The Upside of Pain

Written by Lisa Black

I write a lot about the pain, loneliness and disillusionment that often accompanies grief. I am motivated to be real and vulnerable with the deep pain I have experienced. I have had obvious losses caused by death in my life: a husband, a son, two miscarriages and recently my mother-in-law. I have also experienced less obvious but profound losses of my dreams, relationships and security. Pain is pain. It is not the fun part of the human experience, but it is where we learn and grow the most. I am a changed woman because of my losses, hopefully for the better.

Here are the 10 most amazing things that have happened to me when I eventually came to submit and accept the lessons of grief, pain and loss in life and was able to push through to healing and health.

It takes A LOT to get me upset. When you have survived unimaginable tragedy and you are still breathing, in time and with a great deal of humility, you will find that you are not that easy to rile up anymore. When we stand in long lines at the airport, go through passport control, customs, and security only to sit on a plane for up to 17 hours, it does not bother me at all. I thank God I am able to go somewhere, see something new and experience all that life has to offer.

It does not take me long to put things in perspective. When our server over apologizes for our food taking so long on a Sunday afternoon,  I am not upset or even irritated. I am just thankful to be sitting there surrounded with the people I love, enjoying the fact that we are about to eat food someone else worked to prepared, and someone else is going to clean up. It’s a very good day.

When I hear sirens or see flashing lights, I simply pray.  (Okay, I sometimes experience a moment of PTSD, but after a few slow breaths I make myself snap out of it.) I mentally take a tally of everyone I love, and come to the conclusion that the drama occurring has nothing to do with me. I am instantly relieved, and then start praying for who ever this trauma will affect; all of them, even though they are strangers. I pray as if I know them. I pray as if they are mine.

I have deeper compassion. I used to feel bad for people that were hurting. Now, I don’t cry for them. I cry right with them because I now feel what they are experiencing. I feel it all. I still may not be able to find the words, but the pain of others is more than real to me, it bursts out of my eyes and flows down my face. I want people to be comforted in the fact that they are not alone in this journey.

I love deeper, with more passion, and I rarely forget to express it. My husband is spoiled with love and affection from me. Totally spoiled. My kids may not always agree with me,  but they know they are deeply loved.  All my friends hear, “I love you” at the end of every conversation. I don’t want anyone in my circle left wondering if I care. I try not to miss any opportunities to encourage and speak life and love to my tribe.

I no longer care about being right. I rarely share my opinion, and I hold my tongue on most subjects unless someone specifically asks. It’s not that I don’t have a life message, and it’s not that I am not passionate about what I believe. I just am no longer focused on trying to change people, or fix people. I am more focused on trying to love them well.

I listen more, and talk less. When I was in my lowest place, when I thought I might die from the pain in my heart, I just needed people to love me, to listen while I talked, and to let me talk about my broken heart without judging me. I want to be that person to others that are hurting. I want to be the one that listens. I know people don’t need my words as much as the need my time and my heart.

I don’t look at my phone. I prefer to look in the eyes of the human beings around me. I refuse to live distracted all the time. I refuse to choose to not be present. People matter; but we have to be awake and alert to see the heaviness that our brothers and sisters are carrying. Phones are great tools, but they cannot replace real relationships.

I keep my sacred things, SACRED.  My marriage is sacred, my family and my time is sacred. My home is sacred.  I don’t want to get to the end of my life and realize I let just anyone into the sacred places. I am violent in my protection of what matters. Opening yourself up to just anyone, for any reason, is not charitable, it is foolish. I do what is mine to do everyday, no more, no less.

Hate is not okay, even when you have been truly violated by another human. Forgiveness in the only way to be free… Really free. It’s never going to be okay, what that person did, but that is actually not my problem. Forgiveness is simply saying, “That is between you and God.” Forgiving others is releasing yourself to feel, to love and to celebrate the life God has given you.

So, embrace the pain, feel it, and don’t numb it.  Grieve what needs to be grieved, forgive who you need to forgive. Let the pain teach you what matters, and then change the world one smile, one hug and one day at a time. 

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