Health and Empathy

Message from Leslie at the Institute for Empowering Communication

Dear Friends,

Last June, I moved from Illinois to Ohio. I was able to make the
decision to move because I had confidence that Myra and I would continue our partnership, even from a distance.But I was unprepared for the emotional and physical impact.In the first couple of months after the
move I would be driving or making tea and suddenly I felt existential
angst. It was a kind of dread that affected not only my mind but my
whole body.”Why am I here instead of there?” Essentially I had left
behind all my tried and true ways for meeting core needs for meaningful
work, contribution, belonging, friendship and community.The loss of
proximity to friends into whose eyes I looked, in whose eyes I had
meaning was and still is profound. New strategies don’t emerge right
away; friendships and trust don’t form instantly.In short I walked away
from the network of empathy and care I once had.

My friend Janice spoke about the process of grief she had been through
two times, when her son died in his early 20’s, and her husband more
recently.On a large newsprint paper Janice drew a line from the lower
left corner to the upper right that looked like a Jackson Pollack
painting, a roller coaster of turns and twists. As I have grieved I have
experienced sinking sadness, rising hope and restoration to wholeness
only to find myself unexpectedly grieving again.

Recently I read about research at the University of Chicago, which shows
that 20% of Americans are chronically lonely, which yields ongoing
unhappiness, and can have very serious physical effects, including
increased blood pressure and a weaker immune system. I have not
experienced extended loneliness, but I am guessing grieving makes one
equally vulnerable.When a wave of grief comes, I am physically and
emotionally vulnerable.

This grief still sneaks up on me when I am unaware.The other day a
sequence of 4 or 5 unsatisfying events led me to grieve, “My needs are
never going to be met in the way they were before.” By dinnertime,I was
in desperate need of empathy. While my family was not able to give me
care in that moment, I feel lucky to have received the care and nurture
I needed the next morning.In a very short time I felt restored and able
to live fully.

Loneliness and grief have a profound effect on our emotional and
biological health. Empathy is the healing balm that can restore us,
sometimes very quickly, when we find ourselves alone and sad. Realizing
this powerful connection between empathy and healing is why I am drawn
to practice, learn and share NVC. I long for a world where empathy is as
common as air, and that our health is proof that empathy is everywhere.



About Institute for Empowering Communication

Co-founder of the Institute for Empowering Communication
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