My mentor once told me that one of the most therapeutic things we can do for our clients is to provide a safe holding environment for their emotions while they are working toward health. As the client is telling his story, we hold his feelings and allow them to "be."
Wednesday evening while I was conducting choir practice, the church secretary entered the room and announced that one of the congregation's beloved members, Craig, had died in an automobile accident. The reaction, naturally, was emotional and raw.
The church was filled with people attending youth activities and bible studies. As the news spread from room to room throughout the building, the sounds of people reacting to the news grew. It was overwhelming to hear that pain swell and spread. No - it was unbearable.
Being the last staff member in the building, I allowed everyone to take their time to comfort one another and make phone calls. I waited and I hugged and I listened to anyone who needed shoulders and ears. I told people they were loved and made sure no one drove home in distress. When everyone had finally gathered themselves and departed, I locked up and went home.
Being an empath is both a blessing and a curse. It allows you to relate to people on a very intimate level, but the cost is high when pain is big. I literally felt like a vessel on Wednesday, filled to the brim with the pain and grief of my brothers and sisters. And since I knew that the earth wasn't going to just stop turning, I put the lid on the vessel and held on.
Today I attended the memorial service for Bob Coleman, a man I loved dearly. There were hundreds of people in attendance. The service was respectful and the music was lovely. A fitting tribute to a man who touched so many lives. It was mentioned more than once how much he loved people and valued relationships.
I had not taken the time to deal with my feelings about his death. A loved one offered to hold them for me, but I kept them close to my heart. And during the service the vessel began to spill. Once I began to cry, I worried that I would never be able to stop. I sobbed while the rest of the congregation sang. I shook with grief while others shook with laughter at humorous anecdotes. I wanted to crawl under the pew and curl up in a ball and shut down. I wanted to go back in time. I wanted to stop the world and get off.
In time I did stop crying. I pulled myself together and returned phone calls on the way home. I got busy arranging the music for the funeral service that will take place on Tuesday for Craig. I broke up an argument between my daughters. I did a load of laundry. In other words, I got back to life.
The vessel is empty tonight, but it will fill up again soon enough. I think I need a bigger vessel.