Nov 1, 2020
Last week our city was hit with an unusual October blizzard and when it was over one of our cats was missing. My youngest daughter was devastated and shed many tears imagining the worse had happened and that we’d never see Gemma again.
Almost every time I FaceTime with my mom I wake her up from a nap. During the weeks that I spend visiting her, many of our conversations begin with, “Did you sleep Ok?” or “How are you feeling?” I can’t help but notice how often she is short of breath and that she is growing weaker.
Two years ago one of my brothers buried his wife, on his 42nd birthday. He had just been through what I’m assuming was the worst 6 months of his life. His wife had battled leukemia for the second time in 5 years and unlike the first time, no treatment they tried brought about the hoped for results.
Obviously, It is hard to watch the people we love hurting. It is hard to know what to say, how to act. We try to soothe them with trite words or awkward conversations. We may avoid addressing the situation altogether or feel irritated when they haven’t healed as fast as we want them to.
The truth is, when others are hurting we are also hurting. Not only because we too feel sadness; I was worried about our lost cat too, I carry a weight of sadness with me constantly as I face losing my mom, and I was devastated when my sister-in-law died. I loved her, she was my friend.
But the hurt is also there for us because seeing the ones we love hurting, makes us uncomfortable. We don’t like that kind of discomfort, it feels terrible. We want their pain to end, so that ours can too. That is where the well-meaning, but missing-the-target comments come from. My brother got a few of those soon after his wife passed; like when he might start dating again and how It must have been her time to go.
After my mom’s diagnosis of Pancreatic cancer, friends would remind her that that’s what Steve Jobs died of or that they knew someone who had died within a few months of their diagnosis. Mom laughed about it, she’s amazing that way.
Caring for my parents and listening to my brothers’ experience has given me some insight in responding to my daughter. We talked about the possibility that Gemma wouldn’t come home. We made plans for what we could do to find her. I hugged her and apologized that it was so hard.
I allowed her to hurt and I allowed myself to hurt because she was hurting.
What does it look like to actually be honest about how we’re feeling and share that?
Something like – I’m so sorry. I can’t believe it. This must be really hard. I want to help but I’m not sure how. I’m happy to listen, if that would help. Is it Ok to share a special memory I have?
Shining a light on the pain doesn’t intensify it – ignoring it does! Allowing the pain to be seen is like giving patient attention to a misbehaving child; acting up to get more attention isn’t required. Allowing pain actually helps it stop hurting so much – eventually.
After four days, Gemma appeared at our front door. Our joy was as full as our sadness had been.
I’ve heard another life coach** say “Emotions are not a problem to be solved.”
Exactly. Emotions are vibrations in our bodies caused by thoughts in our mind. They are messages from our brain to our bodies. They are a way to process what is happening to us. They are meant to be there, and our bodies are capable of feeling them even though our brains think we’re going to die trying.
Thanks brain, but we can handle this.
P.S. Begin by just noticing your emotions instead of reacting to them. Often the discomfort we experience takes less than two minutes to pass, if we tune into it. If you have any questions or are ready to give this a try, Sign up for a FREE session. I’m here to provide a safe place for you to face your feelings. https://meredithgcoaching.as.me/
**Krista St. Germain, Life Coach for Widowed Moms