Head toward the pain…

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Warning: This blog deals with sensitive issues around death.  

Death is something that, as a culture, we tend to run away from. That’s understandable. Part of being human is avoiding the things that cause us pain and distress. But sometimes, we need to head toward the pain.   

Some years ago, I attended a trauma training session. Our lecturer recalled a time he had taken care of sick people in Africa. A time when he was surrounded by the dying. And he didn’t hold back when it came to the reality of his experience.  

The stench of death was so overwhelming everyone recoiled from it. But knowing there was no avoiding it, he opted for a different approach.  

He moved into it. He breathed in that smell.  

And after a while, he stopped noticing it.  

It’s a powerful, and possibly uncomfortable image for us, but it’s one that’s stayed with me for decades. 

Recently, I read a book that talks about moving toward discomfort and pain when we want to accomplish our goals. As I tried this in my own life, those words from years ago echoed in my mind.  

‘’Head toward the pain, the pain will release you. ‘’ 

For anyone caring for a sick person, this is your reality. 

You move toward the pain even though you would rather pretend it isn’t happening. Because you have no choice.  

One of the very worst pieces of advice I received while taking care of my dad while he was sick was that maybe I should take a break. Take a break? A break from what? A break from taking care of my sick dad?  Then what? Who would take care of him instead of me? Someone else I cared about would have to fill in.  

That is not good. That is not responsible. And just for the sake of clarity, it wasn’t that I didn’t have breaks. I did. My sisters, mom and I split the tasks evenly. But our time with loved ones is precious. I couldn’t – and wouldn’t – take a sabbatical from caring for an acutely ill family member. 

The thing is that most of us would be all too willing to take a sabbatical from facing pain or discomfort in any area of our lives.  

How many situations do we push down the road or avoid? Situations that could ultimately benefit us if we just walked towards them, rather than walk away.  

Where in our own lives are we avoiding pain and discomfort we know we’ll eventually have to face? 

What are we putting off until tomorrow, Monday, next week, month, year?  

The mole that needs to get checked out. The relationship you know needs to come to an end. 

The friend you need to confront who is consistently mean to you.  

Yes, it will be painful and uncomfortable, but if it was for someone else you would not hesitate to face it. 

But because it is for YOU, you delay. 

I encourage you not to do this.  

Stand up now. Today.  

Make the appointment, have that awkward conversation, send the resume, ask for the raise, log your meals, go for a brisk walk, say yes to the event that scares you.  

Whatever it is, don’t put it off another moment.  Put yourself first, not last. 

It’s not selfish. Taking care of yourself makes it much, much easier on those who love you. They are happy when they know you are happy. They are more at ease when they know you are doing everything you can to take care of yourself.  

The best gift you can give to those who love you is to do everything you can TODAY, to take care of your tomorrow.  

What’s holding you back?  



Nicole C Weiss LCSW

Nicole WeissHead toward the pain…

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