Learning to Listen
the mother tried to make her daughter feel better, to reassure her, to dismiss her fears
Recently, I read a blog posting from a mother whose young daughter has breast cancer. She sounded like a loving and supportive mother, and her writing touched me deeply.
She wrote about the comfort we receive from being listened to. Sometimes, she said, her daughter wanted to talk about her deepest fears: her fear of death, her fear of leaving her little son behind, her fear of illness and pain. In each case, the mother tried to make her daughter feel better, to reassure her, to dismiss her fears. At the time, she believed that was the best thing she could do for the daughter she loved more than herself.
Now, though, she believes that she would behave differently. She would let her daughter speak without interruption, without trying to find reassurance or an answer or a solution. There are no answers or solutions; both women knew that. How liberating would it be for both to acknowledge that fact and talk about what worried them most?
I remember a time when I was very sick and had no idea of what the future held for me and my family. My sister was driving me back from a chemo session and I felt particularly miserable and vulnerable. “What are you afraid of most,” she asked me? I told her about my worries – mostly that I couldn’t imagine how my husband and children would survive without me. She listened for a long time. “Don’t worry” she said. “Everything will be fine because if you are not here, I will stay behind to take care of them all.”
What a relief to hear her say that! She didn’t tell me that I would be fine, that chemo would work, that I would live to be ninety years old. She didn’t tell me those things because she didn’t know. The only thing she knew was that she would be there for my family if I weren’t around. She was honest.