Living with the pain

I think we have pain for a reason. I think it serves a purpose. I know this is true for physical pain. It’s part of our human condition and it’s part of our survival mechanism. No one escapes life without pain. Even if someone only lives a very short while, it is likely he or she will experience pain. Babies feel hunger as pain and they cry. This alerts us to feed them.

The longer we live the more pain we will experience, physical and quite probably emotional as well. It is part of the human condition.

I have experienced a sadness that dates back to when our family unit started breaking up and our children started leaving our home, one at a time. I missed them, and I missed the life I lived around them. I felt lost and without purpose. Sometimes I still feel sad about it.

It doesn’t help now, nor ever has, for people to tell me in one form or another to get over it. I think people who try to hurry me out of my grief are more concerned about their own discomfort with it than truly about my well-being.

To me, “getting over it” feels a little bit like denial. “Push it down, forget about it, and move on.”

I don’t want to get over it. I want to feel it, know it, understand it, absorb it, and then place it gently in a velvet-lined case safe in my heart to carry the rest of my life.

I’m experiencing a lot of sorrow at my father’s condition of Alzheimer’s and sadness about what my mother is enduring. I look around and see other elderly who are suffering. It’s a lucky man or woman who dies without suffering. Sometimes people suffer for years and years first. Sometimes I think the best argument against the case for a benevolent God is how most of us have to leave this life as old and decrepit people. It’s like we danced the dance and now our number is up so we have to pay the piper. It seems like a truly benevolent God, who created such awesome things of beauty with intricate mechanisms for survival and propagation, could have found a better way to get us out of this life. But I don’t claim to understand all of life’s mysteries, and that’s an argument for another day.

Our sorrows make us who we are. They teach us about love, loss, life, and endurance.

On a larger scale, acknowledging our own pain, sorrow, and sadness, and that which we witness in others gives us a chance to make progress, to right the wrongs. I’m thinking now of some of the news reports I’ve seen recently from Syria, or those from other years about natural disasters. They make me feel bad. Sometimes they make me feel bad enough that I write a check to the Red Cross. We have to feel pain sometimes. It serves a purpose.

I don’t think the avoidance of pain should be our objective. I think learning to enjoy life while we live with pain is a better cause. I think acting on, or growing from pain is a much better cause.

I want to live fully and completely.

I’ll keep my sorrows.

27 thoughts on “Living with the pain”

  1. I am with you on this one, Christine. I think everyone out there has a different idea of the way we grieve but I am of the opinion that it is a personal thing that only that person can do at their own pace and in their own way. I could identify with your thoughts about when the “kids leave” and that grief that comes with that. I think I am still grieving that loss. I miss my boys every day and even though we talk and text and email all the time I just still miss them. And I embrace that feeling. It is part of me. I loved this post today! Thanks for sharing.

  2. I want to live fully and completely too — and even though I miss the daily living with my kids and “being mom,” I wouldn’t trade this time for any other. Living the joy and sorrow, experiencing the highs and lows, embracing it all — a part of the roller coaster of life, of living. Great post, my friend!

    1. I’m learning to love this time we’re in, too, even though it seems to carry more sorrow in it than earlier days for me. The last 4 years we have experienced great losses in our family. Prior to that it was all pretty much good days for us, all things considered. We were fortunate.

      I do enjoy the comfort of these days with Mark. It is especially nice that he is home so much.

  3. “It seems like a truly benevolent God, who created such awesome things of beauty with intricate mechanisms for survival and propagation, could have found a better way to get us out of this life. But I don’t claim to understand all of life’s mysteries, and that’s an argument for another day.”

    “Our sorrows make us who we are. They teach us about love, loss, life, and endurance.”

    You’re much wiser than you give yourself credit for, Christine. It seems to me you understand perfectly.

    It’s hard to watch our loved ones suffer. It makes US suffer. But you are so right about it also making us who we are. It forms us into beings who are capable of great love, great acts of selflessness. It teaches us to love deeply.

    I’ve had to deal with the pain of my two children leaving home; both just in this past year, in fact. I miss them horribly, at times. And I guess I accept that. I have no choice. I have to accept ‘what is’. I comfort myself with the knowlege that they are healthy and safe. That they are good people. And with the fact that I can pick up the phone and call them when I need to hear their voices. I can go visit them.
    But yes, the house feels very quiet, and empty.
    Lovely post, dear.

    1. “She who knows and knows not she knows is asleep, wake her. . .” A little twist on an old adage.

      You’re right that we just have to accept some things. I think once we realize that, the sorrow lessons, or at least becomes more bearable. It’s tough when our kids leave. I sure moved full-speed ahead through life without fully seeing that one coming.

      I’m sorry you had to lose them both at once. They do add a lot of fun and interest to our households. Our oldest son has been gone for quite a few years now, and it does get easier. You just adjust to it and try to appreciate the time you still have together.

  4. Yours is a very astute observation. Pain is not something I relish and I find heart wrenching and difficult when I see it in the lives of others. I may not understand, but there is always a purpose to it and something to be learned from it. I am very against suicide and mercy-killing since God gave us life and it is not our place to end it. Pain in this life may be uncomfortable, but it doesn’t last forever.

