Empathy vs Sympathy

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My friend Rachel is a Spanish woman from Mexico. Fleeing from an abusive marriage, she is now raising her two daughters as a single mother. Her immediate family resides here in Scottsbluff, Nebraska, supporting her emotionally and financially. Her former husband resides in Mexico putting her in stressful situations with her daughters, who want to see their father

Rachel tries to be the perfect mother for her daughters she is very protective of her daughters and has old-fashioned ideas and morals she demands they abide by. Rachel is resentful when her former husband wants to see his daughters. She feels he has no right to this privilege because of the way he treated (abused) her.

I have been at her home when her daughters had asked for their mother's permission to go to movies, play with other friends, have sleep overs with their friends and wanting to go see their father in Mexico. These are very normal things for young girls to want to do. Rachel's response was not so normal; she would start loudly speaking in Spanish, obviously upset. Her daughters became sad and angry not a pleasant environment.

This caused me to feel very uncomfortable. It was not so much the Spanish language I do not speak or understand it was more the tension that filled about the room. I can empathize with Rachel fleeing from an abusive marriage of ten years myself. I can understand the hurt and resentment she has towards her former husband. I do not feel that it is appropriate for her children to have to suffer from her fears and pain.

I sympathize with her having bitter feelings towards her former husband. The scars and memories do not just disappear. It takes a lot of self healing to overcome mental and physical abuse inflicted upon someone.

There had been other situations that I was afraid of offending Rachel. For example, we had a Christmas dinner with our spiritual family from church, where we also exchanged gifts. Her daughters are young teenagers maturing, starting...
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