By Katie Hoagland
Last fall, all at around the same time, multiple people I love dearly went through some extremely difficult seasons of mental illness. While those months forced me to empathize with myself and those people, what I find myself running into is lack of empathy for some of the surrounding people still suffering from the collateral damage of those events. I don’t feel comfortable sharing much of the specifics, as it’s not really my story to tell, but some of my family members are struggling deeply with depression following the trauma of last fall. I have been able to process and let go, as have other members of my family, and I sometimes get frustrated towards those who still struggle with the pain and loss. I otherize them because to me what happened is in the past, and no longer casts shadow over my life, but for them this is not the case and it can be hard for me to remember and understand that. I am often home on weekends and this frustration happens almost every visit, because I do not remember that for some of us grief is a slow process and depression can slow it down even more. For them, the events of last fall were a catalyst for the cloud that follows them around every day. It is not just something to process and move on from, because the cloud makes that impossible. Empathy is hugely important in situations like this, because it makes me step back and remember that their actions and words are not always just a reaction to the present, but can still be weighted by something that I rarely even think about anymore.