It can be difficult to say goodbye to loved ones who have passed, to relationships that didn’t work out, to children going off to college, to sons or daughters moving out of the house/getting married, to active military personnel leaving to serve their country, close friends or relatives who are moving far away, etc. How do we deal with these types of situations when these people have been part of our lives for many years? We have to remember that death is imminent, and in most other cases, people are actually making these choices for themselves. It is natural to experience separation anxiety at first, but we have to learn to let go and become unattached to people. We can remember the good times we shared and wish them well in their new endeavors. People come in and out of our lives for specific reasons, and no matter what, we have to let them be FREE. It should be comforting to know that everything is as it should be. When we change, so will our circle of influence (people we associate with in life). Life comes full circle and we may cross paths again. To overcome sadness and grief, reach out to God and ask for strength and courage. God is always there for us and always will be.
So I googled sympathy vs. empathy vs. compassion to learn the differences of these three words, and the first site that came up was operationmeditation.com. Below is what was provided:
Sympathy – feeling sorry for another’s hurt
Sympathy is feeling sorry for another’s hurt or pain. There is some emotional distance with sympathy – you are not experiencing the pain for yourself, rather you are saying “Isn’t it sad that this person is having a bad time”. Sometimes sympathy can tip into pity, and that is where some caution is needed. Pity is an emotion that tends to dehumanize and belittle. Most people who have a disability or other challenges will despise being ‘pitied’ as pity strips away the rich reality of their human experience and leaves just the difficulty or disability on view. For a deeper relationship and understanding, empathy is needed.
Empathy – walking in another’s shoes
Empathy takes things a little deeper – it is the ability to experience for yourself some of the pain that the other person may be experiencing. It is an acknowledgement of our shared experience as humans and recognition that we all feel grief and loss and pain and fear. You do not need to have experienced exactly the same events as the person who is suffering but you do need to have the ability to really imagine how they must be feeling in their situation. Empathy is a vicarious experience – if your friend is feeling afraid, you too will experience a feeling of fear in your body; if they are sad, you too will feel sorrow. Feeling empathy is allowing yourself to become tuned into another person’s emotional experience. It takes courage to do this but if you have ever experienced real empathy from another when you have been hurting, you will know what a gift it can be.
Compassion – love in action
If empathy is the ability to really experience some of the feelings of pain that another person is feeling, then compassion is to translate that feeling into action. You understand that your friend is feeling worried and stressed with their aging relative in hospital, so you cook the family some dinners and take their children for an afternoon. True compassion reaches out to all people, no matter whether they are your friends or not, and even to all living creatures. It is the ability and willingness to stand alongside someone and to put their needs before your own. Living a compassionate life can be learned – it is not just something that some ‘extra-good’ people are born with. Changing habits takes persistence and practice but it is achievable through the right methods. Many of the worlds’ wisest people have stated that giving to others in life is the source of the greatest contentment and life satisfaction, so there are many personal benefits to be gained as well.
Does God exist? Several years ago, I asked myself this question. I was raised Catholic and said I believed in God, but did I really? It is difficult for many of us to understand why there are tragedies and so much grief in this world if there truly is a God. My personal experiences in life have brought me to believe that God does exist and loves us. The missing link and puzzle pieces have finally come together. The things I have always craved in life are happening effortlessly for me now. Why? Because I have strong faith and belief in God. Does God exist? No one can answer that question for you but you.