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Losing a child is like hell on earth.
Many are caught up in the confusion of what (not) to say or do when meeting someone who is going or has been through the loss of a child.
Show you CARE. Please do not cross the road to avoid meeting us.
It is ok if you have no idea what to say. “I’m so sorry (I don’t know what to say)” is more than good enough.
Stop talking and just LISTEN. It can be the same story for the hundredths time. Or crazy rationalisation. Or buckets of tears interrupted by crazy laughs.
It is a journey. Personal and unique for each one of us.
“There’ll be another one” is ok if WE say it. We try to cope.
YOU please DON’T. “Another” is not “the one”.
It is a seemingly endless 3D roller-coaster ride on the snakes and ladders board when it feels like we would never ever reach the end: to learn to live with it.
It doesn’t matter when, how, and what happened, it is like our heart has been ripped out of our body.
Coming with the loss of future.
Their future. Their what-ifs. Their hugs, smiles, love of life.
Sometimes the death comes as a relief after suffering.
It still hurts!
And there is not even a word for a parent who lost their child.
So just please BE THERE for us.
A loving hug can mean the whole world to us.
Here is my hand.
Have you ever found yourself doubting yourself and acting against your own interest?
When is it 100% clear what you should, need, MUST do, yet you just simply cannot make the decision?
Is there a recurring pattern to these situations?
I would like to introduce “self-sabotage”.
A usual excuse we use, even to ourselves, – and yes, we believe it – is the “I’ll wait to see how it unfolds”.
Yes, there are times when waiting is the right thing to do. But it must be a DECISION to wait.
Including a deadline when we will RECONSIDER our primary decision to wait.
Without a deadline it is PROCRASTINATION.
Sounds like a very valid excuse, isn’t it? And we can get annoyed if people around us – those who really love us and put OUR INTEREST first – dare to share their concerns about our indecisiveness. They point to the fact that our “let’s see how it unfolds” is not a decision, it is self-sabotage. We lie to ourselves. Their feedback is like a smack in our face.
Well, it is time to face it: most of us do it. I do it.
You know what?
Give a deadline to yourself!
Make a decision WHEN you will act and WHAT you will do if the issue does not solve itself.
Yes, the “WHAT” must be decided now.
THEN the pressure of making the decision will be enough.
Here is my hand.
Here we pondered about what love is not.
It is time to look into the deep and dig out a few possible answers for the question:
What is love?
Love is a DECISION. To love someone even if they don’t deserve it. Despite their actions. While keeping healthy BOUNDARIES.
Love is ACTION. To go that extra mile for them. It must be a FREE choice. Free from ANY influence – outer or even inner!
Love is an APPROACH. How we turn to someone. How we see them. Whose interest do we take into consideration: ours or theirs? Can we act selflessly, even to the point of suffering disadvantage?
Love is LISTENING. The ability to shut up and let the other talk.
Love is CARING. Even if we disagree with their choices.
Love is HONESTY. Sharing our thoughts, our doubts, our questions. Yes, we can share our concerns about the consequences of their choices.
LOVE is PRESENCE. So when they fall, we stand beside them so they can lean on us while pulling themselves up. Because they know: even if we sometimes get frustrated with their decisions, indecisiveness, procrastination, seeing them slowly ruining themselves through these decisions, we are still on their side.
What is love?
If their world falls apart, we will still be there for them.
Here is my hand.
“What is love? Baby, don’t hurt me Don’t hurt me no more” (some of you might remember the song from the 1990s).
So, what IS love?
Well, let’s make a firm line in the sand – what it is not.
Love IS NOT a feeling. Yes, when we are “in love” we do have some physical symptoms. Physical. Physiological. Symptoms.
Love IS NOT the lack of healthy boundaries. We can love someone and still be able to say no.
Love IS NOT saying YES all the time. But what prevents us from when saying NO would be the best choice at that time?
Whose interest do we put first? And do we do it voluntarily or do we feel coerced into saying yes – even when we indeed want to say no. We just simply can’t.
Love IS NOT allowing the person who has been exploiting us continue to do so because we feel unable to put up some boundaries in the situation. This is the very opposite to love. It is not loving them, it is self-loathing – ourselves.
