Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Bearing Burdens

Bearing Burdens Through Validation and Empathy 



As a single member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who has no children and works in a helping profession, I’m often shocked when members don’t know how to effectively help with my pain.  I often ask myself, “Don’t they know how to use validation and empathy?” I’ve concluded sadly that sometimes the answer is, No!    
We covenanted to bear each other’s burdens at baptism.1 Through our assignments and callings we are also sheep and shepherds.  The Shepherd knows his sheep!2  Elder L. Whitney Clayton has said, “Life presses all kinds of burdens on each of us, some light, but others relentless and heavy. People struggle every day under burdens that tax their souls. Many of us struggle under such burdens.  They can be emotionally or physically ponderous. They can be worrisome, oppressive, and exhausting. And they can continue for years.”3 
I believe it is wise to know how to gracefully handle others’ trials, challenges and burdens. It has been said, “Duty makes us do things well, but love makes us do things beautifully.” Our goal is to try and see with a spiritual perspective.  As a single, adult sister whose burden has lasted for decades, I have been frustrated as ward members, and some in leadership roles, have seemingly dismissed my pain. While their intentions were to help, they caused more heartache and I’ve sometimes concluded I could not go again to them for comfort.  
One Sunday I sat in class crying; I was so upset I left the room.  A sister came out to find me and after telling her my woes, she responded, “Everyone has problems.” While this statement is true, it felt dismissive of my feelings.  One would never say to someone with cancer, “Lots of people have cancer.” Another unhelpful question was, “Is the glass half full or half empty?” What I was looking for was someone who would listen and care.  They did not “cheer up the sad and make me feel glad.”4 
I have tried to get my pain across to a priesthood leader and all he could say was “There are worse things than being single. Just keep reading your scriptures and going to church.”  Yes, there are worse things, but for me this is my Abrahamic trial: I have been reading my scriptures consistently since I was 16 and have always been faithful in my church attendance.  Those suggestions did not help me. What I wanted to hear was, “I know this is hard for you.  I know you wanted this badly.  Things are hard right now, but slowly it will get better.  You know how to make that happen.  I have faith in you and we will be there for you.”  
It’s hard for the hurting person to take the time to articulate the magnitude of the loss and longing. It’s also challenging for the receiver to just listen without interrupting and without finding simple solutions.  When a hurting person is not heard, it is easy to feel like a lost sheep no one knows how to rescue.  The lost sheep may get louder, hoping someone will hear, or it may give up and be silent.  Sometimes I’ve felt that I must go through this trial on my own.  
At BYU Women’s Conference Sharon Eubank, First Counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency, talked about how Relief Society healed her of the heavy grief of being single and childless because the sisters “acknowledged emotionally” that she was still a creator.5 They validated her feelings and worth.   
Validation should be employed at first contact.   We all have people who we go to when we have struggles.  For me those people are the ones who know how to validate, and never dismiss or demean me.   Validation means substantiating, confirming, or giving legal force to a concern. Having someone confirm that your pain is real can be liberating. Validation gives a clear message that you are heard, seen, and cared about: it puts the hurting person at ease, feeling they are in safe hands, and it shows compassion. 
Here are some examples of validating statements:
– That must have made you feel angry.
– What a frustrating situation!
– It must hurt to have someone do that.
– That’s so difficult for you.
– Wow, how hard that must be.
– Yeah, I can see how that might make you feel sad.
– What a horrible feeling.
– That must be really discouraging.
– I bet you feel disappointed.
– I know how much that meant to you.
– That’s so painful for you. 
– That is hard!  I’m so sorry! 
– I can’t image! You are such a good person!  
– How are you handling this?  Do you have someone to talk to? 
– That doesn’t seem fair.  
If you want a validating statement to feel “true” make it about the truth of the situation for the other person. The truth is the way they feel about the event rather than the way you think or feel about the event.   

