Blog post

The Greatest Display Of Empathy

April 5, 2018

When a loss is fresh, the bereaved are often lifted up by those around them, perhaps provided with meals, showered with cards and flowers, or sent messages of love and support. These kind gestures can be very helpful and feel endearing after a loss. When your world has been toppled, when you suddenly find yourself living in an after, an empathetic presence can be your greatest asset. 

But eventually time passes, and the deceased and those they left behind are no longer at the forefront of others’ minds. The world keeps spinning, demands continue to loom, and people return to their normal lives. Although this is when the outpouring of support typically wanes, it is often needed at this time more than ever. The initial shock is beginning to lift, and the bereaved enter their new lives. These new lives are unfamiliar and daunting and filled with fear and doubt. The bereaved worry that their pain will always be insurmountable. They wonder how they will cope with the triggers that seem to exist at every turn. They worry that they will be unable to keep up with the demands of society. Above all, they fear that their loved one will be forgotten.

Related: If I Don’t Remember Them, Who Will?

Empathy is not an entirely universal language, as the needs of the bereaved certainly vary from one person to the next. But I am willing to bet that very few bereaved parents are seeking grand gestures. No, what we crave is something so very simple. There is nothing more heartwarming than a candid reminder that someone is remembering your child.

Under necessary circumstances, loving parents become warriors for their children, and this remains true even if their children could not stay. Reminding the world that your child existed is a heavy and tiresome burden, and of course not a task any parent would choose. But when your child’s life was so brief, when she did not live long enough to leave a trail of memories for others to conjure or stories to recount, there is no other choice.

I cast light on my daughter’s life, however, I can because she is not here to make herself heard. Loss parents around the world shoulder this burden, finding their own way to shout from the mountaintops that their children existed and that they matter. But when you tell us, without prompting, that you remember our children, the load is lightened ever so slightly. I believe this is the greatest display of empathy anyone can give — reminding a parent that you remember. If one person thinks of my baby girl today, then I am doing my job as her mother and bearing witness to her beautiful soul.

 

Photo credit: Daniel Mingook Kim on Unsplash

  • Sarah Burg

    Sarah Burg is a wife to Andrew and a mother to two beautiful daughters, Calla Elizabeth and Willow Grace. Willow was born on June 23, 2016 and died in Sarah’s arms on June 24, 2016 after a heroic battle with congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH). Willow’s death has transformed Sarah into a writer with a reason, and she hopes to use her words to offer healing and peace to the loss community. Sarah also blogs at The Rising (www.sarahjburg.com), where she explores life after loss.

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