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The Difference Between Sympathy and Empathy May 12, 2021

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Sometimes the meanings between two words are so similar, they can be difficult to tell apart. It can be particularly challenging when those two words sound similar like sympathy and empathy.

These words are often used in connection with the death of a loved one. What is the meaning of each and when and how should they be used? Just what is the difference? Let’s take a closer look.


Empathy is frequently defined as the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

Sympathy, on the other hand, is feelings of sorrow for the misfortunes of others.

Still a bit confused?

Sympathy is the understanding that someone else is feeling pain, while empathy is deeper, is more of an actual feeling or sharing of that pain. It is noted by some that sympathy is something you express to some, and empathy is something you feel with someone.

The Three Types of Empathy

Just as we all experience grief or sadness in different ways, there are different forms of empathy. The three include:

  • Cognitive Empathy. This form of empathy is knowing how someone feels and being able to take their perspective on their loss, grief or sadness. Cognitive Empathy has been described as more about thoughts than emotions. It is about the awareness of how someone else feels.
  • Emotive Empathy. This is an emotional form of empathy. It is as if the other personals feelings are contagious, and the emotions are so intense as if you are actually experiencing them. Have you ever said to someone “Don’t cry” and then you began crying along with them? You were probably experiencing emotional empathy.
  • Empathetic or Compassionate Empathy. With this type of empathy you not only understand their feelings and may be emotional about them, but you are also compelled to do something to help.

If you don’t view yourself as a particularly empathetic person, it could be you either feel you are, or choose to be more isolated from others. Isolating yourself may also be a way you can protect yourself from experiencing too much empathy. If you are interested in increasing your empathy, there are steps you can take. We noted some of these steps in a recent blog on our website entitled “How to Be a More Empathetic Person”. You are invited to give it a read. We want you to know that even if you don’t have a preferred funeral home in the Cincinnati or Northern Kentucky region, the Fares J. Radel family is here to help. Whether it is answering a few questions, helping you pre-plan your own final arrangements or assisting in an immediate need, we encourage you to reach out to us. Fares J. Radel Funeral Homes and Crematory has been proud to serve families in our area for generations.

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