A friend called me recently with an update on her recent back surgery. After many years of deep, systemic pain she has found relief through major back surgery. Living with such pain, and going through such a delicate (albeit somewhat routine?) surgery, she has been though a lot in recent weeks. She was sharing with me how she was feeling. She talked about a revelation she had about some chiropractic care over the years which now appears to have been poorly guided. This filled her with some valid feelings of anger, sadness, frustration and grief. She was particularly angry with her chiropractor and voiced some of that with me. I had been listening, but chose to respond focusing more on “getting her back” to grateful — celebrating the wonderful relief, not focusing on the years of pain from which she might have found earlier relief had it been more properly diagnosed by her chiropractor. I’ve learned to stay in the moment and not dwell on things in the past, over which we have no control nor are we able to change.
I could hear the disappointment in her voice.
She is a very emotionally mature, balanced person with a LOT of experience at living in the moment — probably more so than I do. She wasn’t looking for problem solving – she was looking for empathy. She wasn’t going to dwell on her misery, or allow a resentment to build. But, she was needing some validation before she could move on. Knowing and trusting me as a friend, she was making herself vulnerable by sharing her pain – knowing that only in living through it could she find true healing.
I caught myself – almost instinctively hearing her inner voice say “No, T – you weren’t listening. Really – you weren’t LISTENING.”
I played back what I had heard her express — frustration, disappointment, and some regret. I let her know that she may be right – her doctor may have very well cost her years of relief. I empathized with her anger.
And almost immediately I could hear relief in her voice. Then tension in her voice that peaked when I talked past her need dissipated. She relaxed. I could hear her nodding, grateful to find needed empathy.
Then, as I should have known she would, she picked herself up and moved on. She focused back on the gratitude, the relief, the freedom from pain. She was able to let go a little more of her past, and move forward in her healing.
I’m grateful for friends like D. who walk with me, share their whole selves with me and encourage my growth even amidst their own pain. She is an amazing woman and a trusted friend.
Yes D., I heard you…and finally listened! Thanks for being patient with me.
- When to See a Doctor for Severe Back Pain (everydayhealth.com)