According to different articles about dealing with grief and the stages of grief, pain is either not listed as one of the steps or is listed second. However, for me pain was first and always. The intense pain of loss has doubled me over, left me sobbing as I hug a pillow, caused me to doubt my sanity.
Yes, I smile, I laugh. I joke sometimes, but inside a background of heartache remains. I know why bards, authors, and poets over the centuries wrote and sang of heartache: The pain one feels when deeply hurt centers in the chest, and that location remains the spot the pain resides.
Even though we can’t erase the pain, although some people take refuge in medication and/or alcohol, we can work through it, around it, and despite it. Of course, pain may not leave us, in time it can lessen until we learn to live with it and the unexpected waves that can hit from time to time forever. How can one deal with this crippling pain?
One way is to face the anguish. Easy, no, but sooner or later, the pain must be confronted, even if we want to do anything to dull it. Over medicating, depending on alcohol, oversleeping, or jumping into other activities that sedate us with distractions does not solve the problem. We can’t run hard enough or fast enough to avoid the pain. Sooner or later it will catch us. However, we shouldn’t wallow in the deep pain for an extended period of time. Doing so results in self-pity and paralyzes us.
Next, we need to “let the pain out.” Even if we don’t normally cry much, we need to allow the tears flow. If we want to throw something, we should, making sure we don’t hurt ourselves or anyone else. Cleaning out closets, drawers, or cabinets gives physical and emotional release. Taking long drives or walks, screaming at the top of our lungs (somewhere we don’t startle others), making a book of memories – anything that allows us to release the pain without hurting ourselves or others is appropriate. We need to learn how to drawn on our inner emotional strength and faith and to learn how to cope with the pain. I often offer a short inner pray for strength throughout the day.
One idea given in most writings about dealing with pain is to share our pain with others. The experts say it’s healthy to find people who will take care of us when we suffer: friends, counselors, pastors. What those experts don’t say is what to do when our suffering continues and no one wants to be bothered any longer. That’s when I turn to writing. No, writing does not take the place of a listening ear, but it’s better than brooding.
Also, people who aren’t compassionate do not help us work through our pain. Some people do not understand what we’re experiencing, even if they have lost a loved one. Different people go through the stages of grief in a different order than others do. Some take longer to work their way through a phrase. Most of us go through some steps more than once. Therefore, if someone tells us, “I don’t know why you’re not pass this stage by now,” or “I didn’t take this long,” dismiss that person from your life until you don’t need a comforting shoulder.
Don’t do anything while in pain that we may regret later. For example, keep mementos that may be comforting later. We think we will always remember, but our memories do fade. I have many photos of Robert, many keepsakes, but I do not have a recording of his voice. I can’t remember the sound of his voice.
We do need to keep mementos out in the open if they are constant reminders of our pain. Have a special box or other pace to store them.
Finally, don’t be embarrassed or ashamed to seek professional help if needed. If the pain continues without abatement and seems to worsen, then asking for help is required. Even in the midst of pain, we should have brief times of relief.
The pain of loss will never completely leave. My baby died over 46 years ago, and I still have periods of pain from her loss. The pain has become muted and more bearable over the years, but it never disappeared. Each loss we experience changes our lives, and we have to find a way to live with the changes, including the pain.