The Catt Box

'Validation'

 

This is my own website and I am entitled to my own opinion....everyone else seems to have an opinion, and this one is mine. And I do have friends who agree with every word on here. I'm not alone in my thoughts. But I don't think it's necessary to leave nasty comments in my guestbook if you disagree. I don't go on other people's guestbooks and leave nasty remarks, I just hit the back button. 

I've noticed that people who are offended by what's on this page are usually the ones guilty of doing this to their friends. They see themselves in it and then get angry at me. They have no clue how many people have already written to me and told me they'd like to give a copy of this to their own friends, because this same thing happens to them, as well. 

Recently, I had a few situations to come up that called for some comfort from my friends. I really needed them. A few came through for me in just 'being there', and others took it as their cue to 'give advice', and believe me, it only made the situation worse. I did not ask anyone for advice. I was still very upset when I wrote this, and understandably so. I still hold to my statements, but will try to sound less angry.

Now that I have my new story up, I was able to take that portion out of this rant. The things I discuss on this page are a combination of ideas I got from my friends, and also my own experiences. They aren't just my own thoughts. But just try to think of what offends you or upsets you when you are going through a hard time and you have friends who make you more upset.

This message, to anyone reading it, is not meant to single anyone out. These are some of the same things I've been dealing with all of my life. And these recent events of mine have inspired me to say what I feel needs to be said. This may help make you a better friend to other friends. It's worth the read. Perhaps it can put into words some of the things you'd like to say to some friends of your own. I know that my own friends agree with what is on here.

I don't make the habit of asking my friends for advice, believe me. I am a 'thinking' person and only need some time and to get things off of my chest. I do not ask my friends to solve my problems. I do not tell my friends about a situation in order for them to come up with ways in which to tell me how to 'get through it' or 'how to think about it' or how to look at it. 

No one likes to hear things like "don't let it get to you"...or "don't let her / him get to you"....or "you need to just 'get over' this"....etc. If solutions were that easy, don't you think we'd all do them? And I've also noticed that the very people who tell me this will also eventually deal with frustrating things, and they don't follow their own advice. 

See, it's different when something happens to THEM, but not when it's me, or others. Some people need to develop some empathy instead of giving advice when not ASKED for advice.

It's easier said than done. How does one not let things get to them? If they are upset, obviously, it's bothering them. They can't just 'dismiss' their feelings on a whim. How do you feel when someone says that to you?

And, you know, not all your friends will tell you that remarks like that are very insensitive. That does not mean that they liked what you said, it might merely mean that they have made a mental note to themselves to not share very painful things with you again in the future. I'm the sort of person who will tell you what I think of that kind of advice, maybe they won't.

Then there's the other side of the coin...the friends who do not know what to say and do, so, they avoid their friend altogether. Well, you don't need to say or do anything, just 'be there' for them. They do not expect special words and solutions, they only want to know you care.

They know that not all of their friends are poetic, graceful with words and know 'just what to say'. This isn't a contest of who can make them feel the best. They just want to know you care and that you will merely listen, if they need to talk. And believe me, even if you don't think so at the moment, if you have a hard time facing your friend, you can get a little blank note card and just put the words 'you are in my thoughts' and that is enough, it does show you care. Send it to them. No one ever expects anything 'fancy' or 'just the right thing to say', please believe that.

Basically, for me, I just need to talk or type, and just 'get it out'. Then I can look at it, process it, deal with it, begin the healing, and move on. The very best words a friend can ever say to me is "I'm here for you if you just need to talk". My close friends know that I am not coming to them for answers. I just need to talk it out, hear myself say it.

And sometimes, my good friends will 're-state' what I've already said, or re-phrase it, letting me know they 'got it'....they understood me....they heard me. And sometimes they even tell me a similar situation that may have happened in their own lives. And from there, I can glean out some good things that I can take with me. Not everything works for all people. What may have worked for you may NOT work for your friend.

I realize that when our friends are hurting and in pain, our instincts urge us to want to help. None of us want to see our friends hurt. But, especially in my own situation recently, I expected no solutions, no answers, no 'fixes', no advice, and certainly no philosophical sayings. All I needed was 'validation'....let me feel what I feel. And when my wonderful friends do that, they are deeper into my heart. I feel closer to them and respect them because they respected me and my feelings.

