Recently, I had the occasion to be upset. I mean really upset. Under the same circumstances, if someone else had a similar experience and shared it with me, it would be my natural inclination to encourage them to move past it. You see, I am a mentor and motivator so the aspect of allowing the pain to linger is not something I ordinarily would foster.
However, when a friend called me after the event that both shocked and hurt me, I was in no position to follow what would usually be my own advice. What I did need was to be allowed to grieve and heal in my own time. To some, the situation could have been trivial, since it involved the destruction of a beloved object as opposed to the loss of a life, but it was an heirloom that cannot be replaced. I am searching for something similar, now that I have moved past the pain of the reality that the original is gone. It represented memories of the celebrations that had my mother getting it out of the china hutch and using it because she always felt that precious things were meant to be used and to be enjoyed, even if only for special occasions.
Often, when a person is in emotional pain, we are at a loss as to how we can help. It’s an uncomfortable situation because even though we can try to empathize, we cannot feel the depth of the emotions involved. The desire to distance ourselves from those emotions can have us reacting in a way that does more to maintain our own comfort level than to support the person who is hurting. We say the expected words and make the acceptable gestures, but after that, we just want to separate ourselves from the awkward attempt to fix the irreparably broken.
Don’t even think about telling someone that you feel that they are overreacting. Rating some one else’s level of pain and passing judgment as to how you think they should be dealing with it makes you totally unworthy of the honor of having someone trust you enough to share it with you.
How does a person help someone transition from the place of pain to the land of hope and not risk appearing to diminish what they’re feeling? To be ready to once again pursue their dreams, reset goals, and move past the desperation and temptation to quit. Having been through this on many occasions, for many different reasons, I have come to see that allowing a person to grieve is a necessary part of the healing process. This can’t be hurried, buried, or injected with guilt. Neither can it be eliminated by some over zealous motivator attempting to verbally drag someone up by their bootstraps, shove them back in the saddle and slap the horse on the ass, forcing them to rejoin the race.
Many times, in my effort to be a good ‘coach, I dust off the wounded player, encourage them to get back in the game and shake my pompons from the sidelines. But, I have to keep in mind that sometimes they just want to sit on the bench a while longer and cry. Empathy involves the ability to just shut up and listen to someone, provide a shoulder to cry on, and a hand up when they’re ready to stand. The best way to know what they need is to pay attention to what you needed when you needed it and didn’t get it.