Apifera Farm - where art, story, animals & woman merge. Home to artist Katherine Dunn

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Sunday, November 21, 2021

How to be amongst the greiving-slip off your needs at the door

I think I've learned a lot about how to be amongst the sad and weary with my elder work, and I guess part of it is also innate, but like any human, I have daily lessons to learn about how to speak...and as importantly, when not to speak. The latter is harder for us humans.

I know for myself, sometimes I want to fill up a sad space with fun words, and I am very good at making people laugh. I'm learning about how my 'pleaser' MO has effected many things in my life - like choosing people I can not please to come on in. But of late I've learned, as this poem so well articulates, that one should not let the moment be about them, it is about letting the grieving or dying person speak [or not]. Or perhaps they just want to sit with you and let you witness their sadness. They aren't seeking advice [unless they ask] they just want a hand to touch their shoulder and make them feel 'I understand you are sad'.

One pattern I see online, a lot, is when someone posts about...let's use a pet as an example....someone posts that their dog has died and they express their feelings about why they are sad. And then a whole bunch of people [not all of them] post their own stories about their dead pets and how sad it made them when they died. There is nothing horrible about this, but I've learned, having done it myself!!, that this is not being present for the grieving person who wrote the post. There is probably a time and place to share stories of our own.

When I post about the death of an animal, or one in hospice, I don't take the messages like that as selfish, I just know they have not learned the skill of being present with the grieving, and it is a skill. And before the skill, one has to be aware they are doing it. It took me awhile! And I still stumble.

I did this recently, not with someone who was dying, but with someone who fell and has a TBI. It was a bad one. Much worse than what I went through. But instead of just encouraging them, or telling them I was their in spirit, I had to add that 'when I had mine, it took a long time to recover blah blah blah'. I was 'thinking' I was sharing a common understanding of how scary TBI's are. But maybe it just was not the right time or place to say it. No harm was done, but when I saw this poem I had saved, it made me realize this being present, and leaving your own bags at the door, can be applied to more than the grieving.

I will continue to hone this skill, and probably slip up here and there.


Carol Kitchell said...

What a beautiful poem, Katherine! Thank you for sharing it. It can, indeed, be difficult not to step into another's emotional atmosphere with our own stories, instead of being willing to just hold space and bear witness to their grief or sadness. We think we're sharing in a spirit of comradery, but we're really wanting to tell our own stories. If the person asks me about my experiences in an effort to help themselves get their compass points realigned, I answer as truthfully as I can. Great post!

Katherine Dunn/Apifera Farm said...

Carol, you have said it so perfectly! Thank you!

Barbara said...

Katherine, thank you for sharing this. It is something I needed to hear on this specific day and hopefully I will be a better support because of it.

Katherine Dunn/Apifera Farm said...

I'm so glad it was a teaching moment Barbara, we can all learn from this for sure

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Thank you for reading! The farm and my art/writing keep me hopping, so might not respond immediately. Thank you for understanding. ~Katherine & Apifera ~