The following is a list of examples that do not validate.  
– Make it about you. “When that happened to me...”
– Try to one-up the person. “Oh, you think you have it bad...”
– Tell them how they should feel. “You should feel blessed.”
– Tell them what to do. “What you really should do…”
– Try to solve their problem. “I’m going to call that girl’s parents…”
– Cheerlead (there is a time for this, but not now). “I know you can do it…”
– Make “life” statements. “Well, life’s not fair…”
– Make judgmental statements. “What you did was wrong…”
– Make “revisionist” statements. “If you had only…”
– Make it about your feelings. “How do you think that makes me feel?”
– Make “character” statements. “You’re too sensitive…”
– Rationalize another person’s behavior. “I bet they were just…”
– Call names. “You’re such a baby.”
– Correct the “facts.” “That’s not what happened…”
– Use “always” or “never” statements. “You always get yourself into these situations…”
– Compare the person to someone else. “Why can’t you be like your sister?”
– Label the person. “You’re nuts.”
– Advising to cut ties or ignore the situation. “Just ignore him.”
6 
The focus should be about feelings, not the situation. To address feelings, it is useful to use emotional language, not rational or judgmental language - and you need to be sincere about what you are saying.  
After validation comes empathy.  Empathy comes easy to some, perhaps as a spiritual gift, but the skill can be learned.  Do not mistake empathy with sympathy. Empathy is the psychological identification with or vicarious experiences of the feelings, thoughts or attitudes of another. The Savior is the perfect example of empathy.   Sympathy is simpler and less effective in helping others.  It includes impulses of compassion but one does not need to “walk in their shoes” to understand.  
An excellent article about anxiety, in the March 2017 Ensign, included a list of what to say and not to say to those who suffer.  These tips and hints are useful for all kinds of troubles when dealing with others.  My favorite is what it says about empathy, “Be genuine. Listen in order to understand their feelings, appreciate why they struggle, and communicate what you understand. Empathy is the most effective quality of counseling.”  
Even animals have empathy. Perhaps you’ve had a pet that knows when you are sad or sick and will stay by your side?   There is a video of elephants at a zoo showing empathy.   A baby elephant is stuck in a small ravine with water and is trying to get out.  It tries three times, nearly making it each time, but cannot seem to do it on its own.  A bigger elephant moves closer to the scene and stands there for a few seconds watching.  This is sympathy.  Then the bigger elephant gets down in the ravine and somehow gets the smaller elephant up and out of the situation.  This is empathy.  This elephant got it. As Linda K. Burton taught in October conference of 2012, He observed and then he served. 
I have people in my life who ‘stand by’ but have not been in the trenches with me.  While they are there, I sometimes feel they are only humoring me.  I do not want to do life alone.  I would like emotional support.  Sympathy is a pat on the back, while empathy is a long warm embrace.  As someone who is touch deprived, I long for these embraces.  
While it has been over twenty years since my college days, my roommates are still some of my best confidants.  No matter how long it has been since we spoke, visited in person, how many children they have, or the difficulty of their own challenges, they are willing to listen. They share their own trials of parenting but never paint the picture that I have it easier.  They validate well and show empathy.  I know they love me. They have never dismissed my trial. One friend is still praying for me.  Their empathy fuels the flame of connection that has lasted over the many years and thousands of miles.  
Theresa Wiseman, a nurse researcher has learned that empathy has four parts.  
1.     Perspective taking, recognizing the other’s feelings as their truth.  
2.     Staying out of judgment. 
3.     Recognizing the emotion.  
4.     Communicating that emotion.7  
Theresa has identified what my college roommates do. When trying to help, counsel, and shepherd we should connect with something in ourselves that understands that feeling.  Maybe you don’t have that person’s trial, but perhaps another situation in your life might have caused you the same emotion.  That is bearing each other’s burdens. While I’ve never been pregnant, I have felt loss for a miscarriage, a stillborn birth or the death of a child. I have wept with a sister as she shared with me the early arrival and death of her last child.  These, and other situations, are human experiences. Please imagine that it is you in the trial and then you will be able to help. Elder Clayton tells us,  “Those who offer such assistance to others stand on holy ground. In explaining this, the Savior taught: 
“When saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? 
“When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? 
“Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? 
“And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”8 
Joseph B. Wirthlin taught, “as we bear one another’s burdens, we fulfill the law of Christ.9  It is my hope that as members of the true church we will know how to succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees, like the Savior, who knows how to succor them according to their infirmities.”10  
I’m thankful for people who, although they are not single and childless, “Get it!” It is my hope that all of us will “get” whatever trial our friends, family, and ward members are facing. When we do, and as we validate and empathize, we can better help them get through their everyday challenges and trials. 


