Suffering is only pain’s desperate need for a friend


Sometimes the truth, the adult, mature, balanced, right and good truth, is actually irrelevant. While an enlightened view of painful situation is a sign of some hard work and evolved growth, and it is true, that a new perspective and the practice of mindfulness is an element of healing, there is an important facet that our ‘hurry up and finish grieving’ culture, is loosing. Heart.

If your child steps on glass and cuts their foot, you pick them up, dress the wound, give a kiss and carry them for a little longer. You know the glass is gone but the experience for the child has been very real and very painful. They are sure it will never be safe to walk on the ground . . . ever again. Even though you know the immediate threat is over, it is safe, and their perspective of the ground is no longer true, you carry them anyway to support their need in regaining a sense of security.

As you carry them you talk about how sometimes there will be glass or possibly other sharp objects, but mostly there isn’t. How it is safe to walk even after the experience, because it has made them aware of themselves in the world, and has enhanced their ability to see potential harm. We, as the adult, talk the child into looking down at the ground from the safety of our arms to see for themselves, that all is clear.

Over the course, of whatever time it takes, we answer their tentative questions and agree, that while the truth is, there are still sharp objects, there are not many, and that if they happen to get cut again this experience has taught them that they will in fact survive getting injured. That after the injury, they can once again enjoy the feeling of being barefoot in the grass or the sand or the water. That they can move forward assured that they are even stronger now and are ready to feel freedom and joy once again.

They need to be put back down, in time, their time – when the extremes of fear have subsided and only tentativeness is left.

As friends to others we must understand that grief is not civilized, not sensible, not pretty. It distorts thought, seems irrational, and can be a snotty, crazy making mess. It is not to be rushed, belittled or compared to. We must have compassion and patience for the feelings of pain that threaten to turn another’s insides completely out.

Likewise we must view ourselves from this same perspective. Be humane and kind to ourselves when we have faced injury. We must be the friend for our pain and be reassuring, that the response of grief has a life of its own and deserves our accommodation and attention. We all just want to be noticed, we just want someone to see, to really see, how much it hurt. In life, pain will come but suffering is not necessary. Suffering is only pain’s desperate need for a friend.


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