The Best Way To Help A Struggling Heart

The best way to help a struggling heart is to simply be available.

Anyone can choose to be a safe space for others to share their hearts.

Anyone can make room for honest conversation, welcoming another soul to unburden itself of whatever heaviness is weighing it down.

All it takes is a listening ear and time.

best way you can help me

Still Put My Foot In It…

You’d think that being on the other side of untimely or even painful comments would shape my conversation so that I am not the one blurting out hurtful or thoughtless words.

Sadly, that’s not the case.

While I am much more careful about what I say and how and when I say it, I still put my foot in it on a regular basis.

I talk instead of listen-rushing ahead to share MY pain instead of sitting silently while someone else shares theirs.

I make comparisons instead of extending boundless compassion.

I focus too much on the words and not enough on the wordless communication of facial expression and body language.

I try to “fix” the problem or person instead of simply being present.

I overwhelm a hurting heart with too much information.  Even good information delivered from a firehose instead of a water fountain is unhelpful.

I interrupt, cut people off, turn away and shorten uncomfortable conversations.

I want to do better.

I want to be the safe space hurting hearts need.

I want to be full of grace and mercy and kindness.

I know I fall short, but I’m still learning.

still-learning

 

 

Subtle Disapproval

I mention that today is a hard day to someone who knows my story and the words fall with a loud “thud!”  between us.

I don’t know whether to pick them up or not and she isn’t having anything to do with them.

So I move on to another topic.  Clearly this one isn’t going anywhere.

There are lots of ways to send messages of disapproval.  You can “just say NO” like kids are told to do in anti-drug and anti-bullying campaigns.  You can rant and rave and argue and rail against someone or something in person and on social media.

Or you can just ignore someone when they spill what matters to them like an offering on the ground at your feet.

The opposite of love is not hate.

It’s indifference.

The opposite of support is not opposition.

It’s looking the other way.

Strangers line streets to cheer marathoners on-offering cups of water and words of affirmation.

“You can do it!”  “Keep going!”  “You are more than half-way there!”  “Don’t give up!”

hobbling-runner

And yet many of us are running the race of our lives without a cheering section.

I get ityou are so very tired of the fact that I am so very tired.  I have worn out the welcome mat to the door of your heart.  It DOES get old when I bring the same baggage with me each time we talk.

baggage

Trust me, I’m working hard at unpacking it.  I’m doing all I can to lighten my load and what I ask you to help me carry.

But it is a slow, slow process.

And every time I need help or encouragement and don’t get it, another brick is added to the suitcase.

You might think you are helping me learn to ignore the pain by ignoring my mention of it but I don’t have that luxury.

It’s my heart wound, not yours.  

It’s my child buried, my child not here, my child gone from sight-how exactly should I ignore that?  Which of your children could you put away for a lifetime and forget was ever here?

If you want to help me lighten the load,

let me unpack my pain by telling my story.

If you want me to finish the race strong,

cheer me on.

best way you can help me

 

 

Which Weighs More?

Remember the childhood riddle, “Which is heavier, a ton of bricks or a ton of feathers?”

feathers

It was great fun to catch someone giving the wrong answer.

Because, of course, a ton is a ton is a ton.  Weight is an absolute measure.

But it takes fewer bricks to reach that quota although it takes just as much strength to lift the burden.

weights-dumbbells

One thing I’m learning in my grief journey is that there are so many people carrying a load.

I find my compassion radar has been fine-tuned to hear even the faintest whisper of hurt in someone’s voice, to see the tiniest gleam of a tear, to notice the smallest stoop of shoulders or the beginning of a frown.

And while some of us have had our ton of pain and sorrow delivered via bricks-suddenly, forcefully and overwhelmingly dumped-others have acquired their ton over a lifetime of disappointment, struggle and testing.

They both weigh a ton.  

And they both require great strength to carry.

It’s a challenge to resist the urge to rank my experience on a continuum of pain.

Although I bridle when people compare their loss of a pet or job to my loss of a child (as I wrote about here), I do try to extend grace when others expose their own wounds.

I want to comfort other people with the comfort I have received.  Not only the comfort from Christ-which is the ultimate comfort-but also the comfort I’ve received from wise friends and caring sisters-in-loss.

I want to be a listening ear, a compassionate heart and an outstretched hand.

Reaching Out to Help Someone in Despair

I want to be a witness, a fellow traveler on the journey, an encourager.

Grief

is grief

is grief.

A ton is a ton is a ton.

Listen. Love. Repeat.

Today and tomorrow families will gather around tables and trees and television sets.