Here is my hand.
There is a lovely, heart-warming short animation I would like to share. Short but powerful.
There was a time, about 10 years ago, when I first saw it. I must admit I saw it as anything but lovely.
I thought the lady’s last actions were unnecessary, I couldn’t understand why on Earth she was doing what she’s doing.
Years passed by and I couldn’t get it out of my mind. Something was bothering me about it. I should have seen an uplifting action but I couldn’t.
Then, one time when I remembered it again, I suddenly recognised the beauty in it. The care, the love. And it made me think:
Why hadn’t I seen this before?
How I had perceived the story was filtered through my inner being. And that time I was hurt, dragging along with a lot of pain in my heart.
I found it difficult to cope with that level of kindness, the outpouring unconditional love, because I had never experienced it myself.
The uncertainty in who I was, the lack of experiencing and knowing that I am worthy of love simply because I am, severely impacted my views.
It was a long journey, painful but fruitful, to come to the place that I understand the value of meeting people where they are at.
Making them feel worthy. Accepted. Loved.
The power of being present.
The worth of presence in someone’s life.
Do you have anyone to walk beside you on your journey?
Here is my hand.
Not long ago I faced the big question: who am I?
You might wonder why. So, here is a short story.
The last few years created a huge shift in me. Moving across the globe with my family and adjusting to the new norms and language not only brought hidden skills to the surface, but also shaped me significantly.
The robust diploma course in coaching was a painful eye-opener: I had a picture of myself, what I was like, and it turned out to be utterly false. I spent hours contemplating “what’s wrong; why does the test say I am introverted when I have always been an extrovert?”
A dog will never turn into bacon, it cannot be real!
Then it clicked…
Who am I indeed?
I am not changing into something new but turning back to who I was meant to be. I have been taking off the uncomfortable, protective garments. Shields, swords, axes, and breastplates which have shaped my thinking and behaviour were there to provide a more controllable, seemingly safer environment. Seeing everyone and everything as a threat had been eating up my energy, turning my focus away from inner growth and creating a false reality: that if I can control everything, I will be safe.
And now, leaving these behind one by one, the real me is coming forth.
Who am I? I am me.
The dog is not turning into bacon.
The bacon-shaped dog is turning back into being a dog.
(I used the word-by-word English translation of the Hungarian saying “Kutyából nem lesz szalonna” because I believe the English saying “Once a thief, always a thief” does not accurately portray the message I wanted to convey with this story.)
Here is my hand.
We are seemingly prone to give in when we see tears. I wonder why?
Children have seemingly endless creativity to convince, coerce, persuade their parents to change that NO into a YES.
Those crocodile tears do not necessarily flow like a river because they are hurt, sometimes they just simply do not want to accept that NO as an answer. I was too a kid once 😊
Tears seem to work most of the time.
Even when adults cry for the same reason.
We are seemingly prone to give in when we see tears.
I wonder why we give up our boundaries so easily?
I do not know for sure, but my guess is that our subconscious pulls out a formula that drives us to give in.
Even if it is about nothing else but trying to push those boundaries. Which adults do too. However, they usually do it very consciously.
Tears can manipulate us to say YES when we want to say NO.
Sticking to our NO is tricky because we need to do two important things. And we must do both:
- We need wisdom to determine if those tears are genuine or manipulative.
- If the latter we must believe that keeping our choice of NO
- will do no harm and
- it does not mean lack of love.
Sometimes our NO originates in our self-care – which is paramount for our own wellbeing.
Other times it is for their benefit (just think of bringing up children). It can be good in the short term, but mostly it is good for the long term. Even if it is painful now.
When we say NO we teach the other person (whether a child or an adult) as well:
- By “enforcing” them to respect our boundaries they can exercise self-control.
- As role models we show it is ok to say NO, teaching them not to be afraid of setting boundaries.
If we love them, we must take on healthy confrontations with them in order to teach them about boundaries.
Love without boundaries is not love.
Here is my hand.
So, how to let go of all those past offences that still keep on bothering us?
