(Don’t)Leave Me Alone

Alone Loss

I’ve been thinking about losses both in my life and in the lives of some (all?) of my clients. The natural response to loss, large and small, is grief. Often we are given misinformation about how to deal with these losses. One I was thinking about was this: “Just give him some space – he needs space.”

In other words, distance from the person in their time of grief. Huh?

Growing up I always thought separation was a form of punishment. You know – getting sent to your room for misbehaving. And isn’t that what society does to law breakers? We incarcerate them away from the general population. And if they are really a threat, they are sent to solitary confinement – which is total isolation from human connection.

So why would separation from people be a benefit to someone who has just gone through a loss of some sort? Don’t we need the opposite – connection and comfort? Of course we do. But we do need the right kind of connection.

When someone asks for some “space” after a loss, I don’t think they are talking physical, but rather emotional. What they don’t need is someone trying to minimize the loss with well-intentioned chatter. But perhaps a good response would be “May I just sit here quietly with you for a while?” Sometimes people will open up a little and talk, which is good. Our best response is to affirm by nodding our head and empathizing when appropriate. Never try to fix the situation. It will only create distance. That is a step that might come at a later time if asked for.

Don’t judge someone else’s loss. For some, a pet has been their closest relationship, an object has been their connection to a special experience, or a setback is a block to a long-held dream.

If we are the one hurting, we can add to our problem by making it difficult for people to connect with us. Our fear of not being understood might result in us pushing away people who can offer legitimate comfort. And internally we can deny or minimize our losses, judge them unimportant, or push them away and bury them.

Feelings never die. They are just buried alive – which leaves us vulnerable to unpredictable resurfacing of the feelings.

So the solution, no matter what side of the equation you are on is a willingness to connect with either exquisite sensitivity, or cautious, but courageous openness. We were not designed to isolate from others, especially during the difficult moments in our lives. Even though some people might shy away from our pain as if it was contagious, we need to persist in finding those who understand. Usually those are people who have experienced pain and loss themselves and know what is and what isn’t helpful.

When God came to us in the form of a man, He experienced all the pain, loss and isolation that we do. Even when we are alone, we are not alone.

Psalms 46:1 God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.

 

Kind Friendliness – Does It Need Some Work?

kind-friendliness

Recently we have been experiencing a lot of kind friendliness. This is a term Nan uses when I am grumpy. She will say “I need your kind friendliness.” I know what she means. My grumpiness tends to translate into a more critical or negative behavior.

We have been dealing with quite a few new people as we set up a vacation cabin. What we have experienced is a lot of genuinely nice people. What makes them that way? Is it just good customer service training? I don’t think so. I believe it goes deeper than that.

The attitude might be a result of living in a less densely populated area. Or perhaps it might be the result of being in a community where people need to rely on each other much more because of fewer options. We have experienced this kind of attitude in rural Hawaii also. The people take time with each other. They are not in a hurry to move on. As our pastor would say, there is not the mindset of “chop, chop, get it done!” In Hawaii they pause to “talk story.”

I experience this “kind friendliness” at church all the time. I believe it is because we genuinely like our church community and we have intentionally cultivated this attitude towards each other. I am not sure we have slowed down to the extent that we have been enjoying at the cabin location, but it seems a marked contrast to the busy Los Angeles culture.

I wonder how many relationships lack kind friendliness? Yes, I am talking about the  romantic types, but also other kinds as well. Sometimes I treat strangers better than I do family members. I smile more and am more patient with them. I might respond defensively that I am more “real” with people that are closer to me, but does that actually mean that I should treat them with less kindness or respect?

It is true that close relationships require us to develop more resiliency. The more intimate the relationship, the more necessary it will  be to give and receive forgiveness readily, particularly for small offenses. But I want to draw as little on the goodwill that exists as I am able.

Things I can do to promote kind friendliness:

  • Ask for what I want, not what I don’t want or like.
  • Watch my tone. Do I sound harsh, critical or cold?
  • Use the “sandwich” technique: affirmation – request – affirmation.
  • Smile, make eye contact while communicating, assume positive intent from the other person.

Holiday seasons are particularly vulnerable to stress related behavior. It’s a great time to practice kind friendliness.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NLT)  “So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.”

Politics and Marriage: Expectations and Renegotiation

renegotiate

OK, I know you’re asking “Why in the world would he put those two subjects together – especially now when we are just post election? ” Well, to answer your question, we are also just post (another) premarrieds class and it got me thinking.

There is all this campaigning that goes on prior to “the big event”. A lot of promises get made that honest candidates hope they can fulfill. But the truth is that many of them really don’t know what is actually possible until they step into the job. I think that may also be true of couples that get married. They might believe they can deliver on their pre-marriage promises or agreements, but once they get into the pace of marriage, especially when kids are in the picture, it might be a real challenge.

Engaged she says: “I’ll probably want sex 4 or 5 times a week.”

Married with 2 kids she says: “Tonight? Are you kidding me?”

Engaged he says: “I intend to share the housework evenly.”

Married with a stressful job he says: “I need to relax. You don’t realize how hard I work all day.”

It’s at this point that a lot of spouses feel betrayed, or at least disappointed. I want to reassure you that this is normal. This is idealism giving way to reality. So what should a husband or wife do?

Renegotiate

If you have ever been through the process of buying a house or running a business you will understand the need to leave certain aspects open to renegotiation. There are circumstances that you cannot know until you experience or discover them. The parties involved must believe that they are getting a fair deal. Marriage is no different.

Some people have a really hard time with compromise, but along with forgiveness, it is the secret to a great marriage. I, of course, am not talking about moral compromise, but the day-to-day adjustments that have to be made in order to maintain a marriage’s equilibrium. As is often said, if you cannot bend, you will break.

The key to being able to compromise is developing empathy for the other person. Do you seek to understand, or only to be understood? Can you see a situation from their perspective as well as your own? I know it’s hard, sometimes really hard and “unfair”.

Your spouse never held the “office” of being married to you before saying “I do”. If you can remember that then maybe you can forgive some of those broken campaign promises.

Proverbs 3:13 Joyful is the person who finds wisdom, the one who gains understanding.