• death of a loved one (including a pet)
  • divorce
  • loss of a job/business
  • bankruptcy
  • grave illness
  • debilitating accident
  • break up
  • assault- sexual or otherwise

The above list is just a small sample of tragic/traumatic things that can occur in a person’s life. Any of these things can cause one to feel a wide range of negative emotions. They can all cause anxiety. This list of things are not unicorns- most people will experience some sort of trauma in their life.

For the purposes of this post today, we will work with the theory that no one ever actually gets over a tragic/traumatic event. One will experience the emotions involved with any of these things for the rest of their lives. There is no timeline for when someone is supposed to be over it: you probably will never be over it.

Ok? No one actually gets over a traumatic event. Always inside them. Three months. Five years. Twenty five years- these events remain with us.

Now let me ask you a practical question:

Did you ever have a friend who broke up/divorced from a person. Did you ever think to yourself: Wow- it’s been five years since Morticia divorced Gomez. She still talks about him all the time. And his new wife. She seems so bitter. Is she ever getting past this?

Did you ever have a friends whose parent has died? Gee- Heathcliff still talks about the things his father did and didn’t do when he was growing up. It’s been ten years. He still seems so sad and angry. Is he ever going to get over it?

Have you ever had thoughts like this? It’s OK if you have: I’m not going to ask you to admit it here. I just want you to think if you’ve ever had thoughts like this.

If you have had thoughts like this, was your reasoning a lack of compassion? A lack of empathy?

or

Were you just worried about the level of sad or bitter or angry or fearful (insert negative emotion here) that your friend was facing?

Were you worried because your friend appeared to be rooted in place?

Were you worried that the negative emotion had taken over your friend mind, body and soul?

Had this negative emotion made your friend drink more? Eat less?

Had this negative emotion resulted in them engaging in less than optimal behavior patterns?

There’s an old New York story about the Collyer Brothers. They had been a very wealthy family at the turn of the last century. One brother came home from WWI with what was then referred to as “shell shock”. One of the behavior patterns that resulted was that this man, along with his brother, became extreme hoarders. Newspapers, things off the street, etc. It got so bad that I believe one of the brothers died when he was trying to crawl to his brother when a pile of junk fell on him. The other brother died of starvation.

Shell shock is now more commonly known as PTSD.

After effects of trauma and tragedy can be far reaching if they are not taken care of.

Anxiety should not be on anyone’s bucket list. If one is feeling inordinately anxious, one should speak to a mental health professional. Anxiety may not go away on it’s own- it may build and get worse.

If you had a tumor, would you not speak to a Doctor to see what you should do about it?

Why would you be more callous because you might have something wrong with your mental health.

We shouldn’t put a band aid on mental health. Didn’t we just watch Naomi Osaka and the French Open thing?

Anxiety is open to all who want it. There is no age restriction. Anxiety is color blind. It doesn’t care about socio economic status. Every single person alive has the ability to ride the anxiety train. The only question is, what stop do you want to get off at? Do you want to jump off now, or do you want to wait to the end of the line?

Compassion can be viewed from many angles. If you see your friend suffering, is it more compassionate to say something that might upset them, or is it more compassionate to ignore it?

76 thoughts on “Anything Can Happen Friday: Compassion

  1. Compassion is a good thing, yes. And mental illness isn’t something to be ashamed of. But how you get someone to see a need for treatment is not something I have any experience with. It seems that it involves some sort of judgment that I might not be willing to make.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Agreed. If someone is bleeding, we know how to fix it. But when you don’t see the wound, how do you help? I get it. But it’s always better to start when things are small. If you worry about a person in your life, should you talk to them and tell them to maybe seek help? If you think someone has an addiction issue, do you wait till they need an intervention? I know there aren’t good answers, but do we watch someone self destruct?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I don’t necessarily see lack of compassion, but would label it fear instead. We fear our own emotional reactions, thus are fearful when others seem lost during emotional stress. We fear not knowing how to respond to those in pain, so we avoid. We fear the stigma associated with emotional issues so much more than physical ones because we must be resilient as go forward as dictated by social norms. Humans seem to have a general lack of guidance when it comes to dealing with emotions in general, then throw in the ideals that males and females are made to respond differently… and the stigma that comes with that,