I believe the breathing technique is just like a band aid, it helps at that immediate moment, but it does not provide a long term solution.
the pain originated in all these grievances
as backpacks full of rocks we carry on our back daily.
They slow us down, steal our energy, divert our focus – we need to get rid of them.
We must learn to leave our bags behind.
Before we start complaining about how badly some others have treated us, let’s take a look at ourselves from an outsider’s perspective. How many times have we deliberately or accidentally hurt others? With the tone of our voice, with a degrading remark, by not listening carefully to them.
Maybe it is time to reconsider our “greatness”, and start planning to ask for their forgiveness. A simple “I am sorry for what I said the other day” would do.
We might be surprised what changes it can bring in them!
Recognise: we again changed how we react – we may have left the scene of confrontation feeling victorious, this was the “norm”, but now we humble ourselves and admit we were wrong.
How would it feel if someone did this to us –
asking for our forgiveness for their wrongdoings?
Of course, a positive answer for our intention to gain forgiveness is not expected.
We should never believe that everyone will forgive us everything, it’s just simply not the case. However, the good news is that
we did our part in seeking reconciliation and restoration,
and it’s now their turn. Which means, we did what we could, and
now we can let it go.
We can leave behind our guilt about those offences we committed against others. This was another backpack 😉. We can leave this one because
it is their choice whether they forgive us or not.
And if they choose not to forgive us, it’s their decision with its own consequences: they are going to carry their own backpack containing their own offences.
So, how to deal with our own offences backpack, how to leave it on the kerb?
Forgiving those who have hurt us, even if they do not ask for forgiveness. For our own sake!
It our choice to forgive or not, but when we forgive, we can leave the extra weight and pain we are carrying behind.
Forgiveness is a decision, not a feeling.
When we declare that we forgive, we make the first step to re-write our attitude towards that situation and that person. As it is rooted deep, it will take time to alter our instant reactions.
Old attitudes will try to sneak back at least a few times, demanding attention and the refocussing on the pain we suffered when we were hurt. Now, we can simply reject this desire by repeating to ourselves “but I have forgiven”.
Although it is a process, the time will come when we do feel forgiveness: the relief of not carrying the backpack of stones, the feeling of freedom from pain, guilt and resentment.
The most beautiful part of it is that
we do not need them to forgive them.
We do not need to tell them, we talk to ourselves: it is an inner process within us.
And because of this we can deal with the pain we suffered from those who have already died, or who we are no longer in contact with.
We just shout out our decision to forgive, and then stick to it. It will bring us joy.
Here is my hand.
Many might think that emotional conflicts are more likely to happen in households, but they are widely prevalent in workplaces as well. Being reprimanded for things that are outside our control or are not our job assignment, experiencing others pouring out their own frustration onto us, a boss not listening to us but jumping into presuppositions about what we are saying (but we are saying what we think!), and many more.
When we know who we are and know how to control our emotions in heated situations to ensure they do not take over (breath!) we can dodge many of these fights.
We come to understand that most of these outbursts are not about us.
The teenager having a tantrum is, I believe, just seemingly unhappy with us (the boundaries we set up for them).
What really bothers them is the feeling of incapability and hopelessness.
At least this is how I remember my teenage years. It is true for adults as well 😉: every outburst we have represents our inner frustration, the fact that we have no control over what’s happening to or around us.
What we do have control over though is our reactions: while a tantrum likely won’t solve the problem, running away to a quiet place and calming ourselves down, breathing slowly, can highly improve our chances of finding a rational answer.
When we erupt like a volcano it is never about the other person we pour it out onto. It is solely about us.
So when someone else is acting like a “2-year-old having a tantrum” what should we do? Tap their head and leave them alone to settle down 😄.
Is it about us? No: the underlying issue might be but the emotional upheaval “add-on” has nothing to do with us. And, as we discussed, it is useless to engage in a conflict like this, so let’s provide them an opportunity to have another go at solving the issue later, in a respectable manner.
This leads to quite a painful area:
If I am offended, it’s my problem.
It shows that I need to work on myself.
It took me many months to accept this, so I do not expect anyone to swallow it easily.
On the other hand, I found this one of the most helpful guidelines.
