I am an escape artist when it comes to pain
I have dodged it every way possible. I’ve run away and embraced denial. I created an existence fueled by alcohol, drugs and other numbing agents. I’ve used people and activities and food. These are all excellent for that temporary relief but when we are done the pain remains. It sits quietly in the waiting rooms of our minds becoming more enraged as we fail to call it back.
Pain is instrumental in change and health.
Pain is the smoke detector ringing loudly “Something is wrong! You have to move!” We put on our headphones and cancel out the noise, sometimes we take out the batteries all together. Pain is still there, but we have disabled the safety mechanism creating more danger and greater threats.
Numbing it was effective for a while. though I could still hear the alarms, I knew that having one more drink or drug would slow my instincts. When I got sober the grief and absolute destruction were waiting for me. They lunged into action and held me down for a proper beating. I was scared and wanted to flee. I knew I could get ahead of them, but I also knew I couldn’t rest, they were always two steps behind me waiting for me to stumble. It was time for surrender; time to embrace and sit in the discomfort.
3 months after my son died I had a break in denial.
I was sitting in Taylor’s room looking at a piggy bank painted with the words “College Fund” and I became enraged. The ceramic swine was taunting me, daring me not to see the irony in this vessel of unfulfilled dreams. I snapped, thrusting the bank hard onto the wood floor. Change and pieces of pig scattered as I slumped down into the reality of my grief. I sat and thought of every quarter I had put into that bank. Berating myself for believing in things like college when he hadn’t even made it to Pre-K, I wept. I cried and begged God to kill me, I wanted the pain gone and I wanted to be with my son. When my prayers went unanswered I climbed over the side of his empty crib. It still smelled like him and I felt relief. Curled into a ball of grief I closed my eyes and slept 2 solid hours. It was the first uninterrupted sleep I’d had in three months.
Pain was the villain for a long time.
Hiding from pain felt like survival but the further I moved from it the weaker I became. I was broken and falling, and I didn’t know how to heal. Pain got me into that crib and offered me rest when I needed it most.
I know I can’t beat pain, so instead I join it. We curl up together; working in concert. The answers seem to come quicker, and the hurt is profound. Pain is my road map to safety. She signals when we must turn and when danger is lurking ahead. Pain is a guide offering me peace if I only follow her to hope.
I invited pain in. Creating room for pain and giving it my full attention I asked these questions:
- Where is the pain coming from? Is it my heart or my head? Is it physical?
- What was the catalyst? Was it a loss? A fight? Something at work?
- What can we do to fix it?
Besides marrying a therapist (not mine), I’ve been a patron of therapeutic services for over a decade. The value of sitting with an unbiased, insightful being whose sole purpose is sifting through your life is unparalleled. Shout out to Karen who allowed me to spill molten crazy all over her for one hour every week for about 7 years. You’re the real MVP.
Coffee with a friend (cheaper than a therapist unless you’re going Venti)
Friends are so important in getting through the pain. The most powerful words in the English language are “me too.” Talking to a friend who has experienced similar woes often removes the isolation and disengagement we feel.
I live near the beach, so this is a perfect place for perspective and relaxation, but if you don’t have beach access pick a serene spot. Backyard, mountains, rivers, comfy chair, hammock, wherever you’re most at peace. Meditate or listen to music or journal.
This one is underrated, and I’d like to specify that journaling does not mean we sit and write out our feelings. Journaling could be a poem or fiction. It could be a doodle or painting. Journaling is vomiting onto paper everything that’s making our stomach turn.
When I’ve answered these questions, I know I can move forward.
I can’t resolve the loss of my son. Grief s an ongoing process and on any given day I am liable to break into a million little pieces over a Huggies commercial. Sometimes pain stays with me for weeks and sometimes its only a moment or two. I listen to my pain because I know I cannot outrun it. Pain is my co pilot in this life, her seat is always open because she knows the map better than I do. I remind myself each time, the alarms are for my health, they are for my recovery. Pain is for my serenity and I’ll let her lead every time.
Today and everyday we remember 3 things:
Pain is the cost of growth
Pain is patient & she will wait
Without pain we are lost