Managing pain after loss

Sharon Stoffel, MS, LCSW, LPC

The journey of grief is painful. The pain is emotional, physical and mental. It might mean our bones and joints ache and it definitely means that our heart aches. Is there a day that will come when we don’t miss our loved ones or feel that ache? I hear this question often. And my answer is always the same, no. There will never come a day when we won’t miss our parent, our partner, our sibling or our child. That is not the goal of walking the journey of grief. So how do we live with the painful feeling of missing someone we love? 

I am beginning to see that one of the main tasks we face as we grieve is to be comfortable with the uncomfortable feelings we have. For most of us, we think we must find a way to either get rid of the pain or avoid the pain. But I think now the first thing we must do is breath and discover how we can live in our pain, our feelings of loneliness and our aching for the presence of our loved one. While many of us might use work, food or alcohol to avoid the ache of missing someone, it will be there following us no matter what we do to try and turn our backs on the feelings. Peace is not defined by the absence of pain, but by how we live with and grow from the pain.

We can take steps to learn how to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. Breathing is the first thing - deep, calming breaths. We can move, whether that is walking, biking or yoga. Any type of movement helps us get to that place of comfort. Journaling and acknowledging our feelings is important. Talking to others and validation of our experiences is key. I am realizing how necessary meditation or prayer is to help us get through the pain and ache. It is essential to be still in our bodies and minds and honor all our feelings including the painful ones. By acknowledging the difficult feelings we also allow ourselves to enjoy the pleasant feelings of joy and love. We also come to see how strong we can be and that we can handle more than we thought we ever could.

It’s important to remember that even though we will always miss our loved ones it does get easier, and there will be a day when there will be more room in our lives for the joy and love and we may even come to appreciate the pain and ache and all it can teach us.

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