This blog has a title that dates back to an incident with my husband’s psychiatrist. At the end of our conversation, when I thanked him for listening to me, he replied, “You needed to be heard.” His acknowledgement that this issue had to be addressed was huge for me. I left his office with my husband and realized that I had a title for the blog I was working on publishing. That exchange created a bridge of trust with me. I would need that trust as the years went on.
That one incident opened me up to a new understanding of how validation through truly hearing with the heart and mind can alter someone’s life path. A good decade or so later our exchange still stands out in my mind. That doc really took the time to hear, respond, and accept my truth.
Having said all of this, I’d like to share more on this subject as it relates to another healing moment in my life.
Something happened to me after Jon’s death that was so hurtful I had to put it on the back burner for two years. I won’t share what happened because to do so would expose several people who, to this day, think they did a really great thing. It wasn’t a great thing. In 2019 I began to address that hurtful act. It took one year to completely resolve the issue. It wasn’t fun, and I’m glad it’s over.
The catch—and there always is a catch—is that I had a well of pain that was connected to people’s behavior towards me. That wasn’t so easy to wipe out of my mind, or to repair. The reason why is that several misguided people thought that they were helping me in my loss when they were, in fact, doing great damage. The key to the resolution was, and is, gaining enough perspective over time to be able to step back and decide how to best handle the matter.
This is complex in that telling someone what they’ve done isn’t always the best resolution for them. They most likely won’t view the event in the same way that you do, or have the insight to think it through. You might come up against strong resistance when explaining how hurtful such actions are. I tested things out with one of the parties involved. This person couldn’t understand why I was so angry. I realized that it was not productive to force the issue.
The rage and pain were very much present. What can you do in a situation like this?
Death rearranges the address book. In my case, Jon’s death did a grand Viennese Waltz through the pages of my book. People who I believed to be friends disappeared. Family who couldn’t cope with my new reality disappeared. It left me staring at once-full pages wondering how—and if—I could rebuild with new people in my life. It served as a witness that grief, and the lack of comfort others have with it, brings great pain
s to those who must walk through the lonely terrain.
Fortunately, I’ve begun to build a community of new friends who view life as I do. I’ve paid a steep price for these new beginnings. It was towards this new group of people, who are becoming friends, that I turned, seeking a listening ear. But I needed more than just a listening ear; I needed to be fully heard. I found that person. I was heard in a genuine and caring manner. It allowed me to let go.
Not being heard can cause someone to become stuck in the quagmire of pain, loss, anger, trauma, disappointment, and so many other things that I won’t list here. Not being fully heard can cause us, as humans, to shut things down, to cling so tightly to the pain in our souls that we can’t find the ladder out of the quagmire.
Being heard—and truly hearing another person—may require that we face some painful places in our own souls while accompanying them through a darkness they want out of.
Being heard means opening ears and stopping the responding and questioning, in order to allow for understanding. Hearing and being heard involve authentic empathy from the person doing the hearing. It is a skill.
I am by no means perfect at doing this. Sometimes I blow it. When I realize I’ve blown the “hearing,” I go back, apologize, and work even harder at doing a better job during the next hearing.
If you’ve been fully heard, you understand that one of the feelings that opens up for a person in this process is liberation! We are liberated from our burden, the trauma, the pain, the struggle of the choice we’re making—we’re set free to explore new and colorful options. Maybe we are enabled to take that first step on a road to someplace new. This hearing might allow us to stop the repeating “sound bite blasting” in our heads about what we could—or should—have done.
Being heard entirely is a gift. It is one that we unwrap with joy, understanding that it is not as common as it should be. It frees our spirits, calling us forward to new ground. It opens us to new relationships of understanding and trust. When we engage in the power of complete hearing, it changes us because our views and hearts are altered. We can no longer choose to unhear or not see what we’ve become a witness to. Each time a person is truly heard, it changes the world.