Empathy Has No Script

I think if we are absolutely honest, most of us would admit we have few relationships that operate without some kind of script.

We are friends with someone because we like the same hobbies or spend time together at a job or ball park or church.  

We fall in love with someone because they “complete” us and offer companionship, emotional support and stability. 

When the script fails (for whatever reason) we tend to pull away from those  relationships.

But if I choose to enter into the suffering of another, I must do so without a script and commit to the long haul.

I must follow his or her lead, allow him or her to guide my response and refuse to impose my preferences on that hurting heart.  

I’m there to hold a hand and help a heart hold onto hope.  

empathy has no script brene brown

“Me Too”: The Power of Validation

In the wake of revelations that Harvey Weinstein built his media empire in part, by harrassing (and worse) women who worked for him, there is a Facebook wave of “me too” posts by women and men who have also been harrassed, molested or assaulted.

It is empowering.  

Because when hundreds, thousands and tens of thousands raise their social media “hands” to be counted, suddenly the lonely heart hiding in the corner realizes they are NOT alone.  

I am thrilled that the secrecy and shame of sexual misconduct by men against women is being dragged into the light.  That is where it belongs. 

I want to do the same for child loss.  I want to do the same for grief.  I want to start a bold campaign where mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, grandparents and others say, “Me too!”

My heart hurts too. 

My life is NOT the same and will NEVER be the same without my loved one’s companionship on earth.

I STILL look for him to come through the door on holiday weekends.  I still long to CALL her and share good news or talk over my day.  I CANNOT give up his old clothes or put away her toys or bundle up his belongings for charity.

I have to suck in my breath when a quick glance at a passing stranger tells my heart, “THERE HE IS!”

But my head says, “No, that can’t be him-he’s GONE.”

Songs-all kinds of songs-provoke memories, feelings, tears.  Dry it up.  Keep the fake face smiling.  Look forward, don’t let them see. 

There are thousands of us.  Thousands. of. us.

Who will stand and raise their hand and SHOUT, “Me too!”?

me too sharing the path

 

Strong or Weak? How Labels Harm the Hurting

Labels and categories can be helpful.  When cruising the grocery aisles I’m thankful for the signs that point the way to “vegetables” or “baking needs”.

But labels can be harmful when applied to people.

Read the rest here:  Strong or Weak? How Labels Harm the Hurting

Anxiety is Awful!

I’ve written before about anxiety and child loss here.  No matter the cause of death, the FACT of a child’s death seems to create the perfect conditions for a parent’s body and mind to experience anxiety, dis-ease, fear and often a sense of impending doom.

My world was rocked to its foundation the moment I heard the words, “He was killed in a motorcycle accident”.  

The worst thing I could imagine had come true.  

There was no protection from it happening again, no guarantee that THIS unbearable pain would be the ONLY unbearable pain I would have to carry.

I think my body chemistry was instantly transformed that morning to include rapid heartbeats, shallow breathing and a horrible creepy tension that climbs my spine and clenches its claws tightly at the base of my skull.

Before Dominic left us for Heaven I was not an anxious person.

No matter what happened, I generally took it in stride, looked for a solution and moved forward armed with an arsenal of choices to meet the problem head on.

Now, I can be pushed into a corner by an ordinary phone call that lasts too long.  I can feel trapped if a price fails to ring up properly and I have to wait to have it corrected by a head cashier.  I can become positively frantic when I reach in  my purse and can’t find my keys even though I know for a fact I put them there and if I look a bit harder I’ll find them.

Traffic makes my heart go pitter-patter.  The doorbell sends me flying to make sure it’s the UPS man and not another police officer to tell me heartbreaking news.

If I try to multi-task (which I rarely do) I am soon overwhelmed and have to sit down to catch my breath.

I only shop in stores where I’m familiar with the aisles and where products I need are shelved.

I check and re-check directions if I have to go to an unfamiliar address and leave with double the time needed to get there in case I get lost.  Making on-the-fly course corrections doesn’t happen.

I pull off and have to figure out where I am.

And heaven forbid the phone rings past midnight -I wake with a start and even a wrong number means I won’t sleep for the rest of the night.

This is not “worry”.  It’s not “borrowing trouble from tomorrow”.  It is not an indication that my faith is weak or I’m “caving in” to my feelings.

It’s an uncontrollable physiological response to various stimuli.

