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Standing in the Tension

As a little girl one of my favorite things to do was to make potholders on a little loom. I loved pulling the small loops of many colors tightly across, and the challenge to get them to stay in that place of tension. The beauty was created as I wove other loops over, under, and across. The loose threads and tense threads all woven together was a creation with meaning and purpose.

As an adult, my grandmother fell down the stairs and as a result had brain damage. She was unable to continue with the activities she loved and very bored. I remembered the little loom and gave her one. She made hundreds of potholders over the course of the next few years. Her little crooked fingers could barely stretch those loops across, but she knew beauty would come in her little creation, and it would have purpose. She stayed in the tension and worked through it to reach her goal.

Making those potholders gave Sweet Granny and I each a purpose at a point in life when we needed it. This little craft project enabled each of us to cope during chapters of tension in our life stories. You never know how life will change, or what someone may need during those changes.

As a chaplain, I stand in the tension with others. The truth is that everyone has the opportunity to serve someone in the time of need as chaplains do. I think of those little looms as symbols for me of what it is to be supportive of someone. The threads stretched across and held in tension are the warp threads. The woven pieces are the weft threads. Something happens in life that causes tension, whether it be sickness, change of condition, death, grief, or many other things. The warp threads represent those difficult experiences. The weft threads represent the emotions, copings skills, beliefs, etc. one draws upon to cope with a situation. As a support person, you are the loom, standing with others, as they hold those warp threads of tension. Support happens when you create a safe place for them to pull out those weft threads of emotion, beliefs, and coping. As they grieve. As they celebrate. All at the same time. All so confusing and consuming. You don’t weave the weft threads for them (try to fix it or answer the questions for them). You normalize and validate their emotion, and through it all they find some way of weaving it all together creating an individual meaning…another chapter in their story, which they will carry with them forever.

How may you serve someone in tension or grief?

Tips on What Not to Say:

It happened for the best.

Calm down. (Let them express how they feel.)

Don’t cry.

Don’t worry, you can have another baby…you have other children…

I know how you feel.

What are you going to do?

God needed another angel.

You have to pick yourself up by your bootstraps, dust yourself off, and move on.

Just get over it.

Be strong.

Shhhh…there there.

Tips on Things to Say:

I’m so sorry.

It’s okay to cry.

I’m listening if you need to talk about it.

What may I do to help?

May I contact you later to see how you are doing?

Tell me more…

Why do you need to be ‘strong’ right now? It’s okay to be whatever you need to be with me.

I can’t imagine how this must feel.

I would be angry (sad) too. Seems normal to feel this way.

Of course you feel this way.

How may I pray for you?

There are no words.

Some things we certainly cannot understand.

I care.

I love you.

I’m here.

I have an open heart and time to listen.

Sometimes we know something with our heads, and feel something different with our hearts and the two will not agree. This is one of those times.

Say nothing at all. Just be with them.

Chaplain Kim Crawford


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