We all want and need to be heard, to know that others listen and care. We crave intimacy. We are in a constant search for validation and for our voices to find resonance with the lives of others.
Those words are in our first book, Someone To Tell It To: Sharing Life’s Journey. We wrote them because we know them to be true. To be heard. To have intimacy. To be validated. To know that we’re not alone. All these needs are real and true.
We recently wrote about the deep conversation we shared with our cherished friend author Tim Madigan, a discussion about our shared belief in every human’s inherent worth. Inherent worth is a core and deeply held value of Someone To Tell It To. Believing in everyone’s inherent worth is at the root of good listening; it is essential to listening with compassion and intention and being fully present in another’s life.
In the book Tim wrote in 2017 with Patrick O’Malley, PhD, Getting Grief Right: Finding Your Story of Love in the Sorrow of Loss, Patrick and Tim highlighted our work and quoted another passage from our first book:
We have seen this need again and again during our years—visiting people who have been homebound or in hospital rooms, or as we’ve sat with someone grieving the death of a loved one, or comforted those in distress, pain, loneliness, or uncertainty. We have also experienced this need firsthand as we have grappled with our own families’ challenges with cancer, financial pressures, career directions, and disability. We have learned how all of us at times vitally need to be heard. We need someone to listen so our struggles and questions become shared and not ours alone to bear.
“Remember those words,” wrote Patrick and Tim, “as you move forward with your narrative of grief. And remember, that although they may not show it, most other people are grieving, too.“
Yes, indeed, most of us are grieving something about our lives—the deaths of those we love dearly, but can never see again while we are here.
Both Patrick and Tim wrote not only from professional experiences with loss and grief—Patrick as a psychotherapist and Tim as a journalist—but also from their very personal experiences. Patrick’s son Ryan Palmer O’Malley was born three months premature in 1980, weighing barely more than two pounds. Ryan was not able to survive his extremely fragile beginning and died eight months later, leaving his family devastated and bereft. Getting Grief Right: Finding Your Story of Love in the Sorrow of Loss is inspired by Ryan’s life and death and how Patrick, in particular, responded to, learned from, and allowed it to reinform how he responded to others in grief. As for Tim, his younger brother Steve lived with an aggressive form of lung cancer for two years before passing away in 2000, in his very early 40’s. Steve’s decline also devastated his family. The pain and anguish were very real for both Patrick and Tim and their book comes from a very intimate and personal place in their lives. (We also invite you to listen to our 2-part interview with Patrick on the Someone To Tell It To Podcast where he shares his wisdom and experience).
They know of what they write. The grief and loss they felt directly—and always will—inform their words and the message they convey from the very depths of their spirits and lives.
The fact is, we all experience the pain of loss and the anguish of grief throughout our lives. It is devastating when those we love so dearly leave this life. And it’s also devastating when a way of life ends with the loss of health, or jobs, or purpose, or freedom, or relationships, or reputation, or ability. The list is unending. Loss is a fact of every life. Change is inevitable and so is the grief we feel when cherished routines are upended and traditions die. We often struggle. We feel unmoored. We buckle under the strain of uncertainty and unsettledness.
The entire world has felt this uncertainty and unsettledness for nearly a year now. The effects of this global pandemic have touched us all and so much has been lost because of it.
But good and caring people such Patrick O’Malley and Tim Madigan use their personal and professional experiences to inform others that they are not alone in their experiences with loss and grief. They provide the stories, the contexts, and the strategies for us to begin to find healing and meaning in the midst of our losses and grief.
We and our teams of compassionate listeners and listening trainers try to do the very same work of informing, healing, and finding meaning through our mission at Someone To Tell It To. We are very grateful for all those who occupy this space of offering comfort, compassion, and connection for anyone who is in pain and is in need of others to accompany them on pathways leading out of the darkness and into the light.
In our common human need to be heard, to know that others listen and care, in our craving for intimacy, in our ongoing search for validation, and for our voices to find resonance with the lives of others, we can know that there are pathways into the light.
The light that is hope. The light that is healing. The light that is love.