The person sharing their story ...
…with a hollow look in their eyes, is clearly struggling to understand what has happened. Debris litters the field of their life. Like an F5 tornado, dropping out of the sky without warning, in a moment, a fraction of time on life’s clock, life has forever been altered. Familiar handholds stripped away. Faith in short supply or totally absent. A free fall of the soul into a darkness so profound that words fail to describe the pain of an invisible wound. You find yourself where you hoped you would not be: mentoring when crisis hits.
If you mentor long enough you will at some point find yourself walking side by side with someone through the debris field of their life calamity. Most often when disaster hits it strikes in one dimension of life (be it Physical, Financial, Social, Vocational) and then sends shock waves crashing through the remaining dimensions. The result is a life seriously compromised and often on the verge of collapse. This is without a doubt heartbreaking, frightening and overwhelming to the mentoree as well as the mentor.
There is a helplessness that accompanies such an event that is hard to accept but, accept it we must. There is also a sacredness to these moments that must be recognized as well; the deconstruction of a soul and the accompanying transformation that emerges from these places of deep pain. As a mentor we need to exercise great care when inserting ourselves into this “sacred scenario.”
It is important to understand your role, know your limits and be intuitive to your mentoree’s needs. Do not try to solve the unsolvable or relieve the pain that needs to run its course. Avoid simplistic answers and reassurances that sound hollow or devoid of compassion. Stifle the urge to rescue or “make it right.”
Recognize that in these moments the gift you do offer is your presence; presence in a very lonely place. Cry with them. Question with them. Hold them. Provide kindness to offset the harshness. Be angry with them. In short, Be Human. In doing this you will provide the space they need to be fully hurt and fully human.
And as a Mentor above all…
Listen thoroughly and then…listen again! In doing this you will help hold the fragments of their splintered life until they are strong enough to take back full possession and move with courage into their future.