The elephant in the room

by lulujane on March 27, 2009

An elephant in the room is something people may perceive as a problem, difficult situation or such, but no one talks about it.  They don’t want to bring it up in case it creates uncomfortable feelings for the person being asked, or they know it may bring up emotion for them, and they aren’t prepared to deal with it.  As an example, if a woman has had a miscarriage and is suffering her grief in silence, or her husband has left her and she is feeling abandoned, or a close relative has passed away.

dsc_0126xIn reality, in a large number of instances it is important for the grieving person to be able to talk about their pain.  Talking about it may not cause tears and then again, it may evoke intense emotion.  Along with being heard and validated, tears and emotion may be the catalyst that helps this person heal.

While the elephant isn’t being discussed in many cases, there are lots of people waiting to be asked the question to have an opportunity to talk about their issue , conspicuous in its not being talked about.

Quite a few years ago I was aware of a distant relative who was confined to hospital with a serious illness.  She was dying.  This person was very fond of me and I’m sure would have been pleased by my visit.  For heaven’s sake, the hospital was just up the street.  At the time I was young and I was afraid of what my eyes might see, so I pretended the elephant wasn’t there and stayed at home.

I should have been present for her.  Since that time I have grown and I have learned from this.  Now I am able to sit with someone who needs to tell their story.  I can be present, hear their pain and sit through their tears.  I can be strong for them.  If someone is sharing a devastating experience and having a difficult time holding it together they sure don’t want to talk about it to someone who is falling apart with them.  Then they feel obligated to take care of the caregiver.  This is something that I am able and willing to do when called upon to listen, from a place of groundedness, love and compassion.

I am embarrassed that I didn’t visit my distant relative way back then, and this has made me even more aware that I have a responsibility to be there if someone needs me in this way.

Getting back to the elephant in the room, I have been living on my own since about 1993 – a period of almost 16 years.  Yesterday I was walking with an old friend.  We stopped at a Tim’s for a coffee and the conversation flowed.  At one point she asked me “how is it out there? What’s it like living alone”.  I shared some thoughts and experiences with her and a few hours after we parted I realized that nobody ever asks me this question.

It was the elephant in the room yearning to be recognized – at least it was until my friend was perceptive enough to ask.

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