Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Grief Ledge

I read an article two years ago called "Living on The Ledge" by Joanne Lutz, Founder of the The Consciousness Collaborative.  I never forgot about it when I read it.  It was powerful to me then and now even more so.  "The Ledge" can be anything for us.  A relationship ledge.  A work ledge.  A marriage ledge.  A loss of any kind ledge.  For me, I want to refer to it as my grief ledge.  Here is a link to the article:

......And here is what Joanne wrote:

"When I was in my 20's I had a friend who would call periodically for me to "talk her down off the ledge."  This was code language for "please listen to how I feel and help me to make sense of what's happening in my life."  When I felt on the edge, I called her with the same plea.  Every once in a while, though, I could sense in her voice a mirror of my own's hard work to be responsible to bring someone back to safety.

Ever received one of these calls?  A friend who's struggling with her husband; your brother who feels oppressed by his boss; or your child afraid that not going to the best college is going to be the end of the world...and when the call comes...what do you do?

If you're feeling as I did, your mission appears clear.  Get him or her in out of the cold and into the safety nest only you can provide.  So, off we go, how to accomplish this:

Option 1)  Fix it!  Find a way to solve the problem or explain how easily he/she can solve the problem by just...hmm...let's pause for a moment here.  How do you feel when someone tries to tell you how easy it is to "fix" your problem "if you would just..."  I don't know about you, but my teeth start grinding and I tune them right out.

Okay, let's move on to
Option 2)  Pat on the head.  "Oh, it will be okay, don't worry.  It will all work out.  You're getting all worked up for nothing."  Actually, for me this one is worse than fix it.  For me, it feels completely condescending when someone tells me not to feel what I feel.  Clearly, no one is listening in this scenario.

Option 3)  Help dig the hole that the jumper will land in.  This is a case of "yes-ing" someone to death.  Agreeing with all of the injustices, how the world is against them, and "the man" has really got control.  You can almost imagine yourself watching Dexter and every so often picking the phone up to say, "yeah, I hear ya."  Uggh!

In my 30's I experienced a paradigm shift relating to these calls.  While the plea might be "talk me down from the ledge," the true request is: "hang out on the ledge with me and be present."  This rights the universe on its axis; because, being present means there's nothing to do.  I can sit on the metaphorical ledge with hot chocolate and a blanket, and know that my grounded presence creates an invitation for my friend to find his own ground.  By listening, being genuine, noticing the patterns of what I hear, and tapping into my authentic curiosity, there is no action to take, nothing to fix, no one to rescue.

I encourage you to give ledge-living a try, rather than attempting to talk someone down off of it.  This respectful exchange builds intimacy - even when it feels hard or scary.  The connection to yourself and other becomes clean and clear, as each person remains responsible for her own feelings...his own journey. 

Looking forward to warm nights on the ledge,

This article resonates with me to my core.  It explains why I have been feeling the way I have been feeling.  LonelyScaredShaky GroundOn edge.   It is a lonely journey sitting on the ledge overlooking the grief view feeling the way I have been feeling.  

We have received good intentions by people, meaning well by responding with the options shared above.   I know in my heart that they really do try to say or do the right thing.   I have been told recently that they don't even realize that they are hurting me, which makes me even more sad.  These responses are wearing me down.  I see this now.  They're not lifting me up nor do they help me to be the best version of myself.

The grief ledge is a scary place.  No one enters the ledge willingly!  I entered it and have been sitting on it because I was forced to.  I had no choice!!!  I have been sitting on my grief ledge for over a year.  Roberto sits there too.  We are there for each other, keeping each other company.  We get visitors.  At random, infrequent times.  The best times are when it is unsolicited.  We treasure all of the moments with our visitors!!  It takes a great amount of courage to sit on our grief ledge with us.  To be still and silent and just be.  To hold our hand or give us a hug.  To see the view from our perspective which is terrifying.  To feel the vulnerability of death and all of what that encompasses.  To face your own mortality.  So thank you to those of you came to visit me and Roberto on our grief ledge.  I welcome you to sit with us for as long or as little as you can.  I will be there for my own mortal eternity. 

My hope sharing all of this is that the next time you encounter a friend or a loved one that has had a loss as significant as mine, that you will have a better understanding on how to 'be there' for them.  That opinions, judgements, and criticisms are not effective.  All well intended, but moot.  That what one truly needs is simply your presence.

1 comment:

  1. Nicely done Aimee!

    I refer to these folks as "ninnies" and their comments as "ninnyisms". I don't think they mean to harm but they don't know what to say and yet still feel obligated to say something. Words are powerful, they are hurtful. I actually created my top ten list and my husband and I rotate them as the mood hits.

    My favorite this week: "At least you have another son."