- If we take offence and the feedback we have been given is valid, it means we need to improve.
- If we take offence and it is not valid, then we need to figure out why we took offence when we shouldn’t have. Quite simply, if it is not valid we just should shake it off, and move on: it is not about us, it is about them as they outpour their inner frustrations onto us.
Even if it sounds logical and clear, it is not always easy to do. However,
the less offence we take on, the more time, energy, and motivation we have left to use for other positive things.
Every situation where we get emotionally hurt can deeply affect us not only mentally, but also physically. When it can push us into fright/fight/freeze mode it will trigger its physiological symptoms (elevated heartbeat and blood pressure, more frequent but shallow breathing, etc). To stop this, we need to get our “brain” back by deep, slow breathing.
every time we recall these painful events, the symptoms come back, we re-live the situation, emotionally and physically.
Which means, every time we ponder upon past hurts we wound ourselves again, and again, and again – and it all has a negative effect on our bodies and mind.
That’s why we should learn to let these things go, to deliberately avoid recalling them and learn how to deal with them when the unwanted memories appear in our mind.
Here is my hand.
Bringing emotions into arguments does no good.
I am not saying we should not have feelings. They are important, but we should not submit to them. They can give good advice but equally they can give bad advice.
Emotions are not factual, and they can change as the wind can change in Dunedin: taking a 360 degree turn within half a day.
I am also not saying that we cannot talk about emotions, there are times we must. What I am trying to explain is that
we should leave our emotions at the door when we enter a confrontation.
We can look back at them, we can reflect on them, but they stay where they belong: having no impact on the conversation. When we manage to do this, we can keep ourselves from falling into fright/fight/freeze mode. Which means we can use our logic in our arguments, we are able to listen carefully what the other party is saying, and we can even find ourselves showing empathy with them.
Moreover, it is not only easier to leave a conversation when it is getting overheated, but it is far more important to recognise when it starts slipping into that category.
Leaving a conversation when the other party is getting more and more emotionally involved gives them space and time to reconsider the topic.
Listening well, I believe, is a key factor in effective communication. It takes time to learn but brings huge benefits.
When we listen to the other person without presuppositions, bias, and our own agenda, we can understand better their point of view, analyse their arguments, and more likely find a solution which satisfies both of us.
A key factor to success is to be persistent in our communication.
We need to learn to say what we think, leaving no place for others to try to figure out what we might have really wanted.
By doing this we represent transparency and accountability, which are essential factors in building trust.
However, it is a one way street: we can use it as a guideline in our perception and evaluations of what others say to us. Implementing this rule can save us a lot of time pondering about what others might have thought when they said something.
People say what they think. If not, it’s their problem.
This approach, although seemingly quite harsh, draws clear boundaries, ousts hidden agendas, and leaves no place for emotional manipulation. Then people cannot blame us by saying: “You should have known what I meant by saying …. “, because we can be sure we acted upon what they said, which is far more factual than thoughts and theories 😊.
When we manage to build up a habit of factual communication we are more likely to identify situations where we are being manipulated, and so, avoid them.
Upskilling ourselves in the area of ‘the dynamics of conflicts’ is beneficial both for ourselves and those around us: using this approach the way we re-act to others changes, which will most likely make them stop and re-think.
An emotionally heated argument is like a whirlpool.
It might only be a gentle pulling force at the beginning, but we quickly find ourselves pulled down to the bottom, deliberately hurting each other with labelling, and saying things we would have never said if our brain was working!
The improvement happens gradually. First we might recognise that the bottom of the whirlpool is close, so we just suddenly opt out: not making the other person cry at the end is a huge step. Then we might spot at an earlier stage where we have just been pulled into an emotional conflict, so we gently row away. And the time might come when we spot it before putting our feet in.
Sticking to the facts – including our emotions – demonstrates not only honesty but also openness: we are keen to solve the problem. We dare to show vulnerability as we talk about our emotions, but we are not willing to go down the rabbit hole of deception and manipulation.
“I know you did not mean it, but when you did such and such it made me feel such and such. Could you please help me to figure out why and what could we do about it?”
Here is my hand.