    Liked by 6 people

    1. We can’t walk away from mental health issues. We can’t push them under the rug. I saw a times headline today (haven’t been able to read the article) about the mental stress of parents and caregivers the past year. At some point we have to get past the stigma. We have to read our mental health as much as we treat other thing. I’m seeing a “if we don’t look it will go away attitude “. I’m proactive. I say try to stop it before it gets worse

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Wait…I’m amending. We are normalizing anxiety…in that…trauma makes you anxious and that’s ok. While yes, anxiety is a product of trauma, to assume that it will right itself is foolhardy. It might, or it might not (see train analogy) we don’t know which path our anxiety will take

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I have two friends from college with whom I have recently reconnected. I had broken off the friendship with one and the other one and I had mutually just drifted apart. Friend #1 was and still is indecisive and somewhat dramatic. I broke off the friendship when I sensed jealousy over my pregnancy when she was unable to carry to term and ended up using surrogates, a fact she didn’t share with many people. Friend #2 was and is pretty much the opposite. I have been in therapy for (no surprise here) mom-related issues. Both friends could probably benefit from that as well. #1 adamantly refuses to consider asking for help or if she gets it is always distrustful. #2 doesn’t ask for it al all. Oddly, #1 is the only one of us still married. She has a difficult relationship with her daughters while #2 has a very close relationship with her son. My relationship with my daughters falls somewhere in the middle. I have many friends I have kept mainly through my own efforts to keep in touch so it’s unusual that these two each reached out to me to restart ours. Both seem to have few friends and have admitted to difficulty in keeping and maintaining friends. I have no idea what this all means but I thought it was interesting and possibly deserving of more thought. There are other factors I could mention re the differences which just makes it that much more interesting to me. Funny how life turns, even without pandemic related anxiety and isolation taking roles!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Definitely deserving of thought…maybe they weren’t in a good place in their lives before and had to protect themselves first…and now they realize how important your friendship was…

        Liked by 1 person

  3. More compassionate to say something, even if it is hard for them to hear. Ignoring reality is a selfish act predicated on the internal workings (emotions, thoughts, etc.) of the person who chooses not to say anything. Agreed on mental health, as you and I discussed yesterday…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. After talking to you I started to think about this….if you see a house on fire do you put it out, or do you wait to see if it extinguishes itself? Are you afraid you might ruin the molding with water?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Indeed. There is a sociological construct called the bystander effect, or bystander apathy, which, for me, is what you are pointing to…instead of getting involved, we think that someone else will say something, or take action. However, oftentimes, that is not the case…so, the friend goes on living in bitterness, or the house burns down…

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Speaking from experience – making that first call to get help is very hard. It helped that I had a friend at work who kept telling me how therapy had helped her. Having my wife at home making a call when I had given up was also huge. I needed others in my life to keep nudging me to get the help I needed. It might not be easy to hear, but it helps to hear it.

    Liked by 4 people

  5. Compassion to me is seeing that the person needs help and then walking the path with them. Letting them know you’re there to help and nudging them towards help when necessary. Sometimes people will open up when prompted and sometimes they’ll shut down. But I always have to try. Because they need to know they’re important to me.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. PTSD is a chronic neurobiological condition resulting from psychological injury.
    Many of us have experienced trauma, but we should be careful using the term PTSD unless a definite clinical diagnosis has been made.

    I support my friends if they are in psychological distress – there is no limit limit on compassion. 🤗

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Definitely agreed. If we are sensitive to the needs of those close to us, we will gently , but lovingly encourage them to seek help.
        Of course, whether the individual choses to accept help is still their decision. 🤗

        Liked by 2 people

      1. I think that’s our challenge in life. Acceptance. I suppose it’s as hard as forgiveness. Look at all the other ways we have been blessed. There are always far more plusses than minuses in life, I think.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Love this post. It may be hard for some people to admit, but trauma really never leaves you. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It shows we’re human, that our feelings are valid. It becomes harmful when the trauma continues to have more value in our life than moving forward. Moving forward means we make progress. Not that we reach an “end date” or specific timeframe where everything is forgotten.

    Some people (for whatever reason–which could be a whole other topic) find it more difficult than others to move forward. They remain stuck in bitterness or depression because of the trauma. Others manage to break through and while the trauma never really leaves us, it doesn’t control us.

    Another thing to consider is that sometimes people who are struggling to move forward won’t reach out for help because they think others are going to have the attitude of, “Gee, haven’t you moved on yet?” I guess we grow impatient with others when we’re not personally experiencing their pain.

