I’m frequently asked by others for help with grief, despair, mental health. I guess this is because I’ve written so candidly about my own. While I’m humbled by the courage it takes to reach out, I must admit I’m always astonished people think I have any wisdom to impart— if you’ve read my blog, surely you are aware that I have a lot of questions and fewer & fewer answers by the day…
I’ve taken a reprieve from sharing much about what this process is like for me in an earnest effort to find a clear channel for my own voice to come thru to me for me— literally (from an extended bout of laryngitis) and digitally (by ghosting Facebook and considering consciously uncoupling from my blog). Ive needed to sort through some shit, to put it mildly.
I could feel a tension growing within me that I knew I must embrace and explore. This felt as if I needed to start from scratch rather than put it all back together, as I had been trying to do. I can’t tell you how peculiar it feels to still be me but to feel so differently inside my own skin. So foreign to myself.
I think I finally confronted the reality that the cloud hanging over me was not temporary. The heaviness I wear like a wet wool coat IS life after death of my child by suicide. It is a part of me that cannot be extracted.
As much as I have tried to believe and hope and sometimes even pretend that I was just a sutra or a session or a mindset away from healing “this”, I can see that it is an illusion and a disconnection from the truth. It is disembodied and compartmentalizing and dis-integration.
My suffering does not end because I will it away. My suffering becomes bearable only when I learn how to sit with it. I can feel it and I can say “this is awful horrible pain and I don’t know how to carry it or share it and that scares me”. There’s no fix for this EXCEPT not panicking over the truth of it. Do you see what I mean?
I bring this up because there are a lot of advice givers out there lately who seem to think “positive thinking” or “personal growth” is the path to liberation. And maybe for them it is or has been. Maybe. But they— or you, if you’re one of them, could stop anytime now, trying to make others— me for example— believe in a harmful & simplistic approach to some pretty heady and necessary experiences that no shortcut will ever get you through. All this way of maneuvering really does is relieve you of having to listen. Because who has time to listen these days?
If you really want to know how to help someone who is in pain, I will pause for a moment so you can go get your big girl panties on. Yep— I said it.
Go ahead. I’ll wait.
If you really and truly actually wanna help someone who is in pain you have to make time for discomfort (theirs and your own). You have to take time to listen to nonsense and repetition. And rising and falling volumes accompanying tears and heavy heavy heavy emotions. You have to stop giving shallow and trendy advice. You need to be ok with getting messy–tears and snot and ‘bad energy’ and maybe some of your boundaries being shat on at times. Put your fucking phone down and listen to the human being who is quietly bleeding to death in front of you, just hoping you might notice and intervene in time. Look around you and begin to recognize that look in the eyes of those who are suffering even if they are smiling and telling you they’re ok. You really don’t have to be all that intuitive to spot it.
If you seriously have a time constraint be honest and genuine about it and offer alternate times you have available. If you don’t have time constraints then sit down and get cozy. People need to be heard. It isn’t always pleasant. It isn’t fun. They don’t always need advice. You don’t know how to do it better than them or what it’s like for them. No matter what you do know yourself. You are you. They are them. Listen to them. Let them exhaust themselves with the “getting it out” of things. Let them end the conversation. Listen to the pauses and silences. Don’t fill the silence with small talk if they can’t find their words. Just breathe, steady and true. You might just become a role model with your very breath. Just listen and breathe. And stay with them. Call it presence or focus or just fucking humanity, whatever— it doesn’t matter what you call it. It only matters that you give it. This is more important than any advice or solution or distraction that you could offer.
Everyone tells me they don’t know what to say. To me— to others. So shut the fuck up. Seriously. We don’t expect you to be good at this or at saying the right things for all the things that go wrong. Learn how to be uncomfortable with not knowing everything. It’s ok. Really. I promise— whether you like it or not, you can do hard things. You may even find, like I have, that actually, you can bear the unbearable.