Listening is a Healing Skill

Posted on April 16, 2013

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The tragedy at the Boston Marathon is haunting and illustrates our fragile existence. Helping those who experienced the explosions to heal may only be a matter of listening.

Someone who has experienced a tragic event or who is worn out by on-going challenges needs a listening ear.

This lesson hit me after an especially intense four-year period where I dealt with the challenges of teen pregnancy, alcoholism, and handling degrees of mental illness in our home.

I had difficulty going to large gatherings, especially our church that is a congregation of 4,000 people. I was greeted with the typical, “Hi Don, how are you?” I began to recoil and wanted to disappear because I couldn’t answer that question. I wanted to tell someone what was on my mind and what I experienced each day but no one had time nor were they interested.

They needed to get going to the adult Sunday school class or on to the service. A large church is tied to a schedule and I found myself frustrated by an inability to communicate and I began to withdraw.

I then found benefit in attending counseling for the first time in my life because I had a full hour to speak to someone who was skilled at asking me questions and guiding me in processing all that was in my head.

And then a friend took me to lunch and I talked for over two hours and he listened empathetically.

I began taking morning walks with someone else and had a chance to simply speak without an agenda and just to process the complexity of moving one kid out of the house, and deciding whether to let another one back in, and raising a granddaughter and what it was like to do so at age forty-five.

Listening helped and was important in helping me heal.

You may not meet someone who was personally in Boston at the time of the explosion. There are tragedies occurring in our neighborhoods, cities, and towns regularly. Do your part in helping someone heal from a tragedy.

Simply give them time and space to talk. And listen to what they have to say.

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