A Letter To Open Our Minds In Responding To Others’ Pain

Posted: August 10, 2018

Whether you are family, a friend, a health care professional, an acquaintance, or a stranger who comes in contact with someone’s pain, it’s important to learn to respond to pain in an empathetic manner.

Dear Clueless Judge of Pain or Sceptical Pain Sympathizer,

I hope this letter finds you well. I sincerely do. And I also sincerely hope you don’t find yourself identifying with any of these titles. But if you do, I hope this letter helps. Yes my intention is not to make you feel guilty alone, it’s also to share my thoughts on encouraging us, as a society in becoming a more pain sensitive society in the right sense.

Many a time, we find ourselves having the right intent, but our expressions don’t match up. We are all at a loss sometimes. This is a note to myself too because I may have unknowingly wronged someone. I apologize.

I find myself here, writing a letter to all who’ve told a girl, a woman to learn to bear pain only because of the gender she’s born with. (Not being sexist, for sure no man should be judged for the pain he bears either. I am completely sure this letter applies to either gender, but this letter is an outcome of an outburst I’ve had recently when, an incident told me how a girl is, for sure, expected to bear pain only because she is a girl).

It’s also to all who’ve judged someone’s pain without understanding that someone’s plight in entirety.

It’s also to all who’ve perhaps sympathised with someone’s pain, for sure, but with an expectation that, that someone bear that pain without whimpering, at least not recurrent whimpering, because of the notion that “if pain is part of life, one must just bear it, what’s the use complaining so often?”

Whether you are family, a friend, a health care professional, an acquaintance, or a stranger who comes in contact with someone’s pain.

Whether the pain is physical, mental, emotional pain.

Whether you’ve dealt with similar pain or not.

Whether that someone is younger or older.

You may be thinking, that pain is a part of all our lives and we all deal with pain at different times in different proportions. And yes, we have the responsibility of making people bolder and stronger when it comes to bearing pain.

But this can only happen after understanding the true situation, it can only happen when you truly empathize and express how deeply their pain affects you. It can only happen when this is independent of any other biases. And then and only then, can true encouragement and support happen.

A little 8 year old girl, Nishi once fell down the stairs while playing. She bruised her left knee. Her grandmother who was around, took her home, lovingly placed Nishi on her lap and applied a comforting ice pack on her knee. She was relieved to know that Nishi had only bruised her knee which would heal on its own. Nishi did not stop crying for a long time. As her cries reduced a little, her grandmother jokingly asks her, “Nishi ma, if you cry like this only for a knee bruise, there is so much more to see in life, you know? You are a girl after all, you should be brave and strong”. Nishi listens to her grandmother and tries to process it in her innocent 8 year old mind.

As she grows up, at different stages of her life she is reminded of how right her grandmother was about the pain she would have to bear. And at moments, when the pain was unbearable, she tells herself, “Oh Nishi, you can’t even bear this pain?” and pushes herself every single time. She feels guilty when she is unable to deal with pain. She thinks a hundred times before she goes to the doctor for a painful UTI. And it continues even when she has extremely painful periods.

She even stops herself from talking to her closest friend when she feels depressed. And in case she does share her pain, if someone judges her or gives her a lesson on how pain is inevitable, what was already on her mind gets reinforced and she finds herself weaker. Isn’t that sad?

The intent of her grandmother was to make her strong and brave, but she did unfortunately also seed in the guilt that Nishi may or may not have carried with her for life. And if she did carry it like how we saw she did, it’s just extremely heart-wrenching.

We all harbour these Nishi-like-emotions, which manifest in different ways.

Our lives are dotted with ups and downs, pains of different kinds. Pains of different magnitudes (in reality and in our minds!) Physical and emotional.

Cystitis. Endometriosis. Migraines. Body Pains. Cancer. PCOD. Labor Pains. Hepatitis. Sinusitis. HIV. Slip Discs. Depression. Judgement. Loneliness. Loss. ….

Pains that are spoken about, pains that remain unspoken. Pains that we are dealing with ourselves, pains that we deal with, as caregivers.

There are many instances these days, where someone would prefer talking to a stranger online rather than talking to a close someone about what they are going through, only because of the fear of being judged. And put up a farce of being fine in front of their own people – online and offline. Isn’t this so disturbing?

If only we could all be sensitive to what we feel, say and do in response to others’ pain, we could help them by being there for them.

And all of us want to deal with pain and get on with our lives.

What we need: Empathy. Encouragement. Support. Strength. Hugs and Love.

And each one of us who is around someone in pain, let’s all empathize and encourage and provide non-judgemental love, strength and support.

Hope this helps you think about how you can be an encouraging empathizer to someone’s pain.

Love and wishes for all of us, to be led into a world of empathy.

Image via Unsplash

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