If we allow it, our pain informs us. It tells us when something is wrong. It lets us know we need some loving care. It begs us to rest and regroup - to nurture ourselves until we’re ready to consider what to do.
We all carry pain. One of the elements of mindful self-compassion is common humanity, reminding us all humans suffer. It’s part of our shared human experience, not a sign of weakness and not something that happens to you alone.
I have found myself living with some really heavy pain mixed with a lot of fear lately. At times I’ve found myself feeling flat and dull like a cardboard shirt liner. Some days it’s a slog to simply do the next thing. Other days I compartmentalize a bit and put the painful stuff aside to enjoy being with myself or with a friend. One thing I know for sure is the more I’m able to express or share my pain, the less burdened I feel.
When we try to carry it alone, giving it nowhere to go, no release, no expression, no tears or screams, it eats us up inside. It comes out - always - just maybe not in a healthy way. Sideways, misdirected, harmful.
What helps me in these times is to talk about it with someone who simply listens without trying to fix or advise. It helps me to write about it. It helps me to cry, even if the tears come from an unrelated song or movie. It helps to get outdoors and look for beauty. Because what’s scaring me is so outside my control, it helps to find what I can control - picking one small task and seeing it through (I’m talking super small, like getting a load of laundry through the dryer or wiping down one kitchen counter).
I’m learning to be with my pain, and to not be with it alone. Give it space. Give it voice before its pressure builds up and blows, before I become so numb that I hide away and lose myself to the world.
Where did we learn to believe we have to be OK all the time? That it’s weak to admit we’re hurting or scared? Maybe from parents who held it all together as they went through hard times. Parents who did what they had to do to get through, who weren’t raised to talk about their sorrows or hardships and didn’t know how to care for themselves. Maybe from a world that feels hard and harsh - a world that instructs us to hide our tears and “get over” our grief.
Pain carried alone is like poison, slowly taking us down.
What if we faced pain together?
As we face our scary realities, I wonder what might happen if we can each let down our armor. Maybe we can be afraid together. Maybe in that fear, we can break through - maybe shared vulnerability will help us face what we need to in a realistic way. Maybe. Maybe if we trusted one another to be honest and open about what’s going on, we can face it together. Maybe if we stopped pretending we’re OK, maybe if we’d open our hearts to one another, take a breath, slow down long enough to be really real, maybe then we’d get somewhere. Stop pushing, stop running and let ourselves break down to break through.
Maybe we need to stop jumping too quickly to problem-solving and let ourselves admit just how scared we are first. Maybe we can admit we don’t know what’s coming or how things can change, and then uncover some fresh ideas. What if we could learn from each other’s fears as we share our own? Can we come together to find a way forward? It seems worth a shot.
Hurt people hurt people. Let’s be people who are healing to help others heal. It will take some time. We have time. It’s always better to slow things down than to try to operate from a place of reactivity. Our pain and our problems deserve our time, our attention, our love, and our full presence. Especially when things feel really dire. In those moments, may we open our hearts to one another, let our whole selves come through, and come together to find our way on.
To the One Who is Hurting
by Barb Klein
To you, Dear One,
The one who’s not doing as well
as you’d like the world to believe,
I see you
I feel for you
I know what it’s like -
to armor up and soldier on
to put on a smile when you feel empty inside
to feel lost and alone, and oh, so scared
Where do you turn?
How do you let it out
so you don’t carry this unbearable weight
Please let yourself let down
some way, somewhere…
Don’t carry this alone.
It will tear you up inside
And leave you as destroyed
as the one you worry about.
Please, find someone -
let someone walk by your side.
You don’t have to pretend to be OK.
In each of us there lies a secret pain -
too big to let out, we fear,
afraid it will take over the moment it’s revealed
You are not alone.
You are one of thousands of millions,
pretending to be OK,
shoving it down, this poisonous pain,
burying it away,
hurting and hurting and hurting some more.
Let it out.
Let someone in.
You do not have to carry this alone.
When pain is shared
it becomes less heavy -
Perhaps a new possibility might arise…
if not, at least you can face it -
It’s too much for one person to bear, this poisonous pain.
I see you
I feel you
I’ve been there (just yesterday, in fact)
I wrap you in a love that reminds you -
You do not suffer alone
Let’s carry this together
as we step into this day,
Not pretending we’re OK
We’ll go on and find our way
We will get through another day
Gentle yourself in whatever way you need. Rest when you need to. Know that pain doesn't have to be pushed through and that it's not weak to ask for help. Cry. Scream. Write. Whatever works for you to get out any pain you're holding. Let it out, get it out so that it doesn't tear you up inside. Please offer yourself tons of grace. Find your own version of what helps.
And if, in this moment, you're feeling peaceful, relaxed and full of joy! Great!! Soak that in - breathe it in to your bones so you remember you can find this feeling when you need it.
As always, please meet yourself with kindness, gentleness, tenderness, and compassion. And know that you are not alone.
I offer you this meditation, In Painful Times, as a practice to support you.