What Happens When We Stop Blame And Start Connecting? Discover How To Make Connections With People Who Have Difficulties Accepting Change

The practice of mindfulness can be hard enough without the negativity of those around you. This series helps to provide insight into how these connections work and help people learn how to make good, healthy connection.

I grew up in a large American city and moved to South Dakota just out of high school. I have three older brothers and a twin sister. My older sister was diagnosed with brain cancer, and we faced a huge challenge in being able to accept that our little sister was no longer our big sister in these many years. She was gone for awhile, but she always came back to visit. We were very close to her. During one of these visits our mother made my 11-year-old brother and I promise each other that he would come see his sister when she was back in town. We couldn’t stop thinking about her, thinking about her face, thinking about everything she had been through.

We had to leave the house and drive a mile-and-a-half away. He was scared to death and we were scared, too. I was afraid that he wouldn’t make it. I was terrified that when he started crying and trying to hug her that she’d let her guard down and she’d start crying all over again, and we’d be back in the car with her the whole time, or worse. And so we left together. And when we got home, all our brothers were all there waiting. In fact, two of them were bigger than he was, so they were hugging him hard and just loving on him. A big one of them grabbed him by the shoulders and started telling him all about how they used to see her every couple months when she was a year-old and how she always had a big smile on her face and a big black bow in her hair, and he had been scared to death during that time. They told him this story so many times that it got to him. They told him that he should have been scared about her instead of him. He laughed a little at their joke and said, “Well, if she’s gone, so am I.”

Our mother told me about a little girl named Jessica whose mother had been a teacher at the same school we’d both gone to. She told me that many years after getting married and having kids, she felt like she couldn’t do anything the way that she had in high school. She felt so much pressure. They had become so much more successful because, well, she had no control over the kids because she was raising them. She had no control over the house. She couldn’t control the money. She didn’t control how her kids talked to one another, which made her feel really awkward. She felt like she could do no right when it came to her children and so she would not let herself talk to a friend of her daughter’s who was an older man. And the kids would look at her like she was the worst. So they left and her daughter, Jessica, came to live with her for a while. They had another daughter before getting married and having other children and when Jessica was growing up, the relationship between her and her mother was more strained than before. It was hard to even talk or to have those conversations because her mother was so stressed.

What happens when the relationship between the person who has been neglected and the adult they are looking to provide for them breaks down? That question is the same one that I get asked a couple of times per week when we are trying to find connections with people with mental health challenges. How do I know when I am connecting better with someone who has difficulty accepting change? When can I ask them how their life has changed, how they’re doing, how they do things differently? When is it okay not to judge? When is it okay to listen? When is it okay to not try and fix everything?

When I try to make a connection or show empathy with an individual who has problems accepting change, or when I express that kind of care, I feel really awkward for a few weeks.