Do your words add to the suffering of others?

September 15, 2016

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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)

10 Comments

  1. Reply

    D

    Thank you i needed to heat this today. As one who feels like a baby in this area I appreciate hearing what a difference 10 minutes can make. Going to give this a try and also find a way to get in touch with my own deep feelings so I can be ok with hearing the pain of my loved one.

    1. Reply

      Maree Dee

      It is so hard to hear the pain of others but so important. Please do let us know how it goes.

  2. Reply

    Diane

    What a wonderful reminder of how we should comfort people. I often think, well I have been through a similar (although not the same) circumstance and if I share that, then the person will see that we survived. But that again, is a way of trying to “fix” the person’s problem. Sometimes just being with that person is what they need. When my children were growing up, I often mirrored their statements back to them when they were upset or angry. It validated their feelings and showed them that I heard what they were saying, giving them a safe place to talk to me. I need to remember that adults need the same thing when they are reaching out for comfort. Thank you for the honest reminder of how to be a good friend to someone in need.

    1. Reply

      Maree Dee

      Diane, Thank you for sharing how you validated your children. I have a hunch you are an amazing mom. I know I can do a great job at validating those that I think may need it but forget about everyone else. Heck, I know I like validation.

  3. Reply

    Bette

    Yes, when I remember to validate before jumping in to try to “fix” the situation, it seems to disarm my daughter and causes her to not feel so defensive. In other words, it seems to put us both on the “same page” and helps her know she’s not alone in her pain.

  4. Reply

    Marie

    As someone who personally struggles with Bipolar Disorder, I often find myself in dark places thinking in that moment that everything is terrible, my relationship with my parents suck, my romantic relationships are awful or non-existent because I have never found a man who can truly accept me with all my flaws. I know in those moments it’s very helpful to feel validated even if they seem silly or irrational. A wise person once told me to give myself an alotted period of time to dwell in this. For example set my timer on my phone for 10 minutes and for ten minutes I can cry, cuss, talk about how horrible it is then when that timer goes off I shut the lid. Because 9 out of 10 times my feelings are very intense and not all that accurate. I find it helpful when I’m with someone I trust who knows my struggles to join me in giving me that time to vent. I also appreciate reminders from friends and loved ones who remind me to give myself that time and together we talk about the horrible mess I feel like I’m in during that time.

    Feeling validated makes a world of difference in the long run.

    1. Reply

      Maree Dee

      Thank you for sharing your tip and your honesty about your feelings. I know as a mom we want to jump in so quickly to alleviate the pain because it is so hard to watch our children suffer. We usually error by not validating first. I know when I validate first things go so much better. Our hearts are in the right place just not always our skills.

      1. Reply

        Marie

        I totally feel like I need to be less defensive when I fee validated (even if my feels are irrational). I know recently I was extra sensitive and emotional and I let something get to me that really shouldn’t have. I went to one of my parents in tears crying hysterical and blubbering a bunch of none sense. What was great was my parent validated me, we spend no more than ten minutes listening to me cry, whine, and spew a bunch of irrational feelings. Since I felt validated I also felt like I was in a safe space to actually listen to what the other person had to say. When I calmed down they softly spoke to me and reminded me that I was feeling extra emotional and sensitive and kind of gave me a reality check. I walked away from that moment with a different attitude and response than when I walked into it. If I didn’t feel validated I can guarantee you that this conversation would have gone the opposite way. I would have been defensive and not have been open to hear what they had to say!

        1. Reply

          Maree Dee

          It is amazing how validation can work wonders. I know when I am validated things just feel and look different. My defenses go way down when I am validated.

  5. Reply

    Bette

    What a difficult, yet wonderful reminder for me today, Maree! I have also done what you have described and am still living with my daughter’s intense resentment, anger and hostility at being sent away several times when she was younger. However, I also know that my husband and I did the best we knew to do at the time… and quite possibly saved her life. Now, even though her memories seem to be worse than reality, and it’s tempting to defend our actions, thank you for reminding me that she is looking for validation from me regarding the pain she felt and still feels to this day. I appreciate the verse you quoted from Romans and know I must keep that top of mind when I finally get to interact again with our daughter in person…and I pray she will be open (instead of hardened) to my tears for her and realize they are genuine!

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