I was thinking about the word ‘support’ this morning.
I expect like many words in this extraordinary language of ours we have our own interpretations. So I headed for the dictionary to see the true definition.
-Bear all or part of the weight of; hold up-
Seems to sum it up quite well, I feel.
So, when a grandparent comes seeking support, they want to unload and for someone else to just take the weight of sadness off them for a while. It isn’t or never should be about imposing your own thoughts onto someone else.
One thing those who give support must be acutely aware of is that they don’t fall into the trap of saying things like ” I know exactly how you feel” the truth is we don’t. We may be experiencing a similar situation but we can never truly know exactly how someone else is feeling.
It is a time to listen.
Listening is a skill, not being afraid to have silence in a conversation, allow those who are seeking support, time. Time to feel valued, time to know that what they are saying is important.
It can be easy to start to unload your own problems onto the one who has come to you for support, there may well be a time when you are asked about your own situation but you must always remember that it is you giving support not the other way around.
This can be often seen in social media.
A poster will start a thread looking for support, and within a very short time that thread is taken up by others going into every detail of their estrangement, and somewhere along the line the original poster has somehow go lost amongst other peoples angst.
People of course need a place to rant but it is not helpful to add fuel to their fire, in my opinion.
So again, just listen and when the time is right, talk about how to move forward, ask those seeking support what they want to happen,( the obvious answer naturally is for the estrangement to stop, but that may not be possible just at this time) talk about the good things in their lives, the family members that they still are in contact with.
Anyone who is supporting should never say that their separation is worse then anyone else. It is not about those giving support but those who seek support.
Finally, when a grandparent contacts us, I know it has taken enormous courage to do so. Some grandparents tell me that they have had our contact details in their pockets for months. It is vital that they hear a friendly non judgemental voice at the end of the phone, or they get a quick response from an email.
The next stage has to come from them.
You have to be guided by what they feel they need to support them.
Everyone has the power to take back control, all we do is to be there for the time required, being there if times are rocky, but always putting those who are receiving support first.
PS. We now have a new Facebook page, but remember it is a public page. https://www.facebook.com/BristolGrandparentsSupportGroup/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel