Recently broken, hot tears streamed down from my friend’s cheeks. That was the 10th or 11th time that day, I can’t really say because I lost count. The pain of what she had earlier experienced crashed her heart swiftly.
She reached out to me to seek comfort. She texted me saying, “Sobbing again”, knowing I would understand the pain behind her words. I hesitated for a moment because sincerely, I really just wanted to console her but nah! Instead, I responded: “then cry. Feel it. It is going to hurt. However, every moment you are sobbing, you are doing the work. Every moment you are hurting, you are healing. The only way out is through.”
I know she did not expect that. I know you probably did not expect that too. It is the last thing anyone would want to hear. Majority of us would expect words of encouragement, maybe ‘all will be well’ text or best bet, credit alert… but let me break it down a bit.
You see, in the grieving process, you should not sugarcoat your feelings. You ought to feel the pain in its entirety. Pain is valid and productive – a necessary step on the journey towards healing.
The direct acknowledgement of suffering is truly all you need to feel pain instead of avoiding it. Instead of worrying that, you are not trying hard enough to be happy—instead of worrying that you are taking “too long” to heal—you would feel like you are doing everything properly.
I often celebrate the work I am doing on this journey, even when the work involves random breaking into sobs. It is important to then note, pain and grief have meaning, that serves a purpose, that could serve you.
When we allow ourselves to fully experience painful or uncomfortable feelings, we are doing work. Sitting with our feelings instead of freeing or distracting ourselves is work.
When you understand the true nature of your pain, you can then summon compassion for yourself through your uncomfortable feelings on the path to healing, peace, and wholeness.
This framework has changed my life. I have been able to apply it to my most intensely painful emotions, like heartbreak, as well as milder ones, like unease.
On days when I have a tide of anxiety, I take a deep breath and put my hand over my heart. I am doing work, I say firmly into my heart. This is important. I keep my hand on my chest, repeating these mantras.
There are those darkest moments of sorrow, the moments when grief shakes even our strongest foundations. When we lose a loved one, or an illness consumes us, or experience a tragedy so emotionally excruciating that, it begins to redefine our very understanding of pain.
In these moments, when you cannot find a single positive aspect for miles, you can summon the courage to sit with your sorrow. You can find solace in the truth that there is simply nothing else to do.
Experiencing your grief—if only for moments at a time—is work.
On days, when I feel existentially lost, isolated, and convinced of the meaninglessness of my pain, I take a moment to witness the people around me. I watch people having conversations surrounded by laughter, or reading novels, or just calling my friends.
Somehow, the immense majority of people around me have battered similarly painful times. The mere fact of their existence, when I am certain I will shatter into nothingness, is strong enough to soldier on.
Before I learned the benefit of sitting with my feelings, doing work of this nature did not appeal to me.
When I felt uncomfortable, I would find a way to occupy my time and distract my heart. If there was an award ceremony for developing “coping strategies”, I will take home a gold medal. I would call one friend after another, repeating the same painful story, spinning concentric circles around my pain without ever diving in; grab a pen and scribble up something to feel the rush of purposefulness at the expense of true release.
In reconsideration, it’s easy to see that my “coping strategies” were no such thing.
As for me, I’ve always believed that our purpose on this earth is to live our richest, most beautiful lives. Anything less seems like a terrible waste of the gift of conscious experience.
I believe that in order to live such lives, we must live our essential truth. Living our essential truth means making the conscious effort to feel the spectrum of our pain, magnificent and minor. It means giving ourselves permission to feel emotions as they are, and rid our lives of the pressures to conform, perform, and self-delude.
When we act in accordance with our deepest feelings, our lives become simpler. Instead of constantly choosing how to act or what to say—spurring waterfalls of anxiety and self-doubt –there is always one choice: the choice that is true for us. The choice that we feel in our hearts.
The next time you are hurting, uncomfortable, or lonely, feel your pain. Feel as much of it as you can bear. Your pain is a necessary step on your journey towards healing. And remember, you are doing your best, healing at exactly the right pace, doing the work and importantly, understanding your work has a meaning.
It can serve a purpose that can serve you.
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