1 Mosiah 18:8 
2 John 10:14 
3 “That Your Burdens May Be Light,” L. Whitney Clayton, General Conference Oct 2009 
4 Hymn # 223 Have I Done Any Good?  
5 “Relief Society—Divinely Ordained of God,” BYU Women’s Conference, May 5, 2017 
6 When Hope is Not Enough, by Bon Dobbs, pg. 103-104 
7 Theresa Wisemans, A Concept Analyst of Empathy,  Journal of Advanced Nursing 23(6):1162 - 1167 · June 1996 
8 Elder L. Whitney Clayton, That their Burden’s Maybe Light, Oct 2011 
9 Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, The great commandment Nov 2007 and Gal 6:2 
10 D&C 81:5 and Alma 7:12 Emphasis is my own. 


Saturday, August 29, 2015

An answer

It's been almost a year since I've written in this blog.  Yesterday I wrote in one of my other blogs about prayer and praying angry. 10 people read it.  One commented on Facebook. 

I went to Stake Conference tonight with mom. I was so afraid it was going to be about "family".  General Conference was and I put that away not reading it while I was waiting. 

But something happened tonight.

I'm not happy about my life. 

But here's what's happened.  One of the counselors in the stake presidency talked about "service".  I started to cry, not about that but about this answer I so want to give me hope that I would get married some day.  Something from the temple or a blessing to keep me going.  The thought that came to me was "Am I going to live my life any differently if I don't get the answer/prompting?"  and the answer is no.  No, I'm not.  I'll keep doing the right things even though I don't know how I'm going to do it.  So, that's my answer, my prompting of sorts.  I'm going to keep doing the right things even though I may not get what I want.  

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

from my stake's blog: a post about me.

