Walk In My Shoes… Is It Necessary? Judging or Empathizing?

imageWe know  variations of the old saying, “Walk in my shoes…” but all state the same basic fact: One could not truly understand the depth of another’s  experience until they experience it personally.

A deeper look at, “Walk in my shoes… ”  Is it always necessary? When it is and when it isn’t, and why!

Some, challenge outsiders to walking for a mile or experience at least for a day in order to  understand another’s situation. The question is, for what purpose?  Why? Is the purpose to judge or to empathize?

There is a huge difference between doubting the degree of pain or  emotional distress another is experiencing, or morbid curiosity and the process of empathizing with someone you respect and value.

In my opinion, “judging” another is a negative action implying whether the reality of a person’s situation is true.

“Empathizing,” on the other hand, is a positive effort to understand another whom you value regardless of their situation. It implies willingness, knowledge and effort.

For these reasons I applaud those who empathize with the person experiencing a dire situation directly and feel sorry for those who judge. It is the latter group to whom the saying “walk in my shoes needs to apply.”

This being said, the function of closed support groups is invaluable. Emotional support groups, such as most survivors of suicide loss groups only accept families and friends affected directly by one of life’s major emotional tragedies, including the facilitators.

All support groups to which I belonged in one capacity or another were closed groups and at the time I was convinced anyone who hadn’t been personally affected had no place in the group.

I’m still convinced of the value of personal experiences to truly understand, but is it always the best? How about professionals who spend a life-time studying a topic and helping people without necessarily having gone through it personally?

This is an open question and would love to hear your opinions.


With best wishes,

Rodica M.

M.S. Counseling and Clinical Psychology

(Life’s Cross-Roads Coaching)

Why Holidays Are So Hard for Some of Us (in preparation of next week scheduled telephone chats)

I will not even attempt to guess why the Holidays are hard for you… All I could say is, I hope our time together will make you feel better.

It could be unpaid bills, not enough money to buy your kids the desired toys, or the expectation that once again the “family” will sit together and all will start just fine, until Uncle Frank gets too drunk and remembers bad things of long ago…It could be the regret that once you had a family and festive meals, but now you are alone and depressed…

All I could write about is why the holidays are hard for my family and me in particular.

In 2005, in November, as I was driving home from an Al Anon meeting (meetings to support the families of alcoholics), my phone rang. It was 10:00 PM and reluctantly I pulled the car to the side of the road.

I picked up and answered: “Hello?”

“He is dead!!!”‘a man’s voice said. It was my ex-husband’s brother.

He was letting me know my ex-husband completed suicide and told me I must tell our teen daughters immediately. After all he was there father! I hesitated, but for once didn’t listen my gut.

I drove home quickly, woke up my youngest, and as gently as I could whispered:

” Honey, I am so sorry…Your father is dead!”

She was 15 at the time. My  older was out with her boyfriend. I called them and asked to come home, there was an emergency.

I went to my youngest’ s bed again. She  was motionless, as if in a trance. I shook her  shook.  I held her tighter…but I could not transfer her any courage or strength. I was empty!

” I know this is terrible,” I said and hugged her. She pushed me away.

Soon the elder daughter and her boyfriend arrived, and we all sat there, in the living room, crying and shivering and not coming to terms with the reality of the sudden chosen death of their father who was leaving behind so many unanswered questions for all of us…

How do you understand? Come to terms? Heal? Is it even possible.

The best explanation of life of people who survived the suicide of someone close is: as if you rebuilt a life around a hole, but life will never be the same.

Support groups, friends, family, church and community… what helps most?

We will discuss it next week, if you call.

Please see the schedule in the post.