The Good Place of Pain

The Good Place of Pain

“Even in the darkness He’s beautiful. Even in the shadows He loves you still. What’s true in light, still true in the dark.” Rend Collective, Weep with Me (Reprise)

Pain is persistent, pulsating. Pain is enduring, relentless. I learned that my thought that I had a long unwanted journey before me was truer than I had understood. Pain toyed with me. Pain had this deceptive side to it.

When I was in the midst of pain, I had this feeling or sense that if I could just endure a little longer everything would be better. What I really felt deep down is that everything would go back to the way it was before. Endure, pass the test, and Kim would come back. I knew that was not true and was impossible. But that was how it felt. Pain on an unwanted journey is confusing.

Pain was toying with my heart.

I remember one vital lesson I learned: Don’t try to erase reminders or memories. Reminders of Kim are everywhere in my house and among my circle of friends. Every room and closet in my house; in fact, every shelf, drawer, and cupboard shouts her sweet name. And that’s just in my house.

Pain in loss is different than physical pain. God created us so that if we feel physical pain it acts as a warning. We touch something hot, feel pain, and we wince or shrink back. We pull away to avoid the damage that might be done to us.

It’s different with emotional pain. You must stay in it—press into the pain—in order to heal.

Inside my own mind are the memories we made across our thirty-five-and-a-half years of marriage. Add to that a couple years of dating and engagement. Memories fill my mind. I expect to see her around the corner or upon arrival home after a trip. My hand reaches for my cell phone only to remember she’s not going to answer even if I follow the impulse to call her.

Even so, you simply should not try to erase any reminder to avoid the pain. You should not erase any memory. Reminders and memories help you by bringing the pain to the forefront to help you embrace and process the grief.

Physically, we were created to pull away from pain; emotionally, we were created to press into the pain.

Once after I drove away from Durham after visiting my son, Paul, and his family, I was overcome by excruciating pain. We had simply taken pictures on Easter Sunday. But the pain it initiated was intense. I wasn’t supposed to be kneeling alone with two adorable grandsons for a photo. I wept as I drove north on the interstate as I headed back to Richmond. At one point I cried out, “I just want this pain to end!”

But that’s when I realized something: No, I don’t want the pain to end. I need the pain to process the grief. Pain has a good place. A good part to play. The pain reminds me of what I had when I had Kim as my wife, my companion. If the pain were to end so quickly and so easily, it would be as if I had not lost much at all. Another way to say it: If I easily skirt the full weight of pain and skip the process of mourning, I devalue the very institution of marriage, generally, and my own marriage, specifically. Pain must be valued for the part it would play in helping me remember and value my marriage.

In that light, pain became somehow beautiful and meaningful to me. Could I be steadfast and find joy in the good place of pain?

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4

17 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    Oh amazing articulation of my feelings last week as i ran across a photo of Kim in her kitchen with bread coming out of the oven and the smile.. oh the smile licking a finger in delight at the counter… I sure did press into that memory and the aroma was beautiful.. Love to you D Ray!

    • D. Ray

      I’d love to see that picture! And I’d love to smell her bread cooking again! And I’d love to see her smile…

  2. Anonymous

    Once again, D. Ray, you nail it. In recent days it seems the pain has been everywhere. I know He is in the midst of it and He understands it better than I. Thanks for painting the pain in a very positive and necessary way. Bless you brother.

  3. Anonymous

    Beautiful pain filled healing words that touch our hearts.
    Love you, pray for you,
    Evelyn and Zeb

    • D. Ray

      Thanks, Zeb and Evelyn. I love both of you so much!

  4. Anonymous

    The thought of my pain helping me process my grief had not so vividly occurred to me, but as usual, your journey has given me a new perspective. Thank you and continued prayers for your healing
    Donna B

    • D. Ray

      Thank you, Donna B.

  5. Anonymous

    D. Ray,
    Since you mentioned in this post your closets and reminders of Kim, I am wondering if you have kept any of Kim’s clothing. I am a quilter and have made beautiful quilts with my husband Paul’s shirts and Christmas stockings for our family with his sweaters. Because you have blessed so many with your “Facing Loss” posts, I would enjoy blessing you with a beautiful momento of your precious Kim!
    Debbie

    • D. Ray

      Debbie, not sure if you’ll see this reply…but if you do, send me an email at [email protected].

  6. Annette

    Precious Memories, how they linger…………………how they ever flood our souls………………..praying for the peace of our God, the beauty of His presence for each of us in our grief journey. Thank you again for your presence in our lives each week.

    • D. Ray

      Thank you, Annette.

  7. Anonymous

    Everyone already captured my comments: “best one yet”, “you nailed it”. Especially, the pain reminds me of 50 wonderful years, and how much I love and miss her.I’ll press on thru…….and not avoid it. Thank you!

    Mike Murphy

    • D. Ray

      Thank you, Mike. Press on and press in.

  8. Anonymous

    This so touched my heart. Thank you.

  9. Anonymous

    Thank you for so clearly expressing the need to “press into” the pain of grief so we may find healing.

    Jennifer Putman

    • D. Ray

      Thank you, Jennifer. It’s good to hear from you.

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