Family docs spend a lot of time listening to other people's problems. It's a valuable and important role we play in the physician/patient relationship. This is a lot of where I experience the "privilege" of being a physician; people reveal deep, personal, intimate details of their lives to me, often without blinking. It is a humbling experience to be trusted so.
Of course, some people will reveal those details to the schmuck next to them on the bus, but that's off topic.
I've found that my experience of this relationship has changed slowly since Henry's death. During the time he was in hospice care, and for my first several weeks back to work, it was hard to not quietly compare my patient's life angst to my own. Obviously, a great many paled in comparison. Many of my patient were exquisitely aware of this, and very embarassed to come in to see me and complain about their relationships, finances, stress levels, etc. Of course I reassured them it was fine, that my loss certainly didn't encompass the world.
Occasionally, I had negative emotions about this, mostly with insensitive, whiny patients. Honestly, that's not much different than I think it is with everyone.
But over the last several weeks, I feel myself healing. My loss is not as acute, at least some days. As anticipated, my experience of Henry's life and death has changed me.
I find myself more empathic. I feel I connect more to the experiences people are having: the losses, the stresses, the disappointments of life. Cliche, yes, but I can feel their pain. I have lived it.
And I find myself less sympathetic. My view of life has shifted such that I no longer expect or anticipate perfection. The fairytale is over. And it's ok, really. It is what it is. But for so many people, it isn't. There is such angst over what isn't. The perfect job, the ideal family, the best vacation, good health until you drop dead of an MI at the age of 97. For so many people anything less is a disappointment.
I'm not angry at people for feeling this way, or judgemental. I too was there. But my world view has a different perspective. Like a third-world missionary who returns home to find our excesses despicable, my life landscape has shifted. I don't feel sorry for people anymore. It is what it is.
I hesitate posting this. I have several friends and family who read this blog, and I don't want at all for people to feel that I don't care about their hardships. I do. I guess I just expect them.