Tag Archives: empathy

Apologies That Mean Something

apologies

Ever receive one of those  hollow-eyed, flat apologies? You know … the mechanical kind that lack any substance. Yes, we all know what it’s like, and we all know what we want instead. Tracy and a few others do, and here are their stories. Read them here.

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Filed under Couples, General Interest

We Mourn Endings . . . at Any Age

rose in hand

Because things are always in the process of change, grief is inevitable. Proceeding through life creates a sense of loss, because something must be left behind. Consequently, grief arises whenever we move, change careers, or retire and leave the workforce altogether. We mourn endings such as when we grow up and leave home, when friendships cease, and when we experience life endings.  Click here to keep reading . . .

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Filed under General Interest, Parenting

His Heart Saved the Day

The intellect understands through logic, whereas the heart understands through empathy.

Paralyzed with fear, Kathleen stopped suddenly in her tracks. The trail she was hiking with her husband, Zach, had come to an unexpected fork.

They were assured, back at the visitors center, that all trails would be clearly marked. For the most part, that proved to be true, but definitely not now.

Zach motioned to the right. “Let’s go this way,” he pressed.

Kathleen didn’t budge. “I just want to go back,” she said meekly.

“No, let’s keep going,” Zach insisted. “It’ll be alright.”

Kathleen—reduced to the emotional age of a six-year-old—started crying.

“I felt he wasn’t listening to me,” she said in our counseling session.

Read about Kathleen and Zach…

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The Heart Trumps the Spoken Word

A tragic accident took her son’s life. In a mere flash of a second he was gone … gone forever.

I had never met the mother nor the son, but my friend had. “What can I say to her?” she asked.

We’ve all been there—someone we care about is in the throes of immense grief, and we’re at a complete loss. We so want to lessen their pain … but how?

“Show, don’t tell,” I advised. “Sometimes words don’t cut it. Let the mother read your heart.”

An understanding look and a warm touch does just that. Such gestures convey “I’m here;” “Your pain matters to me.” That all sounds simple enough, but it’s hard to do. We feel more comfortable softening the awfulness, and our insecurities about death with statements like: “He’s in a better place now;” “It’ll get easier.” Comments like these may lift our mood but do little for the mourner.

My niece, Amanda, is a perfect example. Two years ago she lost her mother to cancer, and her suffering remains as intense and real today as it did back then.  We were talking one day, and she expressed a particular form of anguish to me … an anguish I feel many people can relate to. I asked her to write it down so I could share it with you. She did and here it is:

Why do people tell you it gets easier?

Time heals, they say . . . but I don’t see it that way at all. If anything, it feels worse. I feel more alone without her holding my hand. I feel less love without her big hugs. I feel more sad without her beautiful smile. Everyday she feels farther and farther away … how could this be easier?

My heart tells me she isn’t far but I’m reminded everyday that she isn’t coming back. My fear of her disappearing from my memories keeps me on edge. I’m afraid I’ll forget what her hands looked like. I’m afraid of losing the memory of her laugh that once filled a room or her voice that would comfort me in times that I needed guidance.

Before she passed, and knowing she was leaving me too soon, I would sit in stillness beside her and find myself breathing her in. I studied her face—memorizing ever feature. Now I can’t picture her face, or the scent of her that takes me back. I don’t see how time could heal a broken heart when the person that filled it is slipping away.

~Amanda Deutsch

Like Amanda, and the mother who lost her son, there are no words. Sometimes personal loss runs so deep that relief is elusive—the person’s grief is constantly felt just below the surface. Under those circumstances, the best we can do as comforters is respect that fact.

As a counselor I’ve found that I’m most successful when I suspend the need to fix and merely stop and listen … and let myself feel.

The heart trumps the spoken word when it comes to pain that’s as raw as grief.

 

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