"I understand" can be a really dangerous thing to say.
I'm finding it interesting that, as I spend more and more time in and around the hospital, especially the NICU and Pulmonary Ward, the more I am able understand a lot of this medical stuff, and the more I realize I do not understand people who seem to be going/have gone through similar situations.
I'm coming to a realization that every situation, no matter how many similarities there may seem to be to my own, is totally unique and different. I may totally understand how Tricia's vent works, or why Gwyneth is in contact isolation, or why Duke has restricted visitation because of the flu, but my understanding of these things really doesn't go much further than my own experiences.
I've never been one to say, "I understand what you're going through" or "I can empathize with what you're feeling"...but, the past few months of observing my own situation, witnessing bits and pieces of the situations of other patients and families around us in the hospital, and reading the comments of those on this blog who think they understand what we're going through have left me with a realization that I have no idea what other people are really going through.
I have friends, right now, who are loving and struggling with the adoption of their first child, friends who are celebrating and grieving the life and death of their mother/grandmother, friends who are remembering the birth and death of their precious baby boy, and friends who are preparing for the roller coaster of chemotherapy. Although I can empathize with all of these people to a certain degree, and I can relate some of what they've gone through and are going through from a medical standpoint, I am still at a loss for words and actions when it comes to really understanding their emotions, thoughts, etc.
Even if the situation seems to be exactly like mine on the surface, there are so many things going on behind the scenes- things that I will never know or see - that I can never again even imagine that I might fully understand what somebody else is going through.
I can (and will) certainly use my experiences to help others who are going through similar experiences, but only when they ask for my help and are willing to offer me more than just bits and pieces of their own story. I'm discovering, through living in our current circumstance and by trying to offer (what I consider to be) feeble help to others who are hurting, that the best thing I can really do is to simply let them know I'm here and that I love and care for them and will do anything for them.