- Mental Health»
When is time to say goodbye… Pain is the beginning of the healing
I have heard the expression: “To say goodbye is to die a little”. I think it's so true! It's like losing a big part of oneself. Does it get any easier at some point?
Nothing lasts forever...
Everyone says goodbye someday. We do it in different situations: the death of a loved one, a breakup, a divorce, physical separation, or we even may have to say goodbye to the past, memories, or a dream we had.
Last year (the famous 2012) I felt my world was really getting to its end. I lost my daughter, she was less than one year old, I don’t even know the exact date of her death, I only know it was slow and awful (I am not going to get into the details of her departure). But I will say that having to say goodbye to her is probably the most difficult thing I have ever done in my entire life. It was so hard that there were days in which I literally felt I was not going to be able to take one more step or even one more breath without her; I was dying in desperation, knowing that I will never have the chance to hold her in my arms again in this life.
When we put together the words “pain” and “goodbye” we often think about death; but as we mentioned before, that is not the only way of saying goodbye, maybe facing the death is the most radical way, because it automatically means you will not see each other again in the rest of this life. But there are many other ways of saying goodbye to someone or something we do not want to let go. We can feel the pain that comes along with a divorce, a breakup, the ending of a friendship, etcetera. We can also suffer from letting go a certain dream we had for which we worked and sacrificed so much during a very long time, and it is really hard to say goodbye to what it could have been. And of course, we feel the agony of saying goodbye to the past and its memories. All these ways of saying goodbye may also come together! Maybe the person who just died could have been the other protagonist of your dream! And now you feel the sorrow from exchanging all the joy you had from shaping that dream together, for the agony of saying goodbye to it, the person, the future together, and the past ‑with all those cherished memories.
I was a little boy when I left the country in which I was born ‑Chile. Since then I have been practically all over the world. I grew up saying goodbye -in different ways, but it does not mean that now I can say it without feeling grief. It does not matter how often or the way you say goodbye, it never gets easier.
--“Hey, in the title you said something about healing, but you are just talking about the pain, what’s up with that?” It is ok; we are on the right track. Let's take a look at how our body reacts and heals when it is injured, alright?
Physical response to pain
Suppose I get a hard hit in my head, the first thing I am going to feel will be a sudden noise inside of it; then ‑after a fraction of a second‑ the pain will come. The pain is going to act as an alarm informing that a damage has been done, but it will also activate a number of physical responses. Such as vasodilation, reddening, and increased sensitivity of the skin around the wound. This immediate response is essential to initiate the reparation.
A lot of blood will go to the injured area, so I will feel it pumping, and the pain will increase for a moment, but the endorphins will make their arrival and start working right away, helping me cope my pain. Some damaged cells will need to be replaced in order to restore the tissue, and step by step my body will heal itself completely. There probably will be a scar, which will remind me that the pain was real... but it will also remind me that I made it through.
So, what I get from the above is that the hit itself did not cause me any pain! It only caused me a wound. The pain came from deep inside my own body as it was responding to the harm. Thus the pain was a signal that the healing was coming my way!
“I’m here. I love you. I don’t care if you need to stay up crying all night long, I will stay with you. There’s nothing you can ever do to lose my love. I will protect you until you die, and after your death I will still protect you. I am stronger than Depression and I am braver than Loneliness and nothing will ever exhaust me.”
Mind, body and soul are connected, and they work in pretty much the same way. When we suffer one of the things we mentioned earlier -the goodbye, we feel our soul hurting. We feel like we can’t take one more day. Somebody, something or some situation has wounded us; there is not much we can do about it, the wound is already there. So, is there something I could do the heal that wound sooner? The answer is “yes”. Do not turn your back on the pain, in this moment pain is your best friend. I know it sounds hard to believe or accept, and please, do not think I am a sadistic person, I am not telling you to look for the pain, I am only telling you to accept the pain you are already having.
