The Path Through Pain

By on March 2, 2011

By Sylvia Henderson –

It was just a few days ago that I was trudging alone through the unbroken snow: sobbing, deep sobs, sobbing out loud over and over, “ I just don’t care, I just don’t care, Lord.  I don’t care anymore.”  I had been able to keep the sobs back that day after taking my sweet yellow lab/mix dog of 2 ½ years to a local boarding kennel to have her ‘ placed .’  The look on her face as she watched and listened to prior telephone conversations about her, and why I needed to place her, are still branded in my mind.  Then, when I actually took her, and her food bowl and bedding to the kennel, she began shaking as we entered the building.  Always before she had been so happy to be at ‘ Doggy Disneyland.’  Not this time.  Did she know I wasn’t coming back for her?  This question still haunts me.

As a counselor of 27 years, I am familiar with the stages of grief and loss.  I know about disbelief, shock, depression, anger, bargaining and finally acceptance having walked through it with clients and experienced it many times myself.  However, this time was different.

This time I allowed myself to be fully in that ‘ winter place of the soul’ instead of pushing the pain aside after briefly looking at it. This time I thought my heart would break.  I found myself forcing deep breaths, one after the other as I wailed out loud to the sky, the trees, to God.  Remember Moses’ heart-rendering prayer to God in Number 11:11-15?  He is alone on the mountain, crying out to God; his heart full of pain, confusion, despair, anger, and fear, asking God to take him, not wanting to go on.  And, God heard his cries as He hears ours.

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Perhaps you, too, have found yourself in that season after hearing of a loved one’s death:  having to place a parent in a nursing home, being at a loved one’s side as they pass from this life, getting divorce papers served to you out of the blue, hearing the physician’s voice tell of an incurable disease, losing a beloved pet.  These are truly times of grey, cold stillness, which can and do trigger other memories, bringing even more pain to the body, soul and mind.

Maybe you can relate to Psalm 28:1 where David cried out to God:

‘ To you I call, O Lord my Rock: do not turn a deaf ear to me. For if you remain silent I

will be like those who have gone down to the pit.  Hear my cry for mercy, as I call to

you for help, as I lift up my hands toward your Most Holy Place.’

However, I was not able to lift up hands or praise God at all.  All I could do was grieve and make it okay that I was in this place of sorrow, and it was okay to stay there as long as I needed.  And, as the days pass, my pain is subsiding: even as I see her footprints in the snow from our last walk together, as I see the empty place by the fire where she slept, as I get up to a ‘ too quiet’ house in the morning.  I am beginning to enter into a little praise, relating more to Psalm 28:6-7:

‘ Praise be to the Lord, for He has heard by cry for mercy, the Lord is my strength and my

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shield, my heart trust in Him, and I am helped.’

None of us will escape the pain of trauma and loss, which are part of life.  However, when we tell ourselves to ‘just get over it, it happened a long time ago, it is only a dog’ when we tell ourselves our feelings are unacceptable and then exclude them from awareness by distractions, numbing, they remain.  Recent research has shown that by trying to avoid and deny pain we are actually increasing it, and paradoxically, when we allow ourselves to feel we reduce its power.

My heart is not yet ‘ leaping for joy’, but my thankfulness is slowly coming as I lay my pain down and He picks me up.  It is not through my effort that spring is coming to my soul: it is through Him.  Yes, we have all gone through these ‘winters of the heart and soul’, and will until He returns; when there will be no more sickness or sorrow.

Until then, dear one, know that you can grieve, sob and struggle through your Winter; for it, too, shall pass as all seasons do.  Take care of yourself: get lots of rest, eat well, take on no new tasks, reach out to friends and ask for prayer.  Know that your present loss can trigger other losses and the pain that accompanies.  Know that this, too, is normal, that God is walking with you on your path, even though you can’t see Him for the tears.

Sylvia Henderson has a private practice in Oregon where she received her Masters in Counseling Psychology from the University of Oregon at the age of 43.

Sylvia Henderson

About Sylvia Henderson

Sylvia Henderson has a private practice in Oregon where she received her Masters in Counseling Psychology from the University of Oregon at the age of 43.

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The Path Through Pain