Pain Without Suffering?

The Pain: My mom, suffering with dementia and in memory care, told me excitedly when I visited, “I have 3 children, 2 boys and a girl.” I am her fourth.

The Pain: “The goal of hospice care is to keep her comfortable and let her live out her final days in peace,” the nurse reassured us when Mom refused to eat or drink anymore.

The Pain: In the silence, my sister began reciting her old familiar prayer, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want,” as we each held Mom’s arm, watching her slip away from us.

The Pain: “She passed away. After we all went home,” my brother’s voice echoed through the phone.

The Pain: “I’ve got to do me. I can’t be here for you,” my partner’s actions broadcast.

The Pain: And with these words, the minister articulated all that was in my heart that I couldn’t name. “There are some people who are so woven into the tapestry of our communities, our families, our lives, that we just can’t imagine them not being here any longer. Pat is one of those people.”

The pain: It comes to me as a sharp blow or a dull ache. It is sneaky, striking hard and fast out of nowhere. Or it brews and builds and intensifies steadily and incrementally. It induces and reduces me. It is a wave, a punch, a brick wall. I know it is universal, known by all who have loved and lost, by all who have been hurt, wounded, forsaken, betrayed. It is…inevitable.

The Suffering: Pain has always led to suffering for me. I ruminate, get stuck, replay, catastrophize. I become the writer, director and star of my own drama. I look back and relive moments over and over. I look ahead and can’t bear the future. I replay my mom’s last year and final weeks. I read and reread our eulogies. I look back at pictures. I read my partner’s texts and look at vacation photos. I look ahead. What will Christmas be like without my mom? Her birthday? What about the new great grandchildren on the way? My partner is no longer part of my life. We had a camping trip planned, we were going to Colorado. We have a dog. What about the promises and commitment we made to one another?

The Pain Without the Suffering: Is this even possible? I listen to podcasts, read articles, study grief. One distinction that resonates is that pain is a physical signal or sensation felt in the body in response to an event. Suffering reflects pain, but is our interpretation of that event and involves our thoughts, beliefs and judgments. Our response to pain is where the suffering comes in. I decide I will stay in the moment. Feel the pain, acknowledge it, sit with it, be curious about it, see what information it brings. Shift back to present when my mind goes backward or forward. Sobbing, walking, writing, talking. Catch the pain and release it. Ready or not, I welcome it when it comes. I invite it in. The Pain.

Photo: Self Portrait, Flemington, NJ. 3.20.22 by LA

One response to “Pain Without Suffering?”

  1. Oh my goodness! This is very moving. I’m sorry for your pain and although it will never end, it will get easier. My prayers are sent to you ♥️

    Liked by 1 person

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