Chronic Snarkopolist: Learning to Listen with Love
Hello my loves!
Sharing stories heals us. Stealing grief or comparing illnesses in order to one-up or diminish another person’s pain does not.
This message was brought home to me this week when I lost my little four-legged ball of fur. I’m a grief counselor. I have sat with people while they died. I have turned and held their families through their pain. I know how to sustain it. It hurts. Pain hurts. I also know that death is not something we are used to and often deny or run from. No matter how “expert” I am my loss hit me in my guts so hard I had to lie in bed for two days without bathing or moving –just grieving and crying.
GRIEVING IN MY OWN WAY. I also had to accept other people’s sincere love. I needed to reach out. And many people shared with me their love. It was so touching and beautiful. Yet- something hit me – on many levels we are confused how to truly LISTEN to each other. When we get a diagnosis or have loss – other people rush in to TELL US their stories – rather than LISTEN to the grief and pain of the person who is hurting.
Many people thought they were being kind, (and I took it as a kindness because I understood the intent) when they said, “I lost my dog last year.” Yet, it would have been far more kind if they had said, “I’m so sorry.” Similarly, when someone just finds out they have thyca people rush in to say, “Well isn’t that the best cancer to have?” Or if someone has lupus people say, “You don’t look sick!” Or when you’re on chemo people say, “When are you going to lose your hair?” And the hysterical answer is, “I have no fucking clue if or when!!” And it is so macabre – I’m not your spectacle – have a heart – have some compassion! Say you are sorry- sit with me through my pain! Listen to me!
And this message was brought home for me with the loss of my bundle of love bug. Rather then thrust their pain at me – I would have been comforted by a hug or a sincere “I’m sorry.” Or given the chance to cry in someone’s arms. A few friends offered to talk to me – but in the middle of the conversation they began crying about their own animals a few years ago before I even shed my own tears. And so I just went to bed. I lie down. I cried and mourned. I sent a few e-mails and received a few from people WHO GOT IT. And I realized that a few of us KNOW. A few of us GET IT. A few of us understand that SHARING IS HEALING.
There are NO COMPARING or COMPETING among grief or losses or illness. There are ways to share pain or say, “Really- this happened to me too- you are normal. But it is not the same as shoving down someone else’s pain to disclose your own before the first person even tells their own story. We need to do better. It is our job. It is our duty to each other to take care of each other and serve each other and heal each other from the inside out.
Meanwhile – this lesson was one I could have lived without. But I have re-learned it. I’m remembering how powerful a simple “Thank you for sharing,” can go. Or saying, “I’m so sorry this happened.” And then there can be ROOM for the other person to be heard. We can bear witness to each other’s pain and walk through their experiences with them. We do not have to compete for attention or loss. We will each have our turn. We will each share! We can all share and heal together – but take the hurt that comes. When a fresh wound is open- heal it and experience that story with respect. Love it. Tend it. And THEN perhaps some sharing or some room for more dialogue or conversation – for organic discussion will grow from it.
I’m still learning every day how to do illness well. Every day people teach me. And every day I show people how to live a beautiful loving life. In my grief and loss I know my pain is born of love and compassion and a connection to a beautiful being.
The most loving thing a person said to me was, “sorry, my sweet pea (palm tapping over heart)”. Other various kind things were said. The worst thing was, “You can always get another fucking cat and if it was your whole life you need a new life.” So – in all – I’d say I went the spectrum over the last two days.
And – I’d say this parallels the spectrum of how people react to us when we are diagnosed with illness. Some are so compassionate and some are complete assholes. Some just scram out of our lives and others jump right in. Some want to tell us their stories and feel so SURE we want to know. Meanwhile – sharing stories heals! There is a place for sharing and conversation- just not to the newly diagnosed who is still going through the pain and horror of dealing with the new fear and pain!
We’re all in this together! We must find the sensitive place inside us to LISTEN. And then after we have HEARD the stories – we can SHARE our own and be HEARD. We can give and receive with RECOPRICITY and in equal measure. We must make space for it. We must.
Sharing stories heals. Truly and deeply listening to each other is our gift of love.
What do you think? Have you ever felt competed with when you were dealing with pain or your illness? Do you feel trumped or one-upped when you’re having a bad day or trying to share your pain? How can we be better listeners? How can we be better at sharing and healing? I want to know!
See you next week same time same place! Kiss kiss!
Tags: comparing illness diminishes a person's pain, grieving, how to be supportive, how to grieve, how to listen, how to nurture someone you love, managing the loss of a feline or canine child, pet loss, sharing stories is healing, stealing grief