Show Compassion Because You Don’t Know Another Person’s Challenges

Artwork by Katherine Lam

No one will disagree that these past couple of years have been a complete nightmare thanks to the Covid-19 virus. More for some than others.

For many, the whole mask and vaccination issue seems to be the most tragic inconvenience they have ever experienced in their entire life. People have marched and protested the mask mandate, disturbingly comparing themselves to the likes of Rosa Parks, as if it’s humanly possible compare the two issues. (FYI — I’m not here to argue with anyone about this mess. If you attempt to share your opinions with me, I will simply ignore you and I’m not here to write about that anyway.)

It’s about how the pandemic, and everything that followed, exposed the true colors of so many people and how that adds to everybody’s anxiety, depression, and isolation.

In February of this year I lost my mother to Covid, however, I wrote about that experience recently so I won’t go into details. I knew losing a parent was beyond painful but, as we’re all aware, personally experiencing something like this is completely different than supporting someone else going through it, no matter how close you are to them.

I had a very complicated relationship with my mother. While we loved each other very much we were also two completely different people in every way you can imagine. Both my parents are members of a close-knit religious organization and as I never truly believed their teachings, despite being raised around it, I was excommunicated and chose not to return. Because of this, I lost most of my family and everyone I thought of as a friend since they were no longer allowed to associate with me in any way. Fortunately, my parents kept contact with me, for which I’m forever grateful.

Since my mother and I already had a challenging relationship, we clashed even more so. Again, we did love each other dearly, but I used to joke that if we weren’t related and had simply met each other under different circumstances, we surely wouldn’t like each other. (That “joke“ makes me cringe now.)

I’m still consumed with shock as she was diagnosed less than a week before she passed. She was in poor health, which came as a complete surprise since she didn’t share this with me. My parents live across the country from me so we mostly communicated on the phone; my mom mostly through text because she couldn’t hear well. I understand her not wanting to be a burden and worrying me, but if I had known about her health issues, I would have made more of a point of flying out to visit. Sadly, the last time I visited was in 2017 and that thought physically makes my heart ache. After her passing, I learned from my father that she was bedridden half the time. Again, I had no clue. Each time I texted or called to see how they were doing and each time they were “fine.”

The last words my mother said o me.

In the piece I previously wrote about her passing I share how I spoke to her via Zoom while I was at work. I learned about her condition the night before and the soonest I could speak to her was the following day, at work. She died only a couple of hours later. Seeing her in the hospital bed on oxygen, coughing uncontrollably while she tried to speak will forever haunt me. I stayed at that job for several months afterwards and each time I passed the area where I took that call was a constant reminder of this.

In addition, the guilt I feel over having such a tumultuous relationship with my mother and being kept in the dark as to how poor her health had been is a pain I wish on no one. It’s easy to tell someone that they shouldn’t feel this way in order to hopefully comfort them but it doesn’t work. In fact, telling a person not to feel a certain way makes a them feel worse because when you are hurting this much you take everything more personally than normal. In addition, you begin to question if you should be “getting over it” sooner than you are and everyone needs to feel and experience their sorrow to help them move on.

As I grew older, I always hoped my mother and I would grow closer. We each tried in our own clumsy way, but our differences and the church made it difficult. At least we both tried; intention is everything. I never gave up that hope.

Many people are lucky enough to have family and long-time friends with whom they can commiserate when something traumatic takes place. This is not the case for someone who spent half their life in a religious sect and was then excommunicated, losing practically everyone in their life. Add to that, being an only child. I have many cousins, but most of them are involved in the church. The few that aren’t involved distanced themselves from the family years prior to avoid the guilt trips.

I attempted to reach out to a former friend I’ve known since birth who knew my family well and knew our dynamic. I messaged her a couple of months after my her passing and informed this person of everything but she either wants nothing to do with me or experiencing some struggles of her own. While it’s hurtful, I remind myself that I have no idea what she’s going through.

Artwork by Katherine Lam

That is the reason I’m writing this. We are so busy arguing, attacking each other, getting angry at business owners and service workers whose hands are tied because of laws they did not institute and, in general, just being rude and vicious with one another.

I have been trying, unsuccessfully, to hold back tears on a daily basis since learning that my mother’s condition was fatal and I know I not the only person in this world in this position. Last I checked, there is at least a two month wait to begin seeing a psychiatrist or psychologist. People are struggling to make it through the day without breaking down.

It’s not only the pandemic, but the past few years (thanks to the political climate) have brought out the worst in humanity and it is helping nothing and no one. How would you want to be treated if you’ve experienced a traumatic, life altering experience? How would you want to be treated if you suddenly lost the most important person in your life and watched as they slowly died while trying to say goodbye to you?

I would love nothing more than for all of us to develop the habit of reminding ourselves that we have no idea what others are going through on a daily basis. This is not to say that we should excuse deliberate poor behavior. That is not what I’m talking about at all. Let’s simply try to show compassion and patience with one another. Nothing but good can come from this. Trust me when I tell you that you can make a dramatic difference by showing kindness to a random person who may be going through hell. Why would you not want to make such an impact?



Brenda Thornlow is an author, animal advocate, and certified Reiki Master from New York. Her books can be found on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iTunes.

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Brenda T

Brenda Thornlow is an author, animal advocate, and certified Reiki Master from New York. Her books can be found on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iTunes.