Pain wears us down

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Suicide is an individual’s response to extreme pain without hope of remission. Pain can be physical or emotional. It can be attributed to illness or it can be harder to explain. Living with pain of any kind wears us down, limits our range of choice and robs us of our ability to engage in life to the fullest. While most of us have difficulty coping with simple temporary pain, such as a toothache, we can’t comprehend life with ongoing, debilitating chronic pain, whatever its cause.

Many of us have difficulty believing and honouring that which cannot be seen. Our response to pain tends to be to deny it, anesthetize it and pathologize it. No one wants to be around someone who is in pain. Pain sufferers know this and often face isolation and shame, even blaming themselves for not being able to make their pain go away.

Professional caregivers face a profound dilemma in working with people suffering from chronic pain. Our training tells us we are supposed to help our clients feel better.

We feel frustrated when we can’t make the pain go away and sometimes we blame the sufferer and pull away rather than consider our own impotence. What is the right thing to suggest to someone who faces a future with no end of agony in sight?

Pain is a sad reality of life for more people than any of us would like believe. How to best cope with and respond to unremitting pain ultimately becomes a highly personal and private decision. Who among us can judge another’s choice in the face of that? Because, sadly, there but for the grace of God go us all.

Judy Kiar

Individual, couple and family therapist