I am a very empathic person. When I hear someone speak of something traumatic, or see people upset, I struggle not to get emotional. I feel their pain.
I’ve been running a ladies group for a few months. Today, the group was smaller, there were four of us. The smaller groups tend to be easier to talk within. They are very different and diverse ladies, different lives, experiences. I love hearing their stories and thinking.
Two ladies today, I had a feeling were going through something, and I knew one lady had been having a tough time. So, when she arrived, I gently said I was glad she was here and I had been thinking of her. I could tell she was very appreciative that I had remembered previous conversations and was asking her if she was okay.
Today, the conversation was heavier than normal. This lady I had been concerned for, shared her battle with depression and being suicidal.I could hear both the relief to have a group safe enough to share within, but also the pain in her voice and face, body language.
I didn’t want to get too emotional, because I wanted to remain controlled and be able to react appropriately.
Then another lady I had been concerned for, shared her husband committed suicide. Many years ago, but again I could feel the pain and grieving. I know and understand, grieving can go on a long time, and that’s okay.
It took everything I had, not to fill up with tears. I really struggled, but I managed it. I could feel them there, but managed to keep controlled.
I listened to both of these ladies, their experiences, their emotions, how terribly hard this was for both of them. I leaned in, nodded and validated how hard this all is. I had that ‘watching myself from outside of myself’ experience I can now have, to monitor how I am reacting and seeing how others may be experiencing my reactions, facial expressions, words, tone etc. I wanted to make sure, I was responding, in the most appropriate way I could.
I wanted these ladies to know, it is okay and safe to share. I was also very vigilant for any inappropriate reactions, and was thankful the ladies all responded well.
I didn’t let on that I know the pain of feeling suicidal. But, I did confirm I know depression, and that journey is hard. I spoke of starting a degree in counselling/psychology maybe next year. I wanted them to know I have insight into mental health and I am compassionate.
I am still careful about how much of my empathy I divulge. (I don’t want to attract the emotional vampires, so I sit in the middle of the continuum – not devoid of empathy, but not at the other end – showing the extent of my empathic personality).
Both these ladies, voiced their gratitude for being able to talk, in a non judgmental, understanding group. I re-iterated that I wanted everyone here, to feel safe to talk.
The conversation didn’t remain about the heavy issues, it did move on to lighter conversation and we had laughs and some fun too. Each of us, has spent a decent period of time, living in a different country and that was fascinating conversation. I love listening to other people’s interesting life experiences.
I am so thankful I have set this group up. Each person in the group really benefits, in a variety of different ways. For that, I am truly grateful and so glad I decided to go through with setting up this group.
~ Lilly Hope Lucario
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