Why should someone, as the definition of empathy goes, have to focus on having the ability to understand and share the feelings of another, when they are the one who has experienced a loss?
I’ve found that many people who experience the loss of a dog are hurt and frustrated by comments about ‘just a dog’ – that their grief isn’t as ‘big’ as the loss of a human. And frustration and hurt are valid feelings; however, adding empathy to the conversation can change those negative feelings.
They say to understand someone you need to ‘walk a mile in their shoes’. Imagine all the people who have not experienced such a profound connection or deep love in their life, that they can’t even fathom a loss like that? Imagine someone who might have also experienced a loss, has felt deeply, and has pushed those feelings down to not experience the mourning process – and then your grief has reactivated feelings they were trying to ignore? How does this change the conversation – could we feel compassion instead?
While the comments may be inconsiderate, we are the guardians of our feelings and ourselves. Empathy helps us to be living examples and make connections with others.