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Co-Mourning

October 31, 2012

I learned this relationship technique from Love Coach Scott Catamas, much thanks to him.

In any relationship where an upset triggers both people at once, it can be very difficult to arrive at a resolution.  In this situation, hurt feelings can linger and cause harm to the relationship, either by creating emotional distance and defensiveness, or by being buried only to resurface later.  The catch-22 is that it is hard for us to listen and feel empathy, which allows us to meet the other’s emotional needs, while our emotional needs are not being met.  Co-mourning is a technique for resolving mutual upset that can meet the emotional needs of both people at once, bypassing the need for apology, forgiveness, and understanding while moving directly to mutual acceptance through a shared experience.

If two people share something of value, both will be upset if it is damaged, and each can sympathize with the other’s feelings.  The technique of co-mourning involves framing the upset as an event, rather than a doing, so that both people can express and sympathize with the other’s feelings of grief.  If we look at the upset as a doing, then something has to change about the other person in order for it to be resolved, but if we look at it as a happening, then we can share the same feelings of sadness and loss with the other person in the face of a mutually unfortunate occurrence.  If the relationship is mutually valued, then harm coming to it is a mutual loss, and we can share each other’s grief over this the same way we could share each other’s grief over the illness of a mutual friend or the loss of a valued possession.

The way this is accomplished is by coming together in empathy over a shared misfortune, not as if either of you has done something wrong, but as if something has happened beyond your control that affects you both.  In coming together, you can share the ways you value the relationship, and the feelings of loss that you have felt as a result of the upset (not as a result of what either person did).  This has the effect of replacing feelings of resentment and mistrust with feelings of solidarity and compassion.

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