Monday, April 17, 2017

Compassion Burnout and Empathy Fatigue

A post on Facebook recalled this memory:

Decades ago, my brother broke both his legs in a motorcycle accident... and shortly after that, had a bad reaction to the anesthesia. He was in another city, but not out of reach; maybe a four hour drive. Only, at the time, I was in the middle of a number of issues that would eventually culminate in a divorce from my then-wife. So when the news came in, my reaction was simply: I do not have it in me to engage with this as well. If he died, well, I was going to have to deal with that; and I was going to have to deal with the fact that I hadn't been there. Even understanding that that might be the outcome, though, this was just one thing too many for me to deal with.

Now, yes: you can tell me, or I can tell myself, that this is a terrible reaction to have when your brother might actually be about to die. And that may even be true. But it doesn't - didn't - change the fact that I simply didn't have it in me to deal with that at that particular time.

It happens.

(In this case, my brother lived; he attended a Halloween party a few months later costumed as someone with only *one* broken leg - not much of a disguise, really - and only has minor residual effects.)

Caregiver Burnout is a real thing.

1 comment:

  1. What a hard situation that must have been for both of you.

    I've had empathy fatigue before. You'll get no judgement from me. It is a very real thing.


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