How do people handle our pain and how do we handle their pain? Pain is just that…pain. It is uncomfortable for the person experiencing it and for those that are around the one in pain. It is never easy or to be dismissed or accepted as fate or the will of God.
I want to get really real on this week’s blog and talk about pain and hopefully help all of us talk about and deal with this subject a little more fluently.
Brene Brown said, “The lesson was simple: Don’t look away. Don’t look down. Don’t pretend not to see hurt. Look people in the eye. Even when their pain is overwhelming. And when you are in pain, find the people who can look you in the eye. We need to know we are not alone, especially when we are hurting. This lesson is one of the greatest gifts of my life.’’
WOW! How many times have we sheepishly looked the other way immobilized by panic and discomfort when we know someone is in pain? Or how many times has it happened to us? Most people generally want to help in times ofd sadness or emotional duress. Most people don’t want to be of no help. But we often freeze, not knowing what to say or what we can do. This results in either avoidance or overcompensating.
Our need to fix things makes us kind of “flight or flight” or in this case “avoid or overcompensate”. We either run or shine up our old trusty writ platitudes. You know the ones! “He is in a better place now”… “at least it wasn’t your only child”… or “at least you are still healthy” or “God didn’t want that for you”. Whatever it is… LEAVE IT ON THE DUSTY SHELF. Those old meaningless and potentially harmful scripts need to be retired for a reason.
People need to know we care and are listening even when they aren’t speaking. An incredibly powerful way of accomplishing this is to not avoid eye contact and look them in the eye. It is almost as if we are saying “I am not afraid of your pain so neither should you be”. Think about it! If we are afraid to look at their misery, why would they think they can?
When we are suffering, we don’t want people standing on ceremony or tradition or making promises. We just want to feel the ground under our feet and be able to breathe. So suck it up buttercup and GO! GO to them, head straight in to the pain and land mines and inhospitable atmosphere and take them for a walk on the beach. Hug them! Feel their stuff with them. Tell them it does suck and it is awful. Don’t try and talk them out of their bad place. Sit with them in it. Don’t get out the broom and start sweeping the shattered pieces. Wait till they grab the broom and then cheer them on. You are not on a rescue mission. You are on a comfort and empathy cruise.
In Venice in the middle ages there was once a profession for a man (and possibly for some hardcore women too) called a ‘Codega’ – a fellow you hired to walk in front of you at night with a lit lantern, showing you the way, scaring off thieves and demons, bringing you confidence and protection through the dark streets. We are called to be Codega’s for our friends and loved ones and we all need some Codega’s in our life. So find some friends that will look you in the eye and be there when life is messy and hold on to them tight.