For this interview I spoke with one of my besties, Kate, and (so far) it’s the only interview I’ve done in-person. Like actually in the same room, not staring across an internet screen.
The difference is obvious to me. You can really hear how much emotion is tied to the subject, and how difficult it can be to hold on to a friend’s emotions in-the-moment. I feel like you can hear how awkward I am — much more so than over the phone and especially in later episodes and interviews once I’ve learned that it’s okay to talk about dead people.
Which leads me to a confession of sorts: These conversations still *not* easy! And I don’t think they ever will be.
Part of what I am learning is that during these tough conversations where you have to be real, and you don’t get to be all sunshiney about it.
My podcasts guests (who are my close friends and relatives) have all come to terms with their grief, but even decades later there are very real emotions tied to these stories. And let’s be honest, our society doesn’t really excel at staying real when emotions run high.
What Kate’s interview showed me exactly HOW hard it is to really listen and be present. My gut reaction was to want to make it okay, or to lighten the mood, make her laugh. But take a step back from that conversation for a second: if my friend is telling me serious news of any kind, if I’m really listening and participating in the conversation, I shouldn’t make light of it. I should be asking questions to follow-up and learn more. Eventually they will know what kind of support they need from me, but step one is showing up and then step two is listening completely.
Don’t listen for your opportunity to relate your story. Don’t open the conversation with how hard it is for YOU to talk about THEIR grief. This is the time in your life when you should completely and utterly focus on the person across the table from you. And that’s not intuitive.
I guess what I’m trying to say is, the act of offering support is simple. But it is definitely not easy.
A couple things to note about this episode: it’s recorded on my phone which leads to some questionable audio quality at times. (There’s also one point I hop up to get tissues, so you’ll hear the door opening and closing and all kinds of kerfuffle.)
And there’s a bit of swearing so cover any tiny ears that may be closeby. It’s wonderful British swearing though, which is just more fun than American swearing.