Some folks together for the first time in twelve months and maybe a few for the first time in years.

family-reunion

All the cheesy Christmas movies promise that reunion is sweet.

They roll out the fantasy that old wounds are easily patched up and the smell of turkey and apple pie casts a spell on broken hearts and broken relationships.

But that’s not usually how it goes in real life.

Instead of sweet release and precious moments, many families will experience rising tension as one person tries to bite her tongue and another fuels his anger. Politics, religion, personal lifestyle choices and old slights work to raise the temperature of the room to boiling.

And then it happens:  He storms out, she leaves in tears and another “Hap-Hap-Happy Holiday” is in the books.

angry

It doesn’t have to be that way.

It can be different.

If, instead of letting words hit our ears only long enough to form a quick rebuttal, we choose to listen-really listenwe can change everything.

1538R-61348

If, instead of jumping to conclusions we commit to lavish love,  we can undo the knots that form in stomachs and smooth out the furrowed brows.

If instead of making a point we choose to make a friend, we will endure fewer arguments and foster greater compassion.

Listen.

Love.

Repeat. 

As many times as it takes to wash the worry out of a room.  As often as necessary to weave a web of welcome.  

Listen.

Love.

Repeat.

love-covers-a-multitude-of-sins

 

 

 

Safe Friends

I hope you have one.  

That one person who knows your greatest joys and deepest pain and keeps it locked in her heart as if the secrets were her own.  

She is a gift from God to me, that friend.  

She’s the one I call when I’m wracked with sobs and the words won’t come.  She knows it’s me and just waits on the line until I can speak. She gets my jokes, knows my weaknesses, my strengths and helps me steer a better path on this hard road called “Life”.

She is a safe friend.

listening is a postive act

A safe friend listens.  

Just listens.  

She isn’t formulating an answer while I am talking, she isn’t rounding up cliches or Bible verses or platitudes meant to make her sound wise and shush my sharing.  She hears my heart even when my words might not make sense.

A safe friend sees.  

Really sees.  

She looks in my eyes and pays attention to my expression. She notices when my smile doesn’t match the tone of my words or the silent language of my hands.

She won’t let me by with a quick, “I’m fine!” meant to brush off the real need to spill my guts.

A safe friend stays.  

As long as it takes.

She doesn’t leave in the middle of a hard conversation.  Even if life gets in the way, she will come back and pick it up.  She checks in with me and doesn’t let time unwind the threads that bind us together.  If I don’t contact HER, she contacts ME.

 

 

A safe friend walks with me.  

No matter how steep the path, no matter how rocky the road. We might be hobbling along, broken together, but she keeps going and she keeps me going.

 

 

A safe friend encourages me to look to Jesus.

She admits that she doesn’t have all the answers.  She agrees that there are many things we will have to wait to understand.  But she reminds me that for this, we have Jesus.  We have a High Priest Who was tempted in every way yet was without sin.  We can enter boldly into the Holy of Holies because by His blood the veil is rent.

She doesn’t issue spiritual ultimatums that undermine, instead of strengthen, my faith in Christ.

friends pick us up

 

A safe friend doesn’t cut me out of her life when my life is a mess.  

Even if the mess is of my own making.  She helps me untangle the knot, own up to the sin, reach out to Christ and make amends.

 

A safe friend doesn’t just “happen”.

She allows the grace and mercy and love of Jesus to mold her heart so that He can use her.

Everyone NEEDS a safe friend.

Anyone willing can BE that friend.

kindness

 

I’m Listening

I was reminded recently by another bereaved mother that my child loss experience is not universal.

I appreciate her honesty and bravery.

And I would just like to take a moment to say:

“I hear you.  I see you.  I acknowledge that you have a unique perspective that I do not share by experience.”

It’s hard to put myself in someone else’s shoes when I’ve never had to wear them myself.

We are all limited in many ways by the trials, temptations, joys and triumphs we have known in our lives.

But I don’t want to sit satisfied in the silo of my own experience.  

I want to enlarge my understanding of what others are going through, how they are coping, how they are hurting.

So I begin by sharing MY story because it’s the only one I know from the inside.

But it is not the only one I want to know.

Tell me your story.

I promise to listen.

We buy tickets to movies, purchase books and cruise the Internet gobbling up other people’s stories.  Yet we often make it difficult for those we know to tell us theirs.

We jockey for attention at gatherings, or worse, give all our attention to electronic devices. We think we KNOW other people’s stories so we don’t want to bore ourselves with listening again.

The truth is, we know less than we think about the folks we rub shoulders with every day.

 

Read more here:  Tell Me Your Story