If a person loses a loved one to death, it might not be a good time to say things like "you need to get past that"...or "just don't think about it"....or "you need to get on with your life". And I've actually had people say this to me.

I don't care how much time passes or what a person tells themselves, you never 'get over' something like this, you merely learn to live with it, live around it, and cope with it. No amount of grieving, then or now, will take away the pain or fill the void. Time will allow us to continue our lives while we accept the loss. 

Accepting the loss does not mean we are not allowed to grieve from time to time or cry, when inspired to do so. No one should to tell you to put it so far back behind you, that you no longer feel the loss. It will always be there. 

Being able to live with this loss does not mean that you are not allowed to visit those very painful memories. Just because you can still cry about anything does not mean you have not gone on with your life, and that somehow, once you are past the initial hurt and tears, that to re-visit those feelings will be wrong and damaging.  And anyone who tells you anything different ...well, they are not being realistic. 

Why is it that when a person feels momentarily sad, their friends think it's their cue to stop them from feeling and grieving? Who in the world told them that was healthy? When did they become an expert at how long a person should grieve, and feel, and cry and remember? And just because I do cry from time to time over something, that does not mean that for the rest of my life, each and every day, I will sit and cry, just like this, forever....and that I have ruined my life....forever. Allow me to be sad, just as you would welcome and allow me to be happy. I need it.

My telling someone of an event or something that I am going through,  does not mean it's their cue to try to 'solve my problem'. I didn't ask for advice or ask how to grieve. 

I have the RIGHT to grieve and cry and 'feel' any emotions I ever have in any event in MY life. No one should attempt to rob me of my right to express myself or to grieve....to do what "I" need to do in order to continue on with my life. 

If your friend is hurting or if they are angry at someone, if they have to make a decision that they feel is in the best interest of them, LET THEM DO IT....let them feel it....validate what they are going through. Just because YOU can't feel it in the same way or maybe not 'see it' in the same way, does not mean that YOU get to take it away from your friend who "IS" feeling that way. You need to respect what your FRIEND feels. This does not mean your friend is wrong...'feelings' are not wrong. The feelings are based on your friend's life experiences, not yours.

What if you are the kind of person who is in denial of things around you...trying to look at things through 'rose colored glasses'...and your friend doesn't . You cannot expect your friend to put on your 'special glasses' and pretend that their pain doesn't exist, or that nothing is wrong, just because it would be easier for YOU to deal with. Maybe that works for you, but I doubt it. It will come out eventually, in one way or another. I try to avoid that by dealing with it now, not later. 

And it will still hurt later, but not with the same intensity. That does not mean I didn't do something right, it just means that it was a painful event in my life that I will forever feel as long as I am alive, just not with the same intensity. You do grow with, and from, your experiences.

If you can't deal with your friend's pain and frustration, then maybe it's best that you say nothing at all. It's certainly better to say nothing than to make your friend feel worse. They probably aren't asking you for a solution anyway. Why hurt them worse?

I'm sure that if your friend needs or asks advice, it would be a different story. I'm just talking about those people who like to immediately step in and tell a hurting person to suppress their feelings.

They see and feel what they see and feel. And unless they have been diagnosed with a mental illness that causes hallucinations and 'voices', don't be so quick to 'dismiss' them. They may be more grounded in reality than you are. And YOU are the one who may need the advice when it's all said and done.  Your friend is trying to deal with reality, what is real.

Please do NOT see it as your cue to 'fix' them or tell them that they "should  feel this way" or that they "should not feel that way". They feel as they do because of their own life's experiences, not based on your life's experiences. It does not have to make sense to YOU or even be real to YOU. It does not have to be felt by YOU, in order to validate what your FRIEND is feeling. 

Being 'strong' for your friend does not mean you have to solve their problems or give them answers.

Just be there to 'listen'. They may not even need to talk to you about it, but feel close enough to you to share it...and if you give them the hurtful advice that I mentioned on this page, you are going to alienate them from you. 

You may help them, upon hearing them explain their situation, to even agree that 'you can understand how and why they would feel that way', even if YOUR OWN thoughts are different, try to understand the way THEY  are seeing it. 