    A very thought provoking post.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I do think some people get more stuck than others, and I don’t know why. Personality types maybe? There comes a point where we might need help getting to the next step..sometimes we are afraid. There is still too much stigma regarding mental health and treatment.we need to stop neglecting mental health

      Like

  8. My mom and dad divorced when I was in college. They had been married 30 years. My mom never got over it. She sold the family house, married again and moved, but she never cared deeply for the new husband and treated him poorly. She became a shell of who she used to be. My compassion is there for her, but nothing could be done to help her. Yes, she went to therapy for years.

    Liked by 5 people

  9. I read your post with interest. I think people should talk about people who have passed if they want to, and feel to talk about their concerns also. It’ s not that they can’t cope, it is that their life experiences are part of them, their learning, their scars possibly. I think that your questions is whether we should respond or react. I think do not react, take time even if it just a few minutes to think about your response. I also think people provide their advice much too freely and too often. Instead I believe that feedback is a better choice. Instead of saying “you should”, I hear you saying ***** or talking about **** and I feel ***** . (using the I to frame your response, and not You.) Allow time then for the person to let you know what they want from you – it could be nothing, it could be that they just are sharing.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I agree that people butt in and are too judge mental. However…are we also supposed to be detached? What is the balance of staying in your lane and helping others

      Like

      1. There is a balance, but my experience is a lot of people giving advice and I haven’t asked for it. I imagine others must experience that as well. I think you can stay in lane, and signal your interest in a lane change and if the other driver is interested – he will provide space. ♥ Is Judge Mental an inside joke or am I being judgemental?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. 😉here’s my thing. I wrote about this a few years ago. My best friend from high school began a downward spiral. After being along for the very bumpy I told her I was there for her if she got help, but if she didn’t I was done. She died a few years later, accidental overdose. I still feel a little guilty that I didn’t try a little harder

        Like

  10. My son just gave me a book on this topic this week. He and I talk about PTSD on a regular basis. You are exactly right, in that trauma comes in a myriad of ways. I do think it is possible to learn how to get “un-stuck” although depending on the severity, it’s most probably going to take some type of outside help. He was telling me just this morning about a 2 hour phone conversation he had recently with someone who was unpacking the trauma of their life. Because my son “gets it” and has been transparent in his attempting to deal with it, he is a “safe” person to talk to. I think most of us keep the unprocessed crap bottled up because we don’t know any better, or, haven’t found a person/ place to help us work through it effectively. I have several family members with variations of what we are talking about here…and as I’ve tried to think about them, and the questions you are asking, (@ what point do we step in, etc etc.) You can’t force someone to deal with their stuff, even if you come along side and offer unconditional support.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You can’t force anyone. But I can’t imagine not at least trying. We don’t get rid of the stigma unless we all try. We don’t learn to heal unless we try. We won’t move forward as a society until we deal with things like this

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Mind if I ask you a personal question? (feel free to delete/ etc) You mentioned the after effects in your personal life after 9/11 the other day, and how the effects still linger to this day when you tell your daughter good by.. I can’t imagine, what you went through….I’m curious as to what for you have been the most helpful tool(s) in attempting to process some of it?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hmmmm…when I figure it out….😉it’s knowing what is most important in my life, which would be being a mother. I quit my very lucrative job to take care of my child because I. Knew if she wasn’t priority number 1 I would regret it. It’s not caring even an iota of what others think of me or my decisions, and staying true to myself. It’s knowing if I were to die tomorrow the people I love would know it. If I died tomorrow I know that I spent my days doing things that mattered to me. It’s getting up every day determined to make that day better than the day before. Does that make sense?

