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Hearing Intent

The Dr. Phil Show left a voice mail for The Compassionate Friends, requesting a return call as they were looking for someone who had “successfully gotten over their grief”.

Before returning the call, I mused over the “successful” phrase. One thing I have learned, and still need practice in, is listening, not to the actual words said but rather to the person’s intent.

I have learned I must listen differently than I listened before Tony drowned. Before, I could listen and take what someone said pretty much at face value. For example, if someone asked how I was doing or how my day was going, I knew they didn’t necessarily want a minute-by-minute recap of things, but were probably interested in hearing a quick summary of how I was doing or how my day was going.

After Tony died, when someone asked how was I doing or how my day was going, I learned to hear their intent which was something different than the words spoken. I learned they really were not asking those questions. I learned in the early years, with the exception of my “special” friends, when someone asked those questions, they really only wanted to hear that things were “okay” and for me to know they were thinking about me. I base this observation on the times I did actually answer their questions instead of their intent.

When I gave them the honest answer of still feeling lost, of wondering what my purpose was, or of the extreme feeling of near constant fatigue mixed together with anxiety for nearly everything, facial expressions instantly changed to dismay and awkward transitions to other meaningless conversation occurred, if the person didn’t just find a reason to suddenly disappear.

After slowly learning this lesson, I forced myself to try and hear their intentions rather than their absolute words. From that point forward, if someone, other than a “special” friend, asked me how I was doing, I realized their intent was to let me know they were thinking about me. They didn’t want to hear how horrific the grief journey of losing a child, grandchild, brother or sister was, but simply to let me know they were thinking of me.

Subsequently, when well-meaning people said things that might have earlier resulted in my impulsively asking why they would say something so ridiculous, I paused and instead heard their intent. I heard them say they were sorry and they just didn’t know what to say. Now, when someone says something like, “At least you have other children,” I hear their intent of trying to comfort me.

When I listened to the young lady’s voice say “someone who had successfully gotten over their grief”, I paused, thought, and heard the intent of the message. The intent, I believe, is that the producers wanted someone who could attempt to explain how an individual can go on living after such a horrific loss.

At the taping of the Dr. Phil Show on Wednesday, 1/24, I will tell them how all of us are able to survive and about the life-saving support received from “special” friends, The Compassionate Friends.

Debbie Rambis at her home pre-taping the Dr. Phil Show 

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