My mother has been ill
for many years. Her illness is now in
the last phase that might last for some months or some years. There are no
regrets. We have been spending time together, sharing feelings and thoughts,
successes and disappointments, ups and downs of daily life, travelling together,
enjoying holidays. But still…

The circle of life is
so fascinating. Despite the challenging situation, I discovered an unexpected
feeling of gratitude – to be able to experience a new kind of love – taking
care of parents, those who were the first to show me love. What a blessing!

I am experiencing a
wide range of new insights, from health-related issues to emotional modes and
human interactions. It is a process to be addressed simultaneously by emotions
and logic, heavy training on the empathy muscle. It is all about EMPHATY –
undoubtedly the most important life skill to train.

Empathy is an ability
we are all born with. Unfortunately, like creativity, it is rarely
systematically trained. Kudos to school systems that include empathy and collaboration in education.

Cognitive Empathy is
ability to understand or comprehend another person’s feelings on an
intellectual level. But to understand sadness is not the same thing as feeling
sad. So, responding intellectually to a feeling can seem cold and detached.

Emotional Empathy is
ability to fully take on the emotional and mental state of another. But feeling
too much can create distress. So, responding emotionally to a feeling might be
psychologically exhausting and make even small interactions overwhelming.

The answer is COMPATIONATE EMPHATY – ability to integrate
intellectual understanding and emotional resemblance
. Feelings of the heart
and thoughts of the brain are not opposites – they are interconnected. So, responding
with compassion to a feeling honours another person’s state by considering both
the emotional and intellectual situation.

Some key learnings:

Being patient is a challenge. You feel weak, dependent
and out of control. But your instincts take over and you just know what you
really need. As a patient you also need support, motivation and most of all
encouragement – reasons to continue fighting. It is amazing how much we all
focus on medication and almost forget healing effect of nutritious homemade
meal – love and care on its best.

More love you give, more you have. Compared to many
other things in life putting an effort to help somebody in need, especially the
love-one is so meaningful. You feel good about being able to help. You feel good
about the effect of your effort. You feel good about your common experience,
increased intimacy and deeper love. Just “being there” is underestimated. Please
do not say to a somebody in a pain: “You have to be strong!” They don’t. You must
be strong to let them share the pain with you, like a generous gift.

Neglecting yourself is the biggest mistake you can do.
In order to be able to “give care”, you must put yourself as priority. You have
to take breaks on a regular basis and if somebody else is in charged for an
hour or a few days – you do not need to involve, worry or intervene. Be wise
with your energy use and do practice companionate empathy first on yourself. Life
must go on – crisis or not.

“The living and the dead,
The awake and the sleeping,
The young and the old are all one and the same.
When the ones change, they become the others.
When those shifts again, they become these
The beginning and the end of a circle are

SARAJEVO/ Amela Koluder