Sole witness

“Lisa has the ability to absorb the pain, the grief, the agony or the fear from the person she is ‘listening’ to and hold it. She doesn’t do anything with it. Her intention is never to change it, to make it better, to ease the suffering. Her primary goal is to be a witness to the other persons experience.”

I felt inspired when I read this in Vicki’s new blog. Probably most of us have experienced the frustration of telling a friend or loved one about a struggle, only to have them respond with a list of possible solutions. Even the arm around the shoulder paired with, “Don’t worry, it’ll be ok,” can feel annoying and intrusive.

Our kids are no different. But in that role of parent it is so hard not to offer advice or try to ease the pain. We’re older and wiser, right? They need to learn from us! Or at the very least it’s our job to comfort, console, and make-feel-better, yes? Sometimes, yes. Many times, no. Many times we just want to be heard and understood and that’s all.

Be a witness to the other person’s experience. That’s it. So simple.

Yesterday I tried it out with Charlotte:

“Mom, he won’t fly. I keep trying to help him, but he won’t go.” She was gently nudging a large dragonfly perched on the fence outside our house. “Oh, dear … I think I know what’s wrong,” I said, “Remember when you had big noisy cluster flies in your room at bedtime last year? And we had to keep coming in to help you swat them?” “Yes.” “Well today the man came and sprayed fly poison on our house to keep the flies out.” “So he’s a fly, not a dragonfly?” “No. The problem is, the fly poison doesn’t only kill flies. It kills other things too. He must have landed on our house and gotten some poison on him, and now he’s dying.” Charlotte paused and then looked at me with tears in her eyes, “But mom! You mean I’ve been trying and trying to help him for no reason?! And now he’s just going to die?!” Her tears were contagious and I felt myself welling up too. “I know…it’s terrible…I’m so sorry…I just don’t know what else to do about those flies. We’ve tried lots of other things…Do you think we should just live with the flies in our house?” “No,” she said quietly.

We sat together in silence for a long time while she cradled the dragonfly in her hand. There were lots of things I could have said to try and make her feel better or convince her that the loss of one dragonfly wasn’t a big deal.

Instead I just quietly stayed by her side and watched with her.

“Mom?” she said after a while, her voice calm. “Can you please go get the camera?”

In memoriam …

dragonfly

Explore posts in the same categories: Weeks following: Miscellaneous

One Comment on “Sole witness”

  1. Vicki Says:

    Oh my God. I am weeping. I love that child.


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