This time is a story written by Marije Roos (connecting2life trainer) about a situation she had with her daughter:
It’s inevitable as a parent, (ex)partner, sister, daughter, or friend- I’ll do things that hurt other people. Even when I am trying so hard not to. The last thing I want is to hurt people!
Especially my children. As a parent, I do many, many things I regret. I want to acknowledge how hard that is, how painful…
All I want is the well-being of my children. I want to contribute to making them feel safe and loved. It’s so heartbreaking when I do something that causes pain in them, so in such moments my habit is to immediately say: “I am sorry.” I wish all is forgotten and will never happen again…. but that doesn’t seem to be the case. The damage is done.
I also encounter this in couples mediations, where for example, one of them says: “Yes okay, I said things that were painful, but it’s so clear I was angry, I didn’t mean it… I said sorry, what more do you want?”
“What else can I do? I said sorry already. Now it’s time for them to get over it.”
How to get over it? What can we do to create healing between us when hurt is done?
Below is a story of me and my (7 year old) daughter:
Healing the hurt:
For a few weeks my daughter was saying “I have a pain in my heart”. I asked her what was going on with her heart. Her father listened to her heartbeat. I asked if she was sad, or if something happened, or was it something physical? She didn’t know.
One evening, when I tucked her into bed, she revealed,“You and daddy are always screaming at me!” she was crying.
At this moment all of me was pulled to react, to say something along the lines of “That is not true! I am asking you to put your pajamas on and if you don’t seem to hear me after three times, I just raise my voice!”
Instead, I swallowed my words. I slowed down. I connected to my breath. I told myself “She is in pain, and she wants to be heard.”
So I shut up and I listened.
“Yes, are we always screaming at you?” I echoed her words back to her. “YES,” she cried! “And then I think you don’t love me. And that you don’t want me to be here.”
Another moment for me to slow down. To breathe and do nothing. I put my listening ears towards myself, and I listened to what was going on in my own head: “I find it so hard to hear that she thinks we don’t love her!! How can she think that! Oh dear!” I felt my own guilt creeping in: “I should never scream or get angry ever again. I really want to reassure her. And I so want to care for her and let her know she is welcome and loved.”
Again, I swallowed my words and calmed my urge to reassure her, with the inner clarity that her need now was to be listened to and not to be reassured.
She continued sharing her pain with me. I listened. I took her pain in. I acknowledged how hard it was for her.
Until she was out of words. Then she smiled at me and hugged me.
She said: “Mama, I feel so free. It’s as if my heart is over there”, and she pointed her arms as far away from her body as she could, “and it’s dancing and singing over there”, while she wiggled with her fingers.
I felt so touched seeing how relieving it seemed to be for her “just” being listened to.
No apologizing, no reassuring, just for her to share what was on her heart.
I then told her how much I love her and how happy I am that she is with us. I remember her smile, and our hug.
To be able to hear the pain of my daughter, I needed to have a very strong inner clarity that I didn’t do anything “wrong”. I nearly fell into the guilt of “I am a bad parent. I suck. I’ll never learn”.
I really see it as a trap. Once I’m in it, I roll in a loop of self-judgements and I keep creating the same reactions. And the sad thing is that when I am full of my self-judgements I have very little inner space to hear her pains and judgements towards me, while all she seemed to long for was to be heard.
And yes, of course I wish I had never yelled and stimulated pain in her. Yet I want to remember that there was a beautiful (!) reason why I yelled. Even if I regret it now with all my heart, in that moment I was soooo tired and longed for rest. The sort of rest that gives me a new energy to care for my children (and myself) the day after. And I want to care for my children so that they will feel safe with me. I mourn my yelling and I feel compassion towards myself and my reasons behind it.
When I listen to my daughter, I listen and “enjoy her pain” . I don’t mean literally that I like that she has pain, I mean that I wanted to take in her words, to let myself feel how it is to be in her shoes, to be touched by her experience.
And when she is fully, fully heard then there might be space in her to hear me. Space for me to express my regret and why I did what I did.
I find that timing is so crucial here. I am happy I didn’t force her to share when she was not ready or didn’t feel safe enough yet . And I am happy I did not force her to hear me when she was still searching for a way to express her pain.
I don’t want to go through life and try to be perfect (and judge myself, because I never am). When I do stimulate hurt in another, I want to hear the beauty in myself and in the other, and heal the hurt between us to create connection again, and again, and again.
With much hope for empathy and healing,