This summer, several clients reached out to me to order Peony Flower Portraits for loved ones going through difficult times. I found these acts of care extraordinarily encouraging as they reflect the most profound motivations behind why I create: I dream of my Flower Portraits gifted to any and all beauty-lovers who are walking through a dark time, where the future is uncertain, when what they need is not fixing or advice, but steadfast and tender support.
In my blog post a few weeks ago I asked you to share examples of what has been both helpful and unhelpful during difficult times. Here, in a series of four articles, I will explore and share with you the responses I have received via Facebook, Instagram, emails, text messages, and in-person conversations. I have found these responses to be prolific, heartfelt, and too unifying not to share.
Your responses to my query on supporting those who are suffering echoed work that I am currently doing with “Woman Within Circle Training” to learn how to both give and receive encouragement, guidance, and support. The philosophy of Woman Within is that “we do not have the answers for any other woman’s life. She holds her own answers. So we let her lead by staying one step behind. We offer options and support rather than judgment, fixes, or advise. We allow her to feel her feelings and make her own choices while we contain our own judgments and emotions to be fully present for her.” This is SO counter-intuitive to what I have believed in the past and I am aching to learn how to do this for every soul that comes into my world.
In the responses to my initial post, I have heard across the board that the deepest impact and comfort comes from those who simply SHOW UP—without being asked, without being directed, and without expectations or advise. The most appreciated form of support was the simple presence of someone who cared. Not descriptions of people’s own similar experiences or other’s stories, not comparisons, advice, or deep wisdom, not suggestions of books, podcasts, or articles. Contrary to our very well-meaning intentions, these acts often leave people feeling disconnected, disheartened, and dis-empowered. For more on this, I highly recommend Brene Brown’s short and sweet video on Empathy vs. Sympathy.
In the follow-up to this post I am delighted to share a compilation of your words and stories on the importance of showing up as well as a few handy prompts for verbally supporting our loved ones. Next, I will shine some light on what not to say. Many of you shared stories of well-intentioned but ultimately unhelpful or even hurtful messages you received when suffering. I myself have blundered the delicate task of offering supporting. I hope the words of wisdom and examples that I will share from this awesome community will help us grow and develop our abilities to better show up for those around us.
Finally, and most excitingly, I will conclude this series with a list of the most profound, fun, and creative ways our community has come up with to show up for those in need. Gifts and flowers are my love language and you all have provided me with a plethora of ways in which I can expand upon how I show support. Heading into the magical, if potentially stressful, holiday season I cannot wait to share and implement many of the gems I’ve curated from all of you!
Thank you all for allowing me to be a part of your experiences by sharing with me. I hope this and the following posts, compiled with your generous participation, will allow us to show up just a little more intentionally and effectively.