We have all heard the saying, “time heals all wounds” and that, “all good things come in time”. I disagree. I think we are much more complex than the simplicity of those sayings. I spent time with one of my clients today who lost her husband a year ago. Time has not healed her wounds. She is learning how to cope. Slowly. One step at a time. And at times, two steps back. She is lost and being pulled in several directions by friends who mean well, but aren’t truly thinking of her. I listened to her tell me about how she has started counseling. How she spends the weekends doing activities with her friends that tell her she needs to move on with her life only to wake up Monday morning in tears, exhausted, and lost emotionally. I listened and thought about my own heartaches, stressful times, and emotional pain. About how many times I have been told how I should feel or even more so, how I shouldn’t feel. I felt compelled to help my client in the best way that I could. I told her that first of all, NO ONE is in her shoes. Period. Others have gone through similar situations but she is the one and only her. She is the only one who has walked her path and that means her feelings are hers alone. And because of that, no one knows the answer for her. I reminded her to listen to her heart and her body. To do what is right for her. Whatever that is.
I also told her that it might not ever truly get better. (I know that sounds horrible but that statement comforted me more than just about any other when I was going through a really painful situation.) Someone told me they didn’t know if I would ever get past the pain and they were sorry for what I was going through. That statement gave me permission to be sad, and angry, and lost. I felt like it was okay to be broken. And IT IS OKAY to be broken. It’s okay to feel WHATEVER we feel. There are no “rights” or “wrongs”. This life is beautiful and amazing but it is also hard and painful and confusing and almost unbearable at times. We are complex beings with intense emotions and deep thought processes, which is an incredible thing, but it also makes things intense. Especially during times of loss, or severe stress, or painful emotional situations.
So how can we be better friends, partners, husbands, wives, and parents to the people we love that are going through a difficult time? Love them. Listen. Hear them. Don’t hear them from our point of view. It’s not about “us” when we are the listener. Truly listen with an open mind to what they are telling us. We have to be able to put our own judgement and feelings aside. We have to be able to embrace the ones we love with kindness and empathy. We have to understand their feelings are their own. And understand that is what is right for them. And it’s okay. Even if it’s not how we would feel.
If nothing else, I have learned one thing that I know with 100% certainty: Do not tell the person you care about that it will be okay. We want it to be okay for the people we love but they deserve to feel how they feel. Let’s allow them that.