I was really enjoying our budding friendship when suddenly it came to a holt.
We were spending hours together waiting for our boys’ baseball practice while we pushed our little girls on the swings. Then the elephant appeared.
“Did you know this playground was named after a little girl who died? I can’t imagine losing a child,” she said.
She wasn’t prepared for my reply.
“I can; I did. Her name was Rebecca, too.”
My new friend’s sudden need to leave the park was an obvious indication to me that she was uncomfortable talking about matters of the heart. This wasn’t the first time the knowledge of my loss had created an awkward moment in a conversation. But this time our entire relationship dropped. For the remainder of the ball season, the most she would say to me was, “Hello, I can’t stay today.”
Most people would rather avoid emotional discussions–unless they are the one who needs to talk it out.
At that point I still needed support with my grief. And making myself vulnerable only to be shut down so abruptly reinforced my fear of vulnerability. I’m sure that fear is also what drove the baseball mom away, because I have been on the side of not knowing what to say as well.
Like when another friend was coming out of addiction rehab. I thought it was most helpful to act as if she had never gone away for help. I thought talking about it might make her feel shame, so I never acknowledged her challenge in re-entering her world. My fears only made her feel estranged from me.
We all have feelings of inadequacy when we want to fix, control, or even understand other people’s problems, but really, our attempts are only insulting anyway, don’t you think? I think we would have less awkward moments if we would just let go of our fears and focus on each other’s needs. Women shouldn’t be afraid of emotions. After all, tears are the glue that bonds our hearts together.
“Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” Romans 12:15
If you are facing some awkward moments and are feeling inadequate to help a friend, I want to encourage you to be brave enough to ask about the elephant in the room and let her share her heart. You don’t have to understand it or fix it and you have no right to control it. Perhaps it’s time to leave the problems in God’s hands and simply validate the challenge and offer support. When we believe in someone facing a challenge we show them two things: respect and the assurance that they are not alone.
Catrina Welch is an inspirational author and speaker whose personal experience with overcoming rejection, betrayal and loss–as well as her expertise as a cosmetologist, image consultant and Biblical life-coach–is empowering women to BE and LET BE.
Her latest book, CONFIDENT BEAUTY: Reflecting the One Who Made You, with the Images in your Mirror and in your Soul, is now available in your favorite bookstores. Autographed copies of all her books are available on her website at www.CatrinaWelch.com