There are many circumstances in life that require listening, yet we don’t always. We hear what is being said, but for whatever reason, we aren’t listening with our hearts involved.
Sometimes children as well as adults will do something that attracts our attention, a cry for help in disguise. But, if we are not listening, we can easily pass it off as “a phase” or “just a personality quirk”. The behavior may become more and more bizarre until it is too late, as in the case of suicide.
Another sphere people need our listening is in the area of grief. After the funeral, usually people tend to forget that the person’s need for consideration and help doesn’t go away. There are emotional issues as well as practical ones, such as how to fix a meal or a faucet, balance the checkbook, laundry, and a host of other day-to-day tasks that need to be addressed.
While the spouse was alive, perhaps the couple was invited to others’ homes, but now that he or she is gone, the couples in their social circle feel awkward inviting the surviving spouse. Gradually, isolation can set in, unless measures are taken to ensure that is doesn’t. Some people are more adept at making new friends than others, and when the death occurs, they can find themselves without anyone to help or listen to them.
Women tend to have a better social adjustment to a spouse’s death than does a man, because many of his friends are from his work environment. When retirement happens, he can find himself with a lot fewer friends. Instead of going out and making more friends, a man can slip into isolation after retirement. His only person to relate to has just died, and he is left wondering what to do, and maybe not knowing how to navigate this new arena of life.
In our busy world, good intentions get shoved aside when it comes to doing what we should in helping others. Here are some things you can do to help those who are alone now because of a death in the family or other reasons:
Make a special effort to include them in your plans for a barbecue or whatever is going on in your life, when it is appropriate. They may not always accept the invitation but don’t give up, keep trying. Be sure you are doing this out of sincerity and not duty.
Include them when you do errands so you can have time to talk one-on-one. Listen for verbal clues about what they are feeling: lack of sleep, restlessness, loneliness etc., are all symptoms of what is happening in their new environment.
Don’t monopolize the conversation but leave silent openings for them to talk out their feelings. Some people feel uncomfortable with silent spots in the conversation and try to fill them with too much talking. Remember, you can’t know what they are feeling and going through if you aren’t listening to them.
Look for practical ways to help them with yard work, cleaning, meal preparation etc. Try to teach them as you help so they can learn new skills. An old saying fits here: “if you give a man a fish you feed him for a meal or two. If you teach a man to fish, he can be fed for life.”
Don’t be nosy about their life, but ask leading questions that will help them put into words what they are feeling and needing right now. Look for questions that will produce more than a “yes” or “no” answer from them. It takes practice to do this, but don’t give up. As time goes on, they will share more about themselves, but you must be sincere in your helping or this will not happen.
If they detect you are less than genuine they will not be helped as they could have been.
As you care about others, you will be able to listen to a person for a few minutes and detect what is going on inside as far as needs. The Bible says, “out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks”, so as you gain more practice you will be able to ascertain in a short time with someone what their felt and other needs are.
Listen to others with your heart, then pray about the needs that you hear. You will be a blessing to them, and you will also be blessed. Jesus often said, “he who has ears let him hear”. Are you hearing the needs of those around you? There may be a day coming when you will need to be listened to and cared about.
Read more articles by Dan Langerock or search for articles on the same topic or others.
Thank you for such a good article. I am one of those people you are talking about. My husband passed in 2003 and I'm still having a hard time and no one sees. Very well written with the message loud and clear. God Bless you.