“The journey is learning that pain, like love, is simply something to surrender to.” –Glennon Doyle

“Sit with the pain” my therapist suggested. What? I don’t think so! Who said that was helpful, anyway?! Run, Cheri—learn quickly—avoid future pain at all costs.

Have you ever had a similar discussion with yourself?

I never heard the value of pain being discussed until I was in my recovery process. I lived a lot of years thinking (and being taught) that pain was something that we could avoid if we lived the “right” kind of life. And, when we did find ourselves in pain—suppress it or get out ASAP!

When it was suggested that I sit with the pain, I really had no idea what that meant. Why would I sit with the pain? Why not avoid it or find a fast way out of it? That seemed more reasonable to me.

The concept completely alluded me until sometime later. I was in a yoga class and I was in a particular pose and I remember that I was experiencing a good measure of pain in one area. The instructor was saying to “breathe into it,” breathe into that area. At the time, not all of that made sense either—but it did cause me to breathe. I realized often when tense, I held my breath. I took some deep breaths, and as I did, I realized that my body was relaxing itself. It wasn’t that I had no pain, but I did feel a slight break in the pain. I truly experienced an “aha moment” and began to comprehend how to sit with the pain. It was this physical experience with pain that helped me understand how to sit with emotional pain.

I had been in a lot of grief leading up to that point. I remember thinking, “Oh! That is what the therapist was trying to tell me when she was talking about me sitting with the pain.” I did not come out of the yoga pose, I stayed with the pose even though it was hurting. I had to change my breathing and allow my body to relax into the pain—a surrendering to it versus avoiding or resisting.

The next time I wept in my grief, I didn’t shut it down or attempt to make it a short cry. I didn’t criticize myself for again feeling the agonizing pain. Rather, I gave myself to it. I wept until I couldn’t weep more at that time. I let it come through in free expression. I sat with it—a surrendering.

Learning, time and again, to sit with it has been healing salve to my heart. I make no apologies for my grief. My precious boy was gone and I felt wrecked. Why wouldn’t I feel pain? My tears are kisses from my heart expressing the deep love I have for him. It’s love finding a voice!

Our world is in grief right now. COVID, war, abuse of power, mass shootings, marginalization of groups—the list goes on. These atrocities are worth grieving over!

Please, instead of transferring the pain to others, make a choice to love yourself and others—*sit with your grief*. There are many healthy ways to do this. I do it in many forms; be curious and find what works for you. Give it some voice—and let it’s healing salve soothe you!

Cheri Thomas

Cheri works as a Peer Support Specialist for RI in Arizona. She has experienced loss and grief which has led her to write for the masses to bring voice to those in similar situations. Cheri possesses a deep passion to share with, encourage, and inspire others on what she calls the Journey of the Heart.