he left for work and I had yet another day of a fussy baby and a preschooler that didn’t get enough of my attention and a house that I felt like I could never keep organized and clean.

What made it worse was the guilt I felt over my own feelings. I’d tell myself how lucky I was to be able to be home and how quickly this time goes and how I should “enjoy every minute”. I had zero empathy for myself and felt like I should just be positive.

What finally DID help me was acknowledging that what I was doing every day was hard and it was ok for me to feel sad, overwhelmed, frustrated. It didn’t mean that I didn’t love my kids and it didn’t mean that I didn’t appreciate things. It just meant that I’m human and part of being human is struggling. I had to sit down with my husband and tell him that I needed more time to myself. I needed to talk to him and good friends about my feelings and stop feeling guilty for having them.

We are a society and culture that doesn’t do sad. We would rather distract ourselves and do anything to “feel better”. We are a society addicted to alcohol, drugs, pain killers, pornography, shopping, food, going from one relationship to the next just to avoid sitting in our sadness for a bit. We don’t do sad.

Our family watched Inside Out recently. I highly highly recommend that movie to everyone right now. It illustrates perfectly why we can’t just be happy all the time and why we need sadness too.

Our kids need us to empathize with their pain. They are sad right now. Their lives have changed in major ways too and it isn’t helpful to them to tell them that they shouldn’t be sad about missing their friends because some kids have it much worse. We shouldn’t feel guilty for our own feelings and we shouldn’t make our kids feel guilty for theirs either. There’s so much psychology into this that I won’t go into, but if we don’t help our kids learn healthy ways to deal with unpleasant emotions, we are setting them up for addiction later in life.

“I know, this IS sad guys. I’m so sad about it too.” Can let them know that their feelings are valid.

It IS hard. Even just trying to go about our daily lives, feeling completely helpless over all the suffering going on in the world and with people we care about IS hard. And someone else having it worse than you doesn’t make your own feelings irrelevant.

Its important to give ourselves the space to grieve but then to find ways to bring joy into our lives still. Show your kids these things as well. “We’re going to see if our elderly neighbor needs us to get them groceries because they are probably scared to go to the store.” “We are going to spend our money and use our Amazon Prime membership to send games and toys to children in the hospital that are not allowed visitors right now. Can you imagine how they must feel during all of this?” We are going to pray for all the medical workers during this extremely difficult time.”

It’s a hard time right now for everyone. It’s harder for some than others, but everyone is a little sad and a little stressed out right now. Be kind. Be empathetic. Don’t make pain a competition. We are all in this together and we need each other to lift each other up.

To all the parents at home with kids right now, I feel you. You’re trying to create a sense of normalcy when they can’t even play with their neighbors in their back yards. You’re trying to be calm even while the world is a stressful place. You’re trying to be there for them. It’s so easy task. I’m sorry. I’m here.

For us Christians with Easter right around the corner, let’s remember that none of us gets through this life through our own good works. So as we accept the grace of others, let’s extend that very grace to ourselves and to others.

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