Courage.  What is it and how do we get it?  I believe we get it from doing. From going forward when you really want to give up.
My name is Becky.  I’m 42, unmarried with no children.  I was raised in a family of 7 kids where all 6 of my siblings have anywhere from 3 to 6 kids.  I have dogs instead.  Actually, yesterday (august 23rd)  I acted in courage by myself with no support and had one of my dogs put down.  He was old and very sick.  So now I’m just a one-dog dog owner.   Hard at the time, but as the days pass, it will just be a memory of a few minutes.  What is hard is keeping going on alone.
My family of origin is unique.  My parents are 17 years apart.  Mom married the first guy who kissed her at age 21.  Dad was 39.   He fasted from food for 2 weeks only drinking water to petition the Lord for a wife and family.  He got it.  I once tried fasting for 2.5 days and had dysentery!   He had five kids close together and then due to a cord wrapped around baby number 5, they quit multiplying and replenishing for 9 years until Joseph Fielding Smith said in Priesthood Session at General Conference “don’t block up the well springs of life”.  Dad was a follow the prophet kind of guy, so as I like to say came home and had a “talk” with Mom and 15 months later I was born. Dad was 55 when I was born. Not wanting me to be an only child of sorts they had my sister 18 months later.   Due to the age difference in siblings, I became an aunt at the age of 7.  By 5th grade literally ½ of my siblings were married.    I lived and breathed marriage and family.  As a youth I babysat my life away.  I had permanent jobs every Friday night for 3 years.  I was the best known babysitter in the ward.  One year I made 2 thousand dollars just babysitting. I preferred playing mom over going to Youth Dances. Family was all I wanted and all I planned for.  I figured I’d do what the rest of my siblings did- go to Ricks College, then BYU and then get married. I did go to Ricks,  I went on a mission and then to USU instead.  I did have one sister who didn’t marry till she was 32 and I watched as she cried and was lonely and had nothing like the others did.
Those 2 examples, my dad and my sister engrained in me that singleness was not desirable.  Happiness came from family life and in 1995 “The Family:  A Proclamation to the World” confirmed that.   At the age of 36 I had the opportunity to marry.  I took it even though there were improper actions and loud and clear red flags with this man.  He was not what I wanted, but I thought he could become that.  At 3 weeks of marriage I knew it wasn’t going to last and that I would eventually need to get out.  It was abusive in many ways.  I stayed for 17 months.  When my mom decided to leave the state I left with her.  In doing that I knew that I might never marry again, but instead be single and lonely.
It’s been 3 years now and I’ve been fired from four jobs (probably PSTD) and only been asked out from men who are undesirable.  If I pursued them I would be making a mistake again.  It infuriates me that there are men that find me desirable, but that do nothing for me.  The good men are taken.
So here I am in an LDS community and family where marriage and family life is it and I have not.  I’ve gone through the ringer of emotions through the last 20 years of anger, bitterness and yes at times even happiness.  I’ve traveled too, taking the opportunities when they presented themselves.  Now however I live in low income housing and travel is not feasible.  I deal with anger every day.  It’s a problem.  I’m angry at family members, at my ex and those involved in the relationship, I’m angry that girls camp in Idaho stinks compared to girls camp in Washington, I’m angry that mothers with 3 kids are still germaphobes,  I’m angry that I live in the 2nd largest LDS populated state and the single adult program in Twin Falls Idaho is only a soup kitchen for senior citizens. The list could go on.  Oh yes I’m angry!   I suppose I’m mostly angry at God for handing me this life.  I signed up for this?
At 17 I received my patriarchal blessing.  I was terrified that it would say I wouldn’t get married.  I fasted for that specifically.  It talks about a “young man coming into my life” and me being a “true mother in Israel.”    No such thing has happened.    I’ve wanted to give up.  I’ve wanted to quite going to church, to give up studying my scriptures, to stop being serviceable,(after all I have nothing and I sure wish someone would serve me!)
But I continue to do what is right.   I have a testimony.  The Book of Mormon is true and we have a living prophet on the earth.  I get up and go to church every Sunday and come home glad I did, even though I go out of duty. I teach primary,  I go to girls camp, I attend the temple, even doing sealings .  I call the last the ”slit your wrist activity’.  I can get sealed for dead people, but not myself?  Have I thought of suicide?  Sure.  But I’m chicken, I don’t have the courage for that thank goodness,  and I know it would be worse than if I stayed.  So I stay and deal with the life I wish I could give starving kids in Africa.  They would LOVE my life!
I’m happy for friends who have great families, I really am.  I tell them how blessed they are as I walk around with this feeling of emptiness and nothingness of my own life.   I’m afraid I’ll be single the rest of my 40 to 50 plus years.  I’m afraid I’ll be poor and no one will take care of me in my old age and no one but ward members will come to my funeral even though I have 26 nieces and nephews and  almost 16 great nieces and nephews.  Yes, I come from a big family, but they have their trials, challenges and woes.  Most likely I’m not even in the top 5 things to worry about.
So every week I go to church alone and sit with families and serve while most don’t know the whole me or what I went through that week.  I go to family get togethers and am happy to see people, to actually have a family for a short while.   I go to work even though I never wanted a career and it doesn’t fill my bucket.  I do everything I do, because what else am I suppose to do?  Quit?  Give up?  Not an option.  I guess that is courage.  I don’t feel courageous, but I get up and do it every day even though I just want to stay in bed.
I tell myself it could be worse and I realize that others reading this have had worse.  They have lost children or spouses to death, they have dealt with cancer or other terminal or permanent illnesses.  There is a list that is very long of things worse than being single but for me this is my Abrahamic trial.
Right now I’m praying for the anger to go away.  I’m submissive to this will Heavenly Father wants for me, but most times I’m not happy about it.
The key to courage?  Just keep on keeping on.  I hold to the iron rod to that great reward in Heaven.
…..shall we not go on in so great a cause? Go forward and not backward. Courage, brethren; and on, on to the victory! Let your hearts rejoice, and be exceedingly glad….

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Contrite or Fight: a poem.

I am not contrite, I fight
The Plan the Lord has for me.
Kindness, Mercy, Justice I seek,
but it all by passes me.

My fruit is weak, my crown is small
but bigger it would be if I could just
humble myself happily to Thee.

I fight his will, I want my way,
It's righteous desires I seek.
But I must wait and wait and wait
and be like Abraham meek.

I have not seen the Lord as he,
I do not talk face to face,
But I too know the plan is real
and the resurrection true.

Priesthood hands have blessed my life,
I have believed them true,
But nothing matches up you see,
A mother I will probably not be.

But can I turn away the God
who lends my breathe to me?
who died for me that I might
with my family forever be.

He forgives my sins, he comforts me
with the gospel truth restored
Through scriptures that I can read
and learn of men like Job and Jonah
and choose to trust or run away.

