I was scrolling through Instagram a couple of weeks ago and I came across a birth story post. The story was gorgeous: a long and exhausting but complication and pain medication-free, vaginal delivery of a baby boy. The mother was comparing this birth to a previous one that had been somewhat traumatic and many women were sharing their own stories. I don’ know if you have realized this, but mothers love to talk about their birth stories. There is a deep psychological reason for this that I won’t get into here, but just know if you ever get a woman talking about the birth of one of her children, it is deeply important to her. And you will honor her heart greatly by listening. So, I read deep into the comment because, like somewhat of a glutton for pain, I wanted to read both the beautiful and redeeming as well as the painful…because I relate very strongly to both. I wrote in response to one woman’s comment that often these kinds of posts can be triggers for my own grief as I continue to work through it, and the original poster ended up responding to me personally, apologizing for any hurt it might have caused me to read her story. I was almost miffed that she felt like she had to apologize! After all, it was a simple sharing of a beautiful experience. I strongly assured her that one, she should never, ever apologize for sharing the story of her child coming into the world, two, that bringing up a powerful opportunity for women to engage with one another is a gift, and three, she shouldn’t feel bad about possibly triggering a reader’s emotions. Why? Because as a society, we far too often remove ourselves from opportunities to feel uncomfortable. I can’t tell you how many times recently I have seen an article or a social media post prefaced with the title: Trigger Warning. We have taken the valuable notion of political and social correctness and transferred it over into other realms that perhaps don’t need the same degree of protection, tiptoeing around pain and sorrow and refusing to touch it with a 12-foot pole. I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of people shoving pain away with tired, witty statements that in effect deem a large chunk of their hearts as unimportant. Oh that little wound? It doesn’t need attention. I’ll say something funny so we don’t have to bring it up anymore.
I want to deal with my pain. I want to shed light on my pain, and if you’re close to me, then I want to know yours, too. Because do you know what unseen, unfelt, ignored pain looks like? Anxiety. Over-eating. Binge shopping/drinking/gambling/exercising, etc. etc. etc. It looks sarcastic and closed-off. It looks pretentious and mean. It does not look safe or inviting, and it absolutely, 100% does not allow love to be given or received. That might sound dramatic, and it might not be where you are at today if you have one, small wound that has been a bit neglected. But over time that wound festers. It sees things that trigger its pain to begin throbbing again and it soon becomes bitter that nobody sees it or values it. Isolation of pain begets kind of loneliness whose symptoms grow far beyond that one area of grief, and it soon manifests into other areas. You know a wounded person when you see them. They wear it like a mantle that can’t be shaken, and it is uncomfortable to be around without talking about it. You can only go so far into relationship with a person who refuses to give attention to their baggage. That small wound has suddenly become the entirety in which they are defined.
Let me paint you another picture, one of a woman who also wears a mantle of pain. But hers brings a softness and an openness to her countenance. She sees her pain and is not ashamed to let others see it too. She has recognized it all along, and she has deemed that pain worthy, valuable, and necessary. It is a part of her story but it does not define her. She can look at her pain from afar, and she can also tap into the way it feels, receiving healing every time she does. She does not shout it from the rooftops or wear it like a badge that entitles her to something special, but when she feels safe she will talk about it. And because no piece of her history resides in darkness, she is free to love herself and to receive love.
You deserve love. You deserve freedom in love. Your loved ones deserve a you that is open, humble, and walking daily in truth. You don’t deserve to feel your discomfort alone- I know it sounds strange, but some of us folks are hardwired to do really well in uncomfortable situations. And us empathetic helper types can already feel the heaviness that you’re not talking about just by being around you. So open up already 😉 All around us are opportunities for community, for guidance, and for help along the journey. It’s OK to start small! Start with a journal, or a text to a friend that you want to talk about something over a meal. Reach out to your spouse, a parent, your pastor, or if you’re an all-in type of person, a counselor, life coach, or spiritual director. We are not meant to go through life ignoring pain, stuffing bitterness down into the depths of our souls thinking it’s either too big or not big enough to be dealt with. It’s all worthy. And we are all worthy.