Feeling not judging

“I just found out my favorite aunt has terminal cancer,” Bobby shared. “She’s one of the most wonderful people in the world! She never missed a birthday, always came to my soccer games, and made me feel exceptionally special. I just can’t believe she’s dying.”

“She sounds like a huge positive influence in your life,” I commented. “Absolutely. She’s the reason I’m able to be a good father and husband. When my parent’s got divorced, she stepped in. Even today, she’s who I call when I need solid advice.”

“Was her diagnosis a surprise?” I asked. “It absolutely was!” Bobby vehemently answered. “She’s always ate healthfully, exercised, handled her stress well, and was rarely sick. It’s not fair. Of all people, she doesn’t deserve this.”

That afternoon, Marsha came in for her session. “I get why he’s going through this,” she said. “What do you mean?” I asked. “Look, I love my grandfather, but he’s a real piece of work. He gambled most of his life. Sometimes he’d disappear for weeks, leaving my grandma with four kids to raise on her own and no money.”

“I’m guessing this is a big part of why your dad struggled so much when you were growing up?” I wondered out loud. “Yes!” Marsha exclaimed. “He didn’t know how to be a good parent or a provider for our family.”

“So, what’s happening now with your grandfather?” I inquired. “Oh, he’s dying. He’s always had all of these health problems because he never took care of himself, and they’ve caught up with him. I mean, he stopped gambling and everything, but he’s still really sick. Serves him right.”

“Wait,” I asked. “Your grandfather doesn’t gamble anymore?” “Yeah,” said Marsha, “about ten years ago he found God and Gambler’s Anonymous, and turned his life around. He made amends with all of us, worked with a doctor to take care of his health problems, joined my grandma’s church, and started coming to all our family events.”

When life’s difficulties happen to those around us, a knee-jerk reaction can be to pass judgement. Whether it’s positive (Bobby), or negative (Marsha), it is a distraction from painful feelings such as sadness, grief, and loss.

To help Bobby move beyond the judgement I focused on getting him to his aunt’s bedside to bring him into the present moment, and access his heartbreak. Marsha left her session with homework: talking with her grandma and dad about how they were able to forgive her grandfather. The interventions may be different, but the goal is the same: let go of judgement and trust their hearts can handle big, painful feelings.

Here’s to a week of all of us noticing where we’re judging instead of feeling, and allowing ourselves to sit with our emotions a little bit more.