I've always considered myself an empathic person. In some ways, after my experiences with miscarriage and infant loss, I've become even more empathic. I'm passionate about helping people who have experienced these losses. Yet, I realize in some ways, perhaps my losses have compromised my empathy.
I spent the afternoon with a woman who has four young children. She complained that she never gets to go any where. She complained that she has no time to accomplish anything at her house and that she was always exhausted. These are all perfectly valid complaints. In her place, I might be complaining about the same things myself. However, at the time she was venting, all I could think was “Boy is she ungrateful. What if she'd lost one of those kids or experienced real heartbreak...”
Not that I actually wanted her to experience real heartbreak, mind you. I wouldn't wish the pain of pregnancy or infant loss on anyone.. Yet I longed for her to acknowledge that she had the number of kids she wanted. I wanted that to count for something. I wanted her to understand that in a way, I envy her busy life and the fact that she has no time to herself because she has a baby and I do not.
Yet when I truly thought about it on my way home, it occurred to me that perhaps were were both being self-absorbed. She couldn't see past the fact that her life is overwhelming at the moment. I couldn't see past the fact of my losses. I was so certain she was lacking in empathy for me that I was unable to feel empathy for her.
So how do we grow our empathy, especially in the wake of a loss such as miscarriage? How do we feel empathy even for people we are certain can't possibly understand what we are going through? I think perhaps it's not for us to judge who is worthy of our kindness and who is not. No matter how compassionate we feel we are, we all make decisions about how we're going to treat people. We all have hurts we have a hard time letting go of. We all have people who for whatever reason, rub us the wrong way. We all have people who we feel are ungrateful or mean or foolish and therefore unworthy of our kindness or less worthy of our kindness.
But perhaps, that is not for us to say. Perhaps to retain our compassion and empathy, particularly after a loss such as a miscarriage, we need to practice kindness toward everyone. I for one don't want to let my losses make me a bitter and angry person. It's possible that the enormity of my losses has made me a poor judge of who is and who is not deserving of my compassion. Possibly most of us are poor judges of this.
I think empathy is always important but I don't think it's always easy. Sometimes it will be work to show compassion and kindness, yet I think that is work worth doing particularly if you've suffered a miscarriage and you are in need of compassion, kindness and empathy yourself.