To your friend, all of what they are feeling is very real and very painful. It's affecting their life. 

As a great friend, all you need to do is just lend a listening ear. 'Be there' for them, don't try to make them look at it differently. If that needs to be done, they will do it on their own, you can't rush it. They have to see their OWN way through.

If you take it as your cue to minimize their situation, 'make excuses' for their enemies, or the ones who are hurting them and causing them grief, what you are now doing is making them feel defensive . They already feel bad enough, but now they have to further frustrate the situation by defending their feelings and emotions to you.

So, while they try, once again, to tell you why they are hurting, you have just sent them on a detour of the path they are on. Now they have to get it all past YOU. And, not only are they upset at the original situation, now they feel alienated and unsupported by you, their friend...the person they just needed to talk to.

 And the more you try to get them to see it a different way, the worse it will get. They have to see those things for themselves, "if" it's something they can ever do to begin with. Again, not on YOUR schedule. They, most likely, know more about the situation than you do, give them the benefit of the doubt. 

No one expects you to have a clever saying. No one has the answers or the solutions. Each person has to work through their own pain. They can't hurry things along on YOUR schedule, just because you don't want this to be happening to them. The worst thing you can do is minimize what they are dealing with. That just makes them feel even more isolated. If I really want to get some advice from, I'll ask for it, and so will your other friends. 

And this also goes for situations regarding pets. I have friends who have lost pets through a  death, or the pet turned up missing, and they have told me of incredibly insensitive things that were said to them. They are grieving a companion, a friend, and a friendship that, through 'unspoken language', grew into a special friendship that they will surely miss. This was a creature, a 'friend', who loved them unconditionally. Who wouldn't miss something like that?

It' s a real pain, whether it's an animal or a human, it hurts. There are memories associated with the pet...a routine....pictures....little treasures that will forever remind them that the pet is gone. Please be respectful of that. Not everyone can rush out and get another pet. Some people need time. And when the time is right, they may be able to open their hearts to another pet. Again, this is on THEIR schedule, not yours.

When my ex-husband left me in 2004, I was devastated. A 20 year marriage was totally destroyed over his midlife crisis and affair. I have no family down here, and very few 'real life' friends. I'm not FROM here, so it's not like I know lots of people.

I just needed to vent. My internet friends were my family, and many were a complete godsend to me. So, in the beginning I leaned on them as a shoulder to cry on. I needed to vent and rant and get things off my chest.

I told everyone what had happened. Pretty soon I told fewer and fewer people of updates. The unsolicited advice was amazing. I didn't ask for advice, just some understanding. I just wanted my friends to 'be there' for me when I needed to talk. I didn't wear them out, I didn't call them on the phone and bug them all the time. I'm not like that. 

But OMG, a lot of them took it as their cue to tell me what to do and what to feel and when to do this and when to do that, etc. They even told me how lucky I was to get to start all over again, fall in love, make love, date, etc.

Um, trust me, I wasn't ready to look at things like that. I had much more important things to consider. I lost my home, my perfect credit of 31 years, and I had to part with many of my belongings because they wouldn't have fit into the duplex I was renting. 

Plus, when my ex-husband left me, he left me stranded with NO TRANSPORTATION. I had no way to the grocery store, the bank, the post office, or even the garbage dump. I ended up doing my food shopping online, as well as banking, etc. I'm very resourceful, always HAVE been. 

But people were rushing me into things they had no clue about. One person even told me to go rent a car to drive....and she said it like she couldn't believe I wasn't capable of thinking of that myself.

Then I had to explain to her that I CAN'T just go rent a car, I need to drive with hand-controls. Plus, even if I could rent a car with hand-controls, I didn't have the money for something like that.

See, people needed to trust that I was doing all I COULD do and that they didn't know my entire situation. And if I needed advice, I would have asked for it. 

I had a lot of losses that year, including my mother dying, my camper being repossessed, my house going into foreclosure. 

And some well-meaning people actually thought I should start looking at all the dating possibilities, etc. *shaking my head*

Then there were the few people who actually gave me practical help. With having no transportation, I had no way to the post office to mail off the dolls that sold on eBay. So, one of my friends / customers sent me a digital shipping scale so I could do my shipping from home.

