Empathy Overload

I don’t know if I just invented that term or if it already exists, but I know it when I experience it. What it means is, when I see my elderly sister who has dementia looking forlorn or bored, I am stricken. I feel like I need to try harder. Sometimes I feel resentful and think to myself “I’m not the bleeping entertainment director!”. Then I recognize that the whole thing is simply playing out in my head. She would have the same expression on her face if she lived anywhere else. Life disappointed her somewhere back in time and she has been pissed-off most of her adult life. Her slogan for anything that happened was “Life’s a bitch and then you die.” I would counter with “Life’s a beach…”. I think I began to cultivate cheerfulness and optimism just because I knew how much it could aggravate people, but after a while it became my default setting and it works most of the time for me. I learned from Victor Frankl’s book “Man’s Search for Meaning” that the only thing I can control is my attitude. So, I am learning to not make someone else’s unhappiness my own and, yet, be sensitive to the times when a little empathy can make a difference.

Harriet Vaughan

About Harriet Vaughan

I am a Senior Move Manager, working with Senior Citizens and their families when it is time to downsize or just make the home safer and more comfortable for aging in place. I help these people make decisions about what to keep, throw out, donate, or sell. I also offer workshops on "Getting Things Done When You Are Over 60". I write about how to overcome memory lapses and how to use your physical energy well. I have a degree in Home Economics from the University of Maine. I live in Coopers Mills, about 14 miles east of Augusta. I have been married for almost 50 years to my husband, Chuck Vaughan. Our business is called Legacy Years Transition Services.