Monday, April 22, 2013

"Comfort IN, Dump OUT"

John showed me a wonderful article that was written for the LA Times recently called, "How not to say the wrong thing" by Susan Silk and Barry Goldman. The tag line states, "It works in all kinds of crises – medical, legal, even existential. It's the 'Ring Theory' of kvetching. The first rule is comfort in, dump out." All quotations in my post come directly from the article linked above. 

One of the authors of the article was diagnosed with breast cancer, and it surprised her how many inappropriate and and just simply wrong things were said to her. One story she told was when a work colleague came to visit, but she was too tired to have visitors. The work colleague was very offended and told her, "This isn't just about you." Confused, she replied, "It isn't? My breast cancer isn't about me?" 

They realized then that a lot of people don't know how to react or treat people in the middle of a crisis. So they came up with this great theory to help.

"Draw a circle. This is the center ring. In it, put the name of the person at the center of the current trauma." This first direction is simple. Who is involved? For the author who had breast cancer, it would be herself. 

"Now draw a larger circle around the first one. In that ring put the name of the person next closest to the trauma." This could be a spot for a spouse, or others directly affected by the trauma.

"In each larger ring put the next closest people. Parents and children before more distant relatives. Intimate friends in smaller rings, less intimate friends in larger ones. When you are done you have a Kvetching Order." 

So what do you do with this order? The directions are simple: Comfort in, and dump out. It goes on to explain that those in the center ring can dump any feelings out to anyone. They are in the very middle of the crisis, and can complain to anyone. And, others can do the same, but only to the people in the larger rings. 

A diagram from the article demonstrating the theory.

My favorite paragraph in the article talks about this more. "When you are talking to a person in a ring smaller than yours, someone closer to the center of the crisis, the goal is to help. Listening is often more helpful than talking. But if you're going to open your mouth, ask yourself if what you are about to say is likely to provide comfort and support. If it isn't, don't say it. Don't, for example, give advice. People who are suffering from trauma don't need advice. They need comfort and support. So say, 'I'm sorry' or 'This must really be hard for you' or 'Can I bring you a pot roast?' Don't say, 'You should hear what happened to me' or 'Here's what I would do if I were you.' And don't say, 'This is really bringing me down.'" 

People need to send the comfort in, and dump out. Don't dump your feelings further into the circle. It's never helpful. Dump your feelings to people further out in the circle, to those who are further from the problem. Give nothing but comfort and support to those further in by saying things like the author listed above. It's a simple rule, and is just brilliant.

So why am I posting about this on my infertility blog? Because this is just the sort of thing that is absolutely applicable to infertility. Comfort in, and dump out. The best way to be supportive is to simply follow the order. I know I have posted this before, but this Infertility Etiquette article from Resolve is the exact kind of things that people in the larger circles can do for their infertile friends in the center circle.

And, finally, I made my own diagram following the directions above.
The gossipmongers always dump in.

For many people I know experiencing infertility, this is a really stressful problem. For me, there hasn't been much of a problem recently. The only thing I can think of is when I spoke in church to the entire congregation and told our story. I opened up about how long we had been trying, about our three miscarriages, and feelings about it. I'm glad I did, but at the same time, wish that people knew what to say to me afterward. I had all kinds of reactions from "Oh, I know exactly how you feel. It took me five months to conceive my last child, and it was so hard, and complain complain," and "I know this great energy/voodoo/spiritual/shaman/prayer ritual that will make you fertile," to "Don't you know that the Church has an adoption service? Why don't you just use that?" and "Have you tried going on vacation?" Luckily, you, my wonderful friends, have been nothing but supportive. I truly admire everyone for their kindness and support these last few years. You're all the very best kind of friends I could have. Thank you for reading my blog these past months, and for listening to everything I have been teaching you.


Rachel Helps said...

I recently had the experience of having a health-related surgery. It was kind of wonderful how everyone was like "oh, let me make you dinner and help you clean house!" But unfortunately having a miscarriage is different (when I had mine, I didn't want to tell anyone at first since I was an emotional wreck, and even if I had--would I have just made it awkward?). So some part of me wishes there were a "oh let me bring you something" reaction to hearing about a miscarriage. :-/

Allie said...

Rachel, I completely agree. People don't quite understand what someone goes through when they have a miscarriage. The most common thing people said to me when I told them was, "Oh, well, you'll get pregnant again." And that was that and it wasn't a big deal. As if just getting pregnant again solves it!

Emmerin said...

Oh, this is so so true to all trials in life. Whoever came up with it is absolutely brilliant.

Starla said...

Love you, Allie!

strfshteacher said...

Rachel and Allie On June 1, 1989 I had a miscsrriage. It was a result from something called a molar pregnancy. I was 25 yrs. Old at the time. I was very surprised at how much more it affected me emotionally than physically. I would say it was 90% emotional and 10% physical. At sometime during my recovery week my husbands sister (who had had several abortions by that time) approached me and said now you understand what I went through. I was shocked!!!! My response to her " no, I wanted this baby" you CHOSE to kill yours. My bottom line is that I agrree with you people DONOT understand the emotional effects of a miscarriage.