Do you often hear from a loved one, “my life sucks,” or “everything is horrible in my life”? In that moment do you immediately go to the place of trying to fix it or make it right? I know by nature the optimism in me comes flying out in full force. I quickly scan the horizon and see all the places that to me are not so bad. Then I immediately find it my duty to inform all about the positive side of things.
So far this tactic has never worked. I have yet to be met with, “You are so right my life isn’t so bad.” Instead, I realize I have missed yet another opportunity for connection by failing to embrace the pain. I have added to the suffering.
Don’t you desire and need for someone to hear your pain? It can help one move forward. So why would it be different for our loved ones? As they cry out that life is hurting in this moment why not embrace it and validate it? After all, we are not talking about all moments; we are talking about the present moment that hurts.
I remember a time when all I needed was to be heard…
I felt this intense sensation down deep in my body that kept trying to come up. It hurt! I could barely comprehend the doctor’s words as she said, “She needs to go to a treatment center.” I cried out, how could this be, we’ve already tried that path? It didn’t work. How could I send my daughter away for the second time?
Questions and self-doubt whirled through my mind. What kind of mother is not capable of helping her child? Why would God give me a child and then allow me to fail? I didn’t think my heart could hold that pain once again, not just my pain but her pain too. I was well aware that after making a decision to send my daughter away, I would be met with disappointment and anger.
The anger would rise, which would confirm my belief that I had failed. I was a bad mom.
The anguish that came from believing my daughter would hate me forever was unbearable. The realization that I couldn’t save her tore at my soul. I would once again miss precious months with her. I feared our relationship couldn’t survive the second stay away from home. I sought wise counsel; I spent time with friends, and I cried out to God to show me another way.
I received many well-meaning responses from others. In their quest to bring me the guidance, I was met with, “Oh, of course, she won’t hate you.” “She will get better and thank you.” “You are a great mom.” These well-meaning statements may have been correct, but they didn’t bring me to a place of comfort or peace.
Finally, a few brave souls willing to go with me to that dark place responded, “Okay so what if your daughter does hate you forever? What will that mean?” We sat in that intense pain for a while, acknowledging the potential loss. After being heard I was able to move forward. I advanced from the pain of the possibility of no relationship; to the realization, my daughter would be alive, she would have a chance at a life worth living. I had arrived at acceptance and only then could I make the necessary decisions that could bring about change.
So when your loved ones go to those places of pain, think about trying a new response.
Embrace and validate their pain instead of trying to wipe it away and fix it.
It can be scary to state back their pain as if we have stamped our approval on it. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. Judging pain as right or wrong will not lessen it, but simply saying I care about you and your pain is significant just might make a difference. I know it does in our family.
Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Romans 12:15 (ESV)