Q & A: Grief and Empathy

Q & A: Grief and Empathy

Answered by: Chereen


Q: Salam,

I’m asking about grief and not feeling it when I should be. I’m not having major trouble with the death of a close family member and I’m worried that I don’t have enough feelings, or that I do but I’m unable to express them in the ways I need to. Is it possible for someone with little empathy to be able to expand it, and how so?
A: Wasalam,

Everyone grieves differently. How we grieve does not define how much we care, or if we do or do not have enough feelings. It could be that it’s hard for you to comprehend how you are feeling since you previously mentioned that you were at a physical distance. I lost my cousin a few years ago and I was confused about how to feel because it had been a few years since I last saw her. I did cry a lot because the way she died was upsetting, but I felt weirdly okay. I think sometimes you have that feeling in your heart that they have gone to a better place and that gets you through it.
However, it might heavily hit you if you were to go back and don’t find them there, or if a song or food reminds you of them. You might also feel the absence during the good and bad times. Grief hits everyone differently and not necessarily at a specific time. Some grieve in the moment, others grieve down the road, and some process it and grieve easily. It all just depends on who you are.
As for empathy, of course it can be expanded upon. It helps to talk to people, rather than talk at them. Pay attention to their facial expressions and body language. Encourage yourself to hang out with different people, do volunteer work, and really inform yourself about cultures and also personality types. One thing that might help is people reading. Just go to a mall, sit down, and read people as they walk around. Imagine what their stories are, because everyone has a unique story. Don’t limit who you interact with. If you’re at the grocery store, talk to the cashier. If you’re on the plane, have a conversation with the flight attendant. Having a genuine interest in people’s stories helps you develop empathy.

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