On June 26, 1982, my great grandmother passed away. I absolutely adored her, & her death broke my 11 year old heart. I still miss her often.
Her death was the first death of someone close to me that I experienced as a child, & it was devastating. No less devastating was the fact my parents didn’t care. My father was caught up in his own grief. This was his grandmother who he loved dearly. My mother simply didn’t care about how anyone felt about her death but herself, so she offered me no comfort.
On the day of her viewing, my parents & I arrived at the funeral home, to be greeted at the door by my granddad. While he spoke with my parents, I looked around, & saw my great grandmother in the coffin. She was dressed in a lovely long pink dress. I remembered her wearing that same pink dress a few years earlier, as she rode with my parents & I to a wedding. I too was wearing a long pink dress. As we rode along, she patted my leg & said, “Us ladies in our long pink dresses.” That little gesture made me feel so special, & remembering it as she lay there in that same dress, made me burst into tears. My parents didn’t notice, but Granddad did. Even though this was his mother, & he was obviously hurting, he grabbed me & hugged me close as I cried uncontrollably.
As this scenario played in my mind as it often does around this time of year, I thought about something.
There is such a great lack of empathy in the world, & not only among narcissists. Not a lot of people will cry with someone who is crying, or get angry with someone who has been hurt. Many people preach forgive & forget. Others say you should get revenge on the person who hurt you. Still others say “Get over it. That was a year ago (or however long ago it was)”. And yet others compare your story to theirs, & yours always pales in comparison to how terrible their story is. They got over it- what’s wrong with you that you can’t?
When people open up to others, they are making themselves very vulnerable. They don’t need to be told they’re awful people for not forgiving & forgetting, or that they need to punish their abuser. They need someone to do what my granddad did on that sad day back in 1981- hug them & let them do what they need to do.
Writing about what I do, I’ve heard it all too, & thankfully, I’ve been able to develop a pretty thick skin. Even so, sometimes it really hurts me when someone says something heartless, such as I need to get over the abuse I’ve been through. Early in my healing, comments like that broke my heart! They made me feel like an utter failure. I even felt like I was disappointing God. He couldn’t possibly love someone like me, I thought.
My thoughts weren’t uncommon. Many people who have been abused feel the exact same way when insensitive comments are made to them.
How do you respond when people tell you their problems? I’d like to encourage you today, Dear Reader, to think about that question honestly. If you realize you need to improve your behavior in some way, then do it! You don’t want to hurt anyone! Obviously- otherwise you wouldn’t be listening & trying to help that person.
If you want to be a good listener & help others, then listen to them. Really listen! Don’t interject comments or advice, & let the speaker know you are listening. Nod & make eye contact. Only offer advice when asked. Touch the speaker’s hand or arm- a little physical contact often can help when words can’t. Maybe hug the speaker if you believe he or she is open to that. If you don’t know, ask if you can hug him/her. Let the speaker ask you questions if they want to. Offer to take the person out for a distraction if they seem interested. Going out for coffee or a walk in the park may be just what the person needs. If the person doesn’t necessarily want to talk, maybe turn on some music, dance around your living room & laugh a lot. Sometimes the smallest gesture can offer the greatest comfort. And, never forget to ask God what to do. He will give you ideas on what you can do to help.
Helping others isn’t really hard if you pay attention to people & get creative. And, as an added bonus, not only do you help that person, but you help yourself as well. Helping other people simply feels good! 🙂