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Absolutely makes sense. I appreciate you telling me. It (9/11 and all of the heartache) made you stop, evaluate your life, and see what is really important and do something about it. I get it. I really do. I had a completely different set of circumstances in the late 1980’s that had a similar effect. At the time it was HELL< would never want to experience that again, if I can help it, but it had similar results in my life, to this day. Thank you again. DM

        Liked by 1 person

  12. Such a powerful and needed topic! There is no time limit, but yes, there are times when being truly compassionate is gently letting the person know that they need help. And not just telling them, but walking with them through the rain.
    I am living this, it hits home. My daughter suffers from PTSD and she is getting help, its a day to day process, but the best you can do is to love your friend/family member through it and have PATIENCE! Which no lie, can be hard at times, not because one doesn’t have compassion on the person but just because its simply hard to see your friend/family member hurting.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. So interesting as I am seeing this right now..a friend is going through a nasty divorce..it’s awful and everyone feels bad..but it is THE topic every time we see her.. she really sucks the air out of the room..every single time. Very concerning..she seems to be sliding into this vortex of anger and bitterness and seems situationally unaware of her obsessing..scary actually. She’s a bit like my dog in a thunderstorm..she cannot be consoled- doesn’t want to be consoled.. so you just stand there- helpless watching her pace and pant.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. I’ve had this happen to me. When friends have been sucked in to pain and loss. I’ve reminded them it’s okay to live. It’s okay to have joy. And, that it doesn’t mean the person they’ve lost is forgotten.

    Loss is so hard. But, living with loss? That’s so much harder.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Empathy (not) compassion should stop feelings of annoyance when hearing someone talk about the death of a loved one for the umpteenth time, you’d have to be pretty heartless to tier of listening…………………but I understand where you’re coming from, taking on others’ problems as your own saps the energy.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. As often happens a posting of yours prompts thoughts of mine own, I’m reminded of that fact one day I will have to finish working for the University of Oxford and that will hit me hard, I love the work and enjoy working with driven ambitious young people everyday, always thanking us which is adorable………….youthful exuberance is infectious and one day all this will be gone, one day I’ll be old and cynical!

        Liked by 1 person

  16. My husband’s death is something that is always on my mind but I feel like the load is lightening. I was able to participate in a few sessions of bereavement counseling which were helpful.
    I have went through counseling at various times in my life–it has been beneficial.
    I wish my mom would have sought psychiatric help at some point in her life. She was talking the other day about how she was wronged by others after my dad died–20+ years ago–while totally oblivious to what I am going through with my husband’s more recent death. She has the beginnings of dementia so I know she won’t change–but still frustrating.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I understand what you’re saying. It’s so hard to accept that sometimes we need help from an outside source. We often don’t see how much negative emotions effect us, and those around us. I’m glad you’re feeling the load is a little lighter. Thinking if you as you go down this path

      Liked by 1 person

  17. I think presence is important. My sisters husband passed away unexpectedly, I would show up and sit next to her, hold her, rub her back, hours would go by neither of us speaking a word. Sometimes there are no words, C

    Liked by 3 people

  18. Mental health is (or should be) a priority – now more than ever – but far too many people don’t have what it takes to help rather than harm. I have or have had depression, anxiety, agoraphobia and paranoia, but that experience doesn’t make me more able to help others who have the same. What does is the decade of training and study I’ve undertaken subsequently. Even with that behind me, I tread carefully, for another person’s mental health can be a most fragile thing. The best that friends can do – as any other commenters have said – is to listen, to walk with a person, to offer no judgement, just kindness and compassion. Even expressing your concern for their plight can result in the individual feeling over-burdened and to withdraw.

    When asking what is the more compassionate option – to speak or to stay silent – I would refer you to the medical profession’s mantra: “do no harm”. If by speaking you may do harm, then remaining silent is the better option. The bottom line is what matters most? How they feel, or how you feel about them?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’d hate to think that my friends saw me suffering and didn’t take the time to tell me to get some help. My best friend from high school had an accidental overdose about 8 years ago and died…I still wonder if I could done more to help her

      Liked by 1 person

      1. And it’s clear to see that you’ve been scarred by that experience LA. The bottom line is she may have died anyway. Something we humans tend to forget is it’s rarely about us.

        Look, I’m a mental health professional, so I think everyone would benefit from therapy. But how you intervene is as important a part of the decision as whether to intervene or not. All the best for the conversations you decide to have with your friends.

        Liked by 3 people

  19. The older I get the more I feel that compassion and kindness is the way to go. Like your list suggests, there are so many circumstances that can cause anxiety, depression, etc., and most of us have probably experienced at least some of these things on the list. The mind is complex and each person has their own way of coping. I don’t wish to force my way on anyone else. If someone needs days, weeks, months or years to grieve, I’m okay with that. I would want to be respected that same way. There’s no time limit to grief. But if help is needed I’ll try to contribute in whatever way possible. I’m still figuring out all this life stuff.

    Liked by 2 people

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