So please, please don’t judge me or other bereaved parents for making choices about where we go, when we go and how much we go-most of the time we are anticipating an anxious response and trying to beat it.  

We are doing the best we can.  

Honest.

courage doesn't always roar male liion

Grief Groups and Echo Chambers

I belong to several online bereaved parents’ groups and they are truly a lifeline in so many ways.

I can speak my mind there without fear of rejection or correction or of hurting my non-bereaved friends and family.  I learn from other parents farther along in this journey how they cope with birthdays, anniversaries, holidays and every day grief triggers.

Sadly, there are new members added daily.  New parents are forced to join this “club” where the dues are higher than anyone would willingly pay.

I am horrified by how quickly the numbers jump week-to-week and month-to-month.

And usually the parent (when they are ready) will share a bit about the child that has run ahead and the circumstances of his or her death.  It’s an important part of learning to live with this pain-learning to speak your story.

But when too many of the seasoned parents are silent and my newsfeed explodes with stories of newly bereaved parents, my heart can easily be ovewhelmed by the desperation, sadness and utter despair that swamps a parent’s heart when they first find out their child is not coming home again.

Then the sites turn into echo chambers where sadness calls to sadness, circles back around and calls again.  Despair is everywhere and there appears no way forward.

what is an echo chamber

Bitterness weaves a black thread through post after post after post:

No one understands,

everyone has abandoned me,

I am unloved, alone and hopeless.

That’s precisely how I felt in those early months and it is an appropriate response to the awful devastation of out-of-order death.

But if I’m to survive this life I didn’t choose, then I’ve got to also have a healthy dose of hope.

hope holds a breaking heart togetherSo I limit my exposure to the echo chamber from time to time, especially if I’m feeling weak and vulnerable.  I might take a week’s break to let my heart recover a bit and then go back with fresh vigor, ready to participate, encourage others and be encouraged.

Life after child loss is a marathon, not a sprint.

I have to pace myself if I’m going to make it to the finish line.

Sometimes that means taking a break and sitting on the sidelines.

let-yourself-rest

 

Repost: How to Respond When Someone Shares Their Pain

We’ve all been there-we ask a routine question and someone refuses to play the social game.  

We say, “How are you?” and they answer honestly instead of with the obligatory, “I’m fine.  You?”

Suddenly the encounter has taken an unexpected turn.

“Oh, no!  I don’t know what to say,” you think.

Read the rest here:  How To Respond When Someone Shares Their Pain

Exposed

When you pass that accident on the side of the road or read about the mass shooting in the press, what do you think?

What do you say?

Do you breathe a sigh of relief that no one you loved or knew was part of such a tragic disaster?  Do you feel chosen, special, “above it all” because you follow Jesus?  Do you think that your faithful, Bible-focused life and worldview will protect you from random accidents or the sinful actions of others?

Do you say, “Thank You God, it wasn’t me (or mine)?”  Do you pray for the ones caught up in the death and destruction?  Pray that they knew Jesus?  Pray that their families will be able to bear the weight of grief and sorrow that is just this moment bearing down on them?

Or do you snap a photo with your phone and post on social media something like: “Awful wreck on the interstate.  So glad I was a little late this morning or it might have been me! God is good!”

Or worse:  “Awful wreck on the interstate.  Traffic backed up for miles.  UGH!

I walk in two worldsone where I am so very thankful for each life and family spared what I now know by experience, and one where I am brought to tears every time they aren’t.

I wish believers in Christ would choose words that are consistent with compassion-whether the person is spared or not.

Jesus is a man of tears.

He was moved by love and compassion in every human encounter (even with the Pharisees-He wished their eyes were opened).

I want my heart and my words to reflect that I know this Saviour full of love and mercy.

Spared or not, it’s no doing of mine.

To say otherwise reflects only arrogance and ignorance.

Just a moment, now, you who say, “We are going to such-and-such a city today or tomorrow. We shall stay there a year doing business and make a profit”! How do you know what will happen even tomorrow? What, after all, is your life? It is like a puff of smoke visible for a little while and then dissolving into thin air. Your remarks should be prefaced with, “If it is the Lord’s will, we shall be alive and will do so-and-so.” As it is, you get a certain pride in yourself in planning your future with such confidence. That sort of pride is all wrong. No doubt you agree with the above in theory. Well, remember that if a man knows what is right and fails to do it, his failure is a real sin.

James 4:14-17 PHILLIPS