The Power of Empathy
Today we had a visit from my husband’s parents so I didn’t get a chance to watch the normal lineup of Sunday shows. Instead of executing my usual Sunday routine, I was engulfed in a predictable feeling of anxiety about the upcoming visit. I love my in-laws. It isn’t about them. It’s about explaining what my life has become since my son’s diagnosis of autism. For about a year now we have been doing in-home ABA therapy for about 20-30 hours a week. Therapists arrive at 830am, my son goes to school for 3 hours in the afternoon and we have therapy until 630 at night. It’s really hard to explain how difficult the daily grind is for me. It’s hard to explain why another visit to the house on a day that I usually get to be alone gives me anxiety. It’s hard to explain why I need a break. I feel on display at all times. I feel pressure to be a good daughter-in-law when the truth is I just feel tired. So, I wasn’t feeling super fired up for the visit today when my mother-in-law caught me by total surprise. She said she has been doing some reading about autism and ABA therapy. She said she knew I was going through a lot, but had no idea how much until she was reading a forum where other parents and grandparents were talking about the struggles. She apologized for not understanding for so long. She apologized for her gestures that were supposed to be supportive, but fell flat. She said all this time she was trying to understand his point of view while totally disregarding mine. I have to say I was shocked. I started sharing with her more than I ever have. I told her about times in the past when I knew I was being judged. I knew I was being ostracised and I knew there wasn’t much I could do about it. I thanked her for reading about it and how it made me feel good to hear that. And it was true. It’s funny how a bit of empathy can mend burned bridges and strained relationships. The power of empathy is what is going to ultimately heal the divide that has happened among us. I believe that even more having experienced the rebuilding for myself today.