What a complete GODSEND that was. I use it to this very day. Thank you, Lindy, from the bottom of my heart.

Another friend sent me a $100 gift certificate for Omaha Steak. Thank you, Mal, you're a sweetie! I was able to buy all kinds of food and stretch it out so I could get the most food possible.

Others sent me care packages via the mail. What a wonderful and much needed surprise to receive a package full of non-perishable foods. Others sent me surprise coolers full of frozen foods from Omaha Steak. Others sent me fabrics and doll stuffing and other odds and ends that I could use with my doll making. 

I went online and found out that I could do my banking online. I was able to buy a lot of my foods online, as well. And one place even gave people free shipping on $50 orders, or more. So, I'd get all the 'heavy' stuff from there, like Listerine, laundry detergent, etc. And I was able to re-use the packaging materials for shipping my dolls.

And it was 'friends' who told me about the online shopping places. I was able to buy everything but milk, butter, and eggs. And when a local friend was going grocery shopping for herself, I'd call and ask her to pick up those three things for me and I was all set!

No, there were no milk men in the area.

No, there was no garbage pick-up on the road I lived on, I checked over and over again.

Friends who gave me practical advice and those who were kind and sent me things they knew I could use, even though I'd have NEVER asked for anything...those are the kind of friends people need. I didn't need for people to tell me how and what to feel. 

I went through a scary, life-changing, devastating situation. I was terrified as to what was going to become of me. I was scared to death of how much I would lose before it was over. And to make things worse, my ex-husband was a coward and refused to even speak to me. He hid. He didn't even help me. I did nothing to deserve this. He even text-messaged me that he wanted a divorce. He couldn't even tell me in person or even over the phone. 

So, as you can see, I didn't want to hear about how lucky I was to be single again. I didn't want to hear how I should just forget him and move on. I wasn't crying, I wasn't trying to get him back. I have no clue why people were telling me things like that. I had a long road to go before this nightmare was to be over. I had every reason to be scared.

Plus, I had to represent myself in divorce court because I didn't have the money to hire an attorney. And before you say that I can get one free, guess again. People tried telling me THAT one, too. It's not true. You only get a free lawyer if you are being tried in a court of law over a criminal charge, not divorce.

I wrote to 15 divorce lawyers in Spartanburg, SC and not ONE of them would represent me Pro Bono. 

So, I had to do research online and represent MYSELF.

I did an excellent job, but it was still scary.

The ONLY thing I knew for sure was, I would be okay one day. That's all I knew. And you know what, I was right. Today I'm just fine. In fact, I'm the happiest I've ever been in my life. 

But at the time, it was a very scary, lonely situation.

Eventually I settled on just a handful people that I could share things with while going through that nightmare because THEY didn't make me crazy with advice that I didn't ask for. I also got VERY tired of defending my feelings with the other people I tried to confide in. They literally tried to tell me HOW to FEEL. I would NEVER do that to someone.

A divorce is like a death. It IS a death. It's the death of a union, a life, and something two people built together. It took TWO to decide to get married, and only ONE to completely destroy it. 

And in divorce, as with death, you go through stages....denial, anger, acceptance. I needed to grieve. I HAD to grieve and cry and 'feel' whatever I was feeling. Better to deal with things right then, than to have it all come out later on down the road...and it will, eventually.

But I was amazed at the people who tried to deny me my OWN feelings and grieving process.

So, the few people that I DID confide in and give updates to, they were absolute ANGELS to me. They were supportive without making me defend my own feelings. They were there for me. They didn't need to give advice and tell me what to feel and what to do. They simply let me rant, vent, cry, or whatever I was feeling.

God bless those friends. And we are friends to THIS VERY DAY because they KNOW how to be a friend.

I have lived for over 50 years, thus far, and I hardly think I've waited all these years and went through all the things that I've endured, just to have someone tell me how to 'get through it'. Nothing anyone says will make it go away. Nothing will make a friend in pain feel better, except for the words "I'll be right here for you if you need to talk".

Be a friend....

 

January 20 , 2001  Copyright  Cathy Palmer-Scruggs / Catt Alexander