I think if we all had a choice, we would want to live our lives without emotional pain. Considering that we do not live in a Utopian society, the avoidance of pain is impossible. Pain and loss is and always will be a part of our existence. Many bereaved individuals that I know have been able to thrive in the midst of catastrophic loss because of their ability to use their pain to learn how to become better people and help others. They have also learned to transcend their pain into unconditional love for others who have experienced loss and to those individuals who are reminders of their deceased loved ones.
As I have mentioned in previous articles and posts, our grief journeys are circular. We can experience the pain of loss at any time, depending on what is happening to us in the present. I still periodically experience the pain of my daughter Jeannine’s physical absence in my life. Today, I do not shy away from it, but rather try to ask: “What is my pain trying to teach me about my journey?”
A few months ago, I came across a speech Jeannine did when she was a middle-school student. Finding it brought up fresh feelings of emotional pain. However, as I read her speech, I found that it contained a simple, valuable lesson that I will use in the future as a step that the bereaved can take to build communities of love and support, where connections to their deceased loved ones are celebrated. Jeannine’s lesson simply stated is: “Say hi, make friends.”
In early grief, we are usually too consumed by the emotional pain resulting from the physical absence of our loved ones to view our pain as a teacher of life lessons. The emphasis (at least for me) was to survive it and to blindly keep looking for a ray of hope.
But now I have tried to see my pain as an ally, something that will eventually help me to see new paths or learn new lessons on my journey. Some days I am better at it than other days, but such is the imperfect nature of our journeys. But perfection is not something to strive for in the midst of unbearable loss; resilience is, however.I encourage all of you to look at pain from a different perspective. Each time you experience and eventually detach from the pain of loss, additional truths about your journey or other directions to explore, may come to light.
Dave Roberts 2011