Is my plan a plan of hope,
or just sick ironies?
Although I do not fit the mold,
I know He still loves me.

- By Becky L. Rose
Sept 7th 2014.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Lost my job

I lost my job Thursday after a great day of subbing.  The kids at Robert Stewart Middle School love me, but no more.  I"ll only run into them in the community now.  A second grade teacher complained about how I didn't do her lesson plans to her liking and so boom!  I'm gone.   I'm jobless.

I still have the money from mom's gift.  I still have a very part time job on the weekends. Hopefully I'll be able to get unemployment too.  I still have help to find me a new job and now I have lots of time to do it.




Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Blessings!

A few months ago our stake president gave a fireside and he talked some about the 3 laws of financial prosperity.  They are Tithing,  Fast Offerings and Keeping the Sabbath Day Holy. It got me thinking and Even though I'm a beneficiary of fast offerings (the church buys my toilet paper and other bathroom things) I wasn't paying it.  But then I started to and I've seen the blessings.

1. Someone paid a month of my storage unit on accident.  I told them there was a mistake, but I still reap the benefits.

2. My rent didn't double, but just went up by 4 dollars because they went with what I said almost a year ago- subbing only 3 to 4 days a week, but in reality I sub 5 days a week and make more than they figured. I'm not going to argue with them.

I think there are many other blessings that are happening like getting TV at home.

I'm a believer!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

I am fearful

Here is how things really are.  

I am fearful for the future.  

I haven't been able to pay all my bills on my own for months and even years, especially since my marriage. The church has had to help and so has my mom.  I'm on food stamps which is a blessing and live in low income housing. 

I was diagnosed with  1. Major depressive disorder (moderate).  (not a surprise!)  

I'm going through Vocational Rehabilitation, a state program to help me get a better job.  I could of picked going to school, but that caused me a lot of stress and tons of tears.  In 12 days I cried 10 of them. Not good odds. I was fearful of that too.  Picking the right thing, being successful, getting a job afterwords, going into more debt to do it when I'm trying to get out of debt.  So I picked having them help me find a job, but I"m fearful with that too. I worry about shooting too high or too low.  I worry about getting a job and quitting the one I have now and then needed to go back to subbing but them not letting me.  See I was nearly let go from that job last spring.  What if the new job doesn't work out?  What if I go through burn out as I have in the past and need to change jobs again. What if? What if? What if?

How will I support myself for the rest of my life?  Mom will not always be there with money.  I don't have health benefits and what if my health goes bad?  What if I need to get another car and can't afford it?  More what if's  I'm sure I'm missing some more I haven't even thought of. 

I need someone to tell me It's all going to work out, that Heavenly Father has a plan, that somehow, some way things will get better.  

I used to travel.  I used to have hope for the future.  I used to enjoy life.  But the reality of just making it, just holding on financially and otherwise for the rest of my life and not really enjoying it looks like what the future holds for me. I don't think I'll be getting married any time soon. I used to have so many blessings that said I would. But now that doesn't happen in blessings anymore. There is no one here in Twin and I've gained weight and my hair is short and that's just the physical stuff, not the diagnosis's.

How does one be happy with all that now and in the future? Acceptance?  But acceptance isn't happiness.  It's being resigned to my lot in life. 
Maybe I could get on disability income and still work some hours and that would pay the bills.  That needs to be my plan B and that is up in the air and uncertain too. It also means low income housing and foods stamps for the rest of my life. 

But I keep on keeping on, only I cry more.  I teach primary.  I go to work.  I go to social things, but am I happy?  NO. This diagnosis has taken the life out of me. 

One of the most difficult things is that I have no one to share my feelings with that validate me.  That have known me for more than 2 years here in Twin.  No one that knows what I used to be like. That knows more than just my disabilities. No one that I can really just sob to and get it all out and have them do and say the things I need to hear that are correct too.  I know some will say some things but it won't be helpful. There are people whose advice I don't trust. 

Another difficult things is no one to give me a blessing- that has the spirit of prophecy like I had in Brother Thompson. 

The whole thing is just awful and so not about Jason anymore although at times things from the past will pop up; Jason, the Twitchell's and family members who have hurt me. 

But there.  I got it all down and hardly any one will read it, comment or care- especially my family.