The experience of emotional pain is not one that’s alien to me. When reviewing my past pain history, there are two moments of profound pain which stand out.
The first one was the pain on separating from my first husband after a short marriage. The separation which was initiated by me was not made less painful because I wanted out. The pain of losing a dear friend, as well as the anger, self-loathing and shame I piled on myself knowing I was causing pain to someone else compounded the feelings even more.
Shortly after, I tattooed a rose over my chest to serve as a reminder to never seek my happiness in another person. After being with my now husband for over 22 years, I can more wisely say that those close to your heart will always have a large factor in the level of your happiness, but I know it always starts with me.
The second moment of the worst emotional pain I have ever felt was the loss of my dad about seven years ago. His illness was not prolonged by some standards, but to me felt like the longest seven weeks of my life marked by anger, confusion and fear from my dad who knew, but didn’t know he was dying and confusion, fear and then anger by myself who didn’t know he was dying until the last few days. It was an emotionally painful time which I wish I could do over and make it a more peaceful and beautiful rather than the nightmare it still feels like.
However, these two intensely painful events in my life weaken slightly to the worst pain that I have ever felt, ever will feel and fear feeling again and again…the emotional pain of seeing your children in emotional pain.
I’m not talking scraped knees, unkind people and lost treasures. I’m talking the pure raw emotional pain of dealing with things that leave marks on your soul and you’re never quite the same person again after the experience. The mother in me wishes I could absorb all that pain and carry it for them until like heavy smoke it dissipates. I wish I could shelter them from pain like that because I know how excruciating it is. I know what it is to open my eyes in the morning to the nightmare flooding back, to the heaviness settling in. I wish I could take it all from them.
But I can’t and there’s even a voice that whispers that it is not the best thing for them if I could.
So, I do what parents do for their offspring and do what I know for the human beings I know so well.
I hug often and hard. I transmit sympathy and love though every touch. I warn them that spontaneous hugging will be the order of the day.
I discourage them from crying and suffering alone as much as I can. I sit with them for no reason at all other than to let them know that they’re not alone. I am sensitive to give them space, but not too much, not too soon.
I make sure they’re not alone at night. I sleep on the floor or the couch. Nighttime is when the bogymen of the mind come out to play, and it’s torture.
I make sure they get enough sleep even if it means a little melatonin. Lack of sleep is the enemy of an unsettled mind.
I feed them. Not their favorite meals as I don’t want to ruin the meal for them forever, but platonic energy sustaining meals, meals that give them a hug.
I make tea. Tea really is the drink of comfort.
I distract. While sitting with the pain is part of the healing process, too much time with one’s thoughts only leads to ruminating. Ruminating is an endless loop which needs to be broken, so I take them for walks or employ their assistance cooking.
I listen. I talk as much as they want to talk. I stop and be silent. I am careful with my words knowing that the wrong words will imprint with indelible ink. Less is more….hugging is better.
And slowly, slowly, I see them come back into themselves little by little. The goal here is not to erase the wounds (that’s impossible) but create well-healed scars. Unhealed wounds have no choice but to create walls of protection and a hard heart stunts growth.
You cannot keep your children wrapped in bubble wrap. I look back on my own suffering, and even though I would never have chosen it, I am a softer, more empathetic and kinder human despite it.
But for today, I’m just a mom making tea, doling out lots of hugs, watchful for signs of healing and doing my darndest to soften the impact.
Emotional pain is not something that should be hidden away and never spoken about. There is truth in your pain, there is growth in your pain, but only if it’s first brought out into the open. – Steven Aitchison