I am sure some people who are going through grief get tired of being told that they need to talk about it. Usually they are bombarded with “Don’t keep it inside”, “let it all out,” and other clichés. Some are more comfortable with talking than others. Often men, in particular, want to just go off somewhere and lick their own wounds without having to share their pain with anyone. It makes some people feel exposed and vulnerable. Why then is it so important that we talk?
Actually talking is not the thing that helps us. Being heard is where the power is. Just talking does very little. Talking to someone who is not really listening can do more harm than good. If they are forming the advice they intend to give as soon as they get to talk, the conversation will be counterproductive. If we can find someone who is focused on what we are saying and feeling and is trying to simply accept us and be a companion with us as we struggle, then there is power in talking.
Some wonderful things happen to us when someone really listens. Somehow a great deal of our angers and frustrations become less intense or even less important. It is like we have a full pitcher of boiling feelings and the talking allowed us to pour some of the mess out on the ground. The pitcher will fill again, but repeated sessions gradually slow the fillings down and cools them off until they are no longer able to damage us as much. We bleed off anger as we are heard.
Being heard allows us to discover insight into our own feelings. Counseling with others is often seen as a sign of weakness. It presents itself as if we could not solve our own problems and had to go have someone solve them for us. The truth is, we still solve our own problems. I have been involved with counseling for many years, and I don’t think I ever really solved anyone else’s problem. When it works, it does so because the person discovered insight into their thoughts and feelings while telling them to someone who is listening. Most of us can recall a time when the answer to some problem seemed to come to us “out of the blue” while we were talking to someone. Often this happens even if we are not talking about a problem right at that time. The atmosphere was right and a light went on in our heads. That is called insight and that is the goal when we are talking through our grief. As we talk, we are discovering things from within.
This is the reason I do not call myself a grief counselor. I don’t believe in grief counseling. People in grief are not mentally ill. They are not some kind of “basket case” that needs therapy. I call myself a grief companion. I am just going to listen and walk beside folks while they find their own insights and understanding. I can’t really describe how that works or how it feels, but as we talk, we understand ourselves and our own needs.
Being heard gives us a sense of not being alone. Someone understands what we think and feel and does not think we are crazy. We don’t have to hide our thoughts or feelings. We are free to say anything we want to this person and they will not panic, or tell, or have us committed. That sets us free to release our thoughts and feelings. We no longer have to swallow them. We no longer have to hide them. We no longer have to wonder if we are doing it right. Swallowed feelings harm us, freed feelings heal us. Closed grief can make us sick. Opened grieving can lead us to health.
It goes without saying that random talking to a non-listening world will not prove to be much help. We need listening ears, not just handy ones. It may be that we should invite those friends we think will prove to be the most help to us in our grieving to join this web site and learn how to be the kind of ears that heal.
Copyright Doug Manning of In-Sight Books, Inc. Doug’s books, CDs and DVDs are available at www.insightbooks.com. Post originally published on Doug’s Blog at The Care Community www.thecarecommunity.com.
Updated: March 24, 2015