    A Faraway View
    An A to Z Co-host blog
    Twitter: @AprilA2Z

    1. Thanks, Arlee. I really don’t know anybody who does “relish” pain. Most of us would like to avoid it if at all possible. But you’re right, it doesn’t last forever.

      I don’t believe it is our place to end life either.

  5. You say: I think people who try to hurry me out of my grief are more concerned about their own discomfort with it than truly about my well-being.

    I expect that you are not correct in that assumption . . . but hanging on to that thought gives you a reason for tuning them out so you can hang onto your sorrow.

    MOST people who encourage us to let go of stale pain are doing it for the same reason that you, as a mother, dried your kids tears. You did if because you were concerned with their well-being. You wanted THEM to feel better. You weren’t doing it to make yourself feel better.


    Pain is intended to be a temporary signal to slow down . . . or to sleep . . . or to eat . . . or to shift positions or . . . . whatever. Once it’s gotten our attention, it’s purpose is served. At that point, it is in our best interest to let it recede so that we can move forward with our life and embrace THIS moment.

    Imagine if every pain you’ve ever felt were a rock. You’re trying to climb to the pinnacle of the mountain . . . pain arises. You add it to your wheelbarrow and keep going. As you move through life, the pain accumulates until your wheelbarrow is overflowing with you stumbling along behind it. You can barely continue moving forward. You’re exhausted from the effort of pushing all that pain uphill.

    But you reason that “it’s making me stronger.” So you continue sludging along . . . carrying your pain like a badge of honor.

    Pushing all those rocks around is “making you stronger” . . . but it is exhausting you in the process. For what? The muscles that you are building are NOT needed for anything other than pushing that wheelbarrow of woe.

    So . . . DUMP IT. It’s served its purpose. Toss the pain and leave the wheelbarrow at the side of the road. You can carry the LESSONS with you . . . without weighing yourself down with all the unnecessary baggage.


    1. Well, we do see things differently. I’m sure this doesn’t surprise you. I suspected you would have something to say about this because I understand your world view well enough to realize that there are things in this post you would object to.

      I’m glad you have a world view that works well for you.

      I don’t figuratively push rocks in a wheelbarrow. (I have at times, literally). I carry love and loss in my heart. They aren’t heavy.

  6. “I’ll keep my sorrows.” This resonates with me, Christine. Could it be that the dark gifts play a role in forming our character? Surely our sorrows change us. Sometimes for the better, but not always. If we can keep our sorrows without becoming bitter, they will make us stronger and more beautiful. we need to be like Mary, the mother of Jesus, who pondered the mysteries in her heart. God could not have trusted just any woman with Mary’s purpose in life. Calvary must have torn her heart deeply with unimaginable grief. Someone had to be Mary, or we wouldn’t have Jesus. She paid a price to be the earthly mother of God. Blessings to you, Christine…

    1. It’s a good point you make about keeping the sorrows without becoming bitter. There’s so much to learn in this life, isn’t there?

      Mary is a good model.

  7. Your beautiful photo depicts the emotional tone of your post quite well. Sometimes it feels as if we are shrouded in a deep fog, unable to see the light. But, the light it there, and it will burn away the fog, and joy returns with the new day.

  8. Alzheimers is a really sorry condition, just terrible. It’s like a whole life lived is wiped – no trace of it at all.

    I had never thought of it that way but yes, ‘get over it’ can be dismissive to the point of denial. That was thought provoking, you saying that.

    1. Well, the way I look at it is that the death occurs slowly before our eyes. Somewhere along the line the person we love has died, even though he or she is still here in body. But those things that made that person an individual are gone from us all.

      When you lose someone to death, you lose all those things that made them who they were at the same time. They live only in your memory. With Alzheimer’s you watch the loss of all those things one by one and the reality in front of you prevents your memory from giving you solace.

      It is a terrible thing.

  9. Hi Christine .. you say it well here – it is very difficult – ‘pain’ .. can be an emotional attachment – I have had it .. and now feel it for the Alzheimers patients at the Nursing Centre .. and one who comes to visit her husband (who should have remained in our Nursing Centre – heaven knows why she had to leave … ). I feel for my mother and felt for my uncle – we can only do our best and not dwell … Time is something the elderly/frail need – that’s the important bit .. love is all, but time can ease their time with us.

    I don’t keep my sorrow – but I have and am learning from it .. we can only do our best within the parameters available to us – and those aren’t always the best, but are all we can do in this present life.

    With many thoughts – Hilary

    1. Thanks Hilary. It sounds like you see your fair share of sadness and suffering. I suppose you have to learn how to deal with it or it would pull you under.

      You are a good person.

  10. Yes its hard living with pain of what ever sort, whether that be our own or seeing the suffering others have to endure.. You are so very right here though Christine is that we have to live each day the best we can and enjoy the moment of now.. Its only by living through these situations and experiences that we grow on our journey here on this Earth.. For if there were no pain we would not experience Joy….
    Love and Blessings to you xx


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