Saturday, November 8, 2014

When Others Hurt

      I listened as my sister expressed feelings of failure for her recent miscarriage and the quick response by another to refute such sentiments. I quickly chastised her for that response. While her intention is to be encouraging, she doesn't realize how harmful her response is. She doesn't understand the emotions because she's not been there herself. I have. I know.

     I remember those feelings of failure well in having delivered my son nearly two months early. I felt like a failure as a woman. Even now as I work through the highly-involved care associated with having a uterine abnormality, I wrestle with the feeling of being defective as a woman. The ability to have children is so tightly woven into the identity of a woman that the inability to do so is devastating. A piece of you is forever missing. This is natural as we women are the only ones able to perform this role. It's precious to us.

     When conception, pregnancy or delivery aren't as they ought to be, then there needs to be a time of grief permitted. Quick denial  of such feelings does such harm. It's invalidating. Whether or not we should feel like a failure, defective or whatever else, we do. Don't deny it. We need to feel as though we can express our emotions. We need to feel as though we can grieve. We need to feel as though we're being permitted to work through the process of arriving at a better conclusion. Our perspective isn't going to suddenly change because someone says to us, "that's not true," "don't think that way" or "it's not your fault." We have to arrive at those conclusions on our own. And we will in time. 

     In her book, My Heart's at Home, Jill Savage writes:
When home is a trauma unit, it becomes a safe place for emotions to be expressed, grief to be experienced, and the healing process to begin. ... When home is a trauma unit, Mom, Dad, and siblings become the trauma team to administer love, lend a listening ear, share the disappointment and grief, and encouraging healing and hope in due time. ... When family members are allowed to express their emotions and are not encouraged to 'buck up and move on,' then home becomes a safe place." pg. 42
      This needs to be our goal. Far too often home and family are the least safest places for our emotions. We turn to others or things because we can't go home. At home we find our emotions invalidated. The act isn't intentional, and perhaps that's due to a lack of intention. We must purposefully create home and family to be a safe place. We must purposefully create in ourselves a more appropriate response. Savage's statement is a wonderful starting point. 

Intentionally Creating Home & Family to be a Trauma Unit

1. Don't rush from hurt to healing. Understand that emotions need to be expressed, grief experienced and healing to be a process. 

2. Administer love. "Love says, 'I care.' It is gentle and kind. Love ... comes alongside and walks through the hurt with the other person." (pg. 42)

3. Lend  a listening ear. When we hurt, we're filled with an overwhelming amount of mixed emotions. It's hard to know what to really feel or think. We need someone who will simply listen as we go through the sorting process. Someone who will listen without trying to fix or offer pat answers. The hardest things to do is listen without trying to fix, but that's an important part of the healing process.

4. Share the disappointment and grief. Disappointment and grief are natural parts of life that should be acknowledge and respected. When those feelings are denied or invalidated, we don't reach the point of healing. That area continues to be a hurt in life. An emotional wall may even be built to cope with the hurt. Instead, allow the individual to feel and for you to have empathy and feel with them. Sometimes not having had the same experience can cause one to only be capable of sympathy not empathy. In that case, help the individual find someone who has been through something similar and overcame.  

5. Encourage healing and hope in due time. In time, healing will occur if the hurt was handled appropriately. The individual will come to see that better perspective. She will be able to move on in a positive and forward direction. She will find hope again. These things take time, though. Allowing that time and for healing and hope to be a delayed end product versus an immediate one makes a tremendous difference. 

     I'm confident that eventually my sister will find healing and hope. I've been there. I understand. These things take time and it is a process. I remember my emotions being so quickly denied and feeling so invalidated. It pains my heart to hear the same thing happening to her. I understand that individuals are only trying to help, but sometimes "helping" can do more harm than good. It's important to learn how to approach these situations intentionally, especially if you haven't been through the same or similar experience. 


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