Being with My Daughter's Pain

As my children grow older and their consciousness changes I feel like I'm learning to be be with them in different ways - what comforted and brought us together before sometimes seems to have the opposite effect. As my daughter's inner world opens more to her and she makes her own steps in the world, being with her during her upsets has had its challenges for me. The dance of creating a safe space for her to feel and allow her emotions to move through and the desire for her suffering (and mine) to be over has been been uncoordinated at best.

Anna Gartshore is a Canadian psychotherapist who has been helpful in giving me some perspective on my relationship with my daughter than you may find helpful too.

Label, Affirm, Validate.

Here's an example:

My daughter is cross and says, "You like Diego more than me." Before I would say, "Sweetheart, no no no this isn't true I love you both the same …..etc etc."   It didn't help and often seemed to make things worse. 

I've been doing my experiential research to see what I notice when I bring these elements Anna shared keeping in mind her age and stage in development.

First I find my Self, "Earth to Mama!" - feel my feet on the ground and my breath and remind myself, "she always finds her way". Then I match her state and take a guess at what it might feel like to think that/believe what she said. "I imagine it would feel really sad and alone to believe that." And then wait. In the past I would not go here because I would imagine that that would make it worse but surprisingly it doesn't. 

I am amazed at what effect just being present with myself and her has … not trying to change anything but really being there. I'm not saying it's easy just that I'm amazed! lol

Anna helped me realize that she still needs me to know and in the process help her know what she is feeling as she doesn't have all the language for it.  I see her relax as I sense into her and validate what's happening internally. I feel like I can stand with her in any space now much more than before (without wanting to distract/change the subject/get away!). It's far from perfect all the time and unfolds as it does each time but it feels more in alignment with how I want to be with her. Thanks Anna!