Wednesday, October 24, 2007


Pain and sorrow is part of life

Physical pain may be the body’s way of protectively warning us that something needs our attention. It may be harder to understand and accept that there may be an essential purpose for the pain felt deeply in the heart or spirit.

As much as we all try to avoid pain and sorrow, they are inextricably part of all of our lives.

As one teacher offered “no matter how we try to change the odds, life is a 50/50 split of pain and pleasure, by the very nature of being human and the impermanence of all life.” He added that we are all here for one reason…to cultivate our capacity for compassion… to grow our hearts.

When we are in a pit of sadness or grief some wisdom suggests getting out as soon as possible for fear of furnishing the pit and moving in. We all have our favorite ways of avoiding difficult feelings. However, the willingness to feel the depth of loss, although one of the most challenging human experiences, promotes the growth of our compassion.
Two poets share their wisdom about the importance of feeling grief. Naomi Shihab Nye’s poem Kindness reminds us, “Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside, you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing. You must wake with sorrow. You must speak to it till your voice catches the thread of all sorrows and you see the size of the cloth.”

And David Whyte, in his poem The Well of Grief, writes, “Those who will not slip beneath the still surface on the well of grief, turning downward through its black water to the place we cannot breathe, will never know the source from which we drink, the secret water clear and cold.”

The loss of people we love, our work, relationships, or health can feel devastating. The fear of staying trapped in grief can keep us from seeking the silence, space and support we may need to fully experience our loss and eventual healing. Yet holding our pain with love will keep our hearts open through it, no matter how long it takes.
Each event in our lives -- especially the most heart-wrenching ones -- are reshaping us and transforming us into more compassionate human beings. Our choice is only how we respond to this most difficult invitation to live a more authentic life.

Amy Dunion, a registered nurse and licensed massage therapist, is Coordinator of The William W. Backus Hospital’s Center for Healthcare Integration. This column should not replace advice or instruction from your personal physician. E-mail Dunion and all of the Healthy Living columnists at

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