We are human beings; we laugh, we enjoy, we get angry, we cry, and we feel. When we feel happy we just give ourselves the opportunity to feel it; if we feel like laughing we just laugh, but when we feel sad we refrain ourselves from feeling it; if we feel like crying we try to hold it as much as possible. We tend to think that “the less pain I feel the stronger I am”; nothing is further from the truth. As we said earlier, we are human beings… we feel! We need to grant ourselves permission to feel. If I don’t let myself take notice of the pain the wound will not cure, because my “inner me” will never hear the sound of the alarm, so it won’t start the healing; “there is no warning of a wound so there is no need to act about it”, see? Let’s think about this for a moment: If there is a fire in my house I need to sound the alarm as soon as possible in order to get the help! I cannot pretend my house will be a stronger one if I ignore the flames; the sooner I sound the alarm, the sooner the help will arrive. But if I don’t let the alarm do its job I won’t get the help, and almost for sure I won’t have a house anymore.
Let’s go back to the hit-in-the-head example… If I ignore the pain and keep doing exactly what I was doing before I got injured it won’t be long before my body will be all covered in my own blood, and in a few moments I will really not be able to take one more step since I won’t have enough blood in my veins, so I will fall straight to the floor, and in that very moment I will only depend on my luck (and since somebody just hit me in the head I can assume that it is not my lucky day!) So, what would be the right thing to do after I get wounded? Before anything else I need to realize that I am in pain; I need to accept that I am lacerated; I won’t deny it because denying it will just make things worse. I need to lie down as soon as possible, look for the proper help and attention, and let my body do the rest to heal itself.
There is a misconception of the strength that has led people to believe that when you are strong you don’t feel anything. Few months back, when I did not know whether my child was dead or alive, and after I found out she did not make it, some people came to me and told me things like, “Everything happens for a reason”; “She’s in a better place now”; “Don’t think about her”; “I am sorry for what you are going thru”; “What you are dealing with is nothing compared to what other people has suffered”; “Remember all the good moments you have lived in the rest of your life”; “That is just how life is, accept it”; “You will see her again someday”; “Don’t be sad”; and things like that. I know they all had good intentions, but if you have lost a loved one, then you know there is nothing somebody could say to you to relieve your pain.
Remember, we are human beings, we can feel, we can suffer, and we can be healed. If I turn my back on my pain I will never realize that I need consolation. I must take as long as I need to “feel” the pain. The process will be hard -that is why it is called “pain” and "suffering", and maybe I will need to look for some extra help, but eventually the wound will heal, and I will be able to say goodbye to my pain. Back to my case, it is still too early to say that I am completely healed, but I am on my way, there are days in which it gets just too difficult to keep dealing with the pain, but I keep fighting. Sometimes I think about the joy she had, how she was always smiling and happy, and I find my strength there.
I could not say that I did everything in the correct way to start the process-of-the-healing faster; I blamed myself for so long saying things like: “maybe if I would have done ‘this’ she would be still alive”; or things like that. Then I realized something that is very obvious when you look at it from the outside, but it is so hard to accept when you are inside: “blaming myself will not bring her back to life. It won’t get rid of the long agony she suffered before she passed away. It won’t take me back in time to change things. And it won’t help me get through this”.
This showed me I needed to stop pretending I was “strong enough to not feel the pain”. Pretending that, I was only dishonoring her life. Losing a loved one is a painful thing –to say the least; I could never put into words the pain I felt before and, of course, after I finally found out for certain that she died. Obviously, before I knew for sure she was dead I could not start my healing process; I had the hope of having her back with me, and I kept that hope until the same day they confirmed me the worst. While I got the hope I did not need the healing, because there was no damage (everything was uncertain, everything was a supposition, nothing was definitive), that is the beauty and the gift of hope; but when you have no hope any longer, you need to grief. No matter whether it is the departure of a loved one, the past, the memories, or your dream; it will cause you pain if you have to say goodbye to either one of them.
Consider this... If you get your heart broken and your soul wounded, feel the pain for a little while, just until you can see the light at the end of the tunnel, because when your wound starts to heal you will need to get up again and take one day at the time. Every runner falls once in a while, but only the strongest ones get back on the race. We are on the race of life, the reward is big! When we fall we get up, if the fall harmed us we stay in the ground for a while, but then we will get up again, with our strength renewed. Life is going to hit us, regardless of how hard it hurts us, we have a hope. The pain is just the beginning of the healing.