Death has a way of focusing us. Whether it is expected or sudden, the uniqueness and permanence of it make other concerns feel less important. The heightened emotions around death make Resilience Skills especially important.
My stepfather Vic died two weeks ago. As each of my six siblings/step-siblings experienced his death quite differently, I needed the Connecting Skill of Heartfelt Listening to help me navigate my family dynamics, rather than judging, problem-solving, or trying to come up with a response.
Heartfelt Listening involves focusing on understanding what the other person is feeling or experiencing.
This tender time was tricky as we tried to avoid family landmines planted long ago. I tried to make space for each person to express what they were feeling. Some siblings had tremendous shock and sadness, feeling deprived of the healing they had been searching for from adverse childhood experiences. Another sibling who also mostly viewed the event through the lens of her childhood was more distant and may have done her mourning long ago. Other siblings were caught up in trying to ensure family members felt welcome and valued.
Heartfelt Listening creates a deeper connection that can soften grief. I felt this and I think my family members felt it as well. I admit I wasn’t completely successful — at one point I had to walk outside to “cool down” in the 90 degree heat! But self-empathy helps me forgive myself when my Protective Patterns emerge.
For me, I knew Vic’s declining body needed a release and that he was fortunate to have 96 years with lots of love and joy along with the challenges that life inevitably brings. If we are lucky, when someone we love dies, we have an opportunity for a deeper connection with friends and family as we gather to mourn together. Vic, timing, and our Resilience Skills gave us that opportunity.
May you also have Heartfelt Listening when you need it.