where the hurt is

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After marrying young, after becoming a stepmother, after giving birth three times to four babies in less than four years, after establishing a career as a surgical nurse… I consider myself somewhat of an expert on pain & discomfort.

When I was pregnant with Ames, I listened to a friend share two of her birth stories. She’d had both babies at home, but her experiences were starkly different. During her first, she reminisced about running away from the pain. Avoiding the hurt seems to drag things out during a birth and she enjoyed an easier labor the next time, when she faced things head-on. I found this to be true myself, about halfway through my labor with Ames. Once I stopped fighting and pacing and huffing and puffing, once I quieted myself and took my brain and my heart right to where things hurt, the process picked up. Recovering from the twins’ c-section and laboring through Hadassah’s VBAC were both much more rewarding experiences once I learned how to hurt. Even the subsequent hormonal postpartum seasons have been more manageable, now that I know how to go where the hurt is.

I eventually began to incorporate this into other areas of my life. I spent my first year of marriage running away from the pain, picking fights on the wrong topics, withholding affections or affirmations for the wrong reasons. Now, I know how to go where the hurt is. I know how to communicate the parts that involve my husband, and settle in on the things that are actually about me. I’ve learned how to get offended with grace, in work and at church and online. I hear the hurt, I read the hurt, I process the hurt. I take hold of the parts that are true and I learn from them. I allow myself to ache a bit before addressing the hurt and moving on from it. Then, I try to never return to it. I’m not good at this by any stretch of the imagination, but I’m learning.

I see it every day with my patients; it’s become one of my favorite things, to coach them through this concept. When I’m pulling a patient up for the first time after a knee replacement, I try to position my face close to theirs. As they groan and gasp and fight to use that new joint, I whisper over and over, Don’t fight it. Go to where the pain is. Sit in it. Breathe through it. When I’m helping a woman to the bathroom for the first time after a major abdominal surgery and she sees that incision, I smile for her. It feels ugly, I know. You are hurting. It hurts. And it’s going to get better.

I see it in my community, both online and off. Women losing babies, losing marriages, losing their minds. Their friends and family mean well, so they give them Bible verses or sing-song words of encouragement. Not me. Not yet. Here’s the thing about pain, y’all. We must learn how to do it well. Hurt comes naturally to all of us, but handling it well does not. It helps to sit under people, to hear things spoken over us, to explore different painful situations on our own. Learning to hurt effectively is an art. I’m convinced of it.

Is that you today? Are you in pain as you read this? Then stay right there. Go where the hurt is. Sit in it, roll around in it, let it change your life forever. When you’re ready to take a deep breath and a first step, it won’t be a moment too soon.

19 thoughts on “where the hurt is”

  1. I love this post, and could not agree more. This is a lesson I learned when my Mom passed away and it’s one I’ve applied to many circumstances in life since then.

  2. Thank you for making me think. And thank you for helping me feel. Your wisdom and your words bring with them a sense of peace. Your pouring out is filling me up.

  3. As mom who went through a scary brush w death via severe pre clampsia, a very early birth (3 months), a long NICU stay and now at home with a preemie ….. I feel this post is spot on I’ve never ignored the hurt and the grief. Sure I’ve taken in the positive but I haven’t ignored the pain and the grief and I’ve healed faster bc of it! So great to see and hear others being realistic w life’s hardships

  4. Dear Rachel: I read through your article and it seems so interesting but I don’t quite understand how to approach what you say about “going where the pain is”. Could you please explain a bit more what you mean by that? Thank you!

  5. I really agree with your post. I’ve been trying to approach a new way of handling hurt in my marriage, not really knowing that what I was doing was addressing the hurt and handling in a way that was more constructive without pushing my feelings aside and feeling resentful later. Its so much more effective and satisfying to address the real hurt and not get so carried away! :) great post, thanks!

  6. I’m sitting here with tears down my cheeks. As a person who lives with depression, allowing the dark to be acknowledged – accepting that unsettled, undefined pain in the space where my soul resides – has finally made it possible for me to LIVE – to get out of bed and do the dishes and the laundry and enjoy my family and friends – even when I’m depressed. Fighting it was circular – it made me feel like a failure when I couldn’t “rise above” and just making my bed took every ounce of my strength. You’ve talked about this perfectly and truly. Thank you.

  7. Oh, how I am finally realizing this in my life! When I sit in the hurt, the pain, that is often where God meets me and teaches me. I always wanted to be a “strong person”, but I’m seeing how pushing past the pain isn’t really strong. Thank you for this.

  8. umm did you go inside my heart and then write this as a response?! I try SO SO hard NOT to sit in the pain, and I’m unfortunately getting really good at it… :-/

  9. I’ve embraced the hurt in some instances in life and ran in others. It’s true that embracing it, truly allowing yourself to feel it, allows you to move on from it so much sooner than if you avoid it.

    I also love the idea of trying this during labor. Labor #3 in early March and I plan to do things very differently this time.

  10. such a spurring post. as a person living with OCD, anxiety and recently PPD, i tend to run. i always think of jami nato who once wrote something like “we sprinted out of that shit cause we’d sat in it for too long.” but maybe i’m not sitting in it long enough.

  11. I’m gonna be honest… I have avoided your blog for a while. It hurt to see your marriage. Your children. Your church. Your community. Your house. Your life is what I imagined mine would look like.

    I am ashamed to say that it hurt to read your blog.

    But this post has me weepy and all stirred up at my desk, and I just wanted to say thank you. You’d think after four years of hell I’d have mastered this by now, but no one had quite put words to it like you just did.

    I feel really validated and challenged and loved right now. Thanks, Rachael.

  12. I feel so blessed that life’s funny turns have led me to have such inspiring characters to consistently learn from, including you. I enjoy this concept and it is something I’ve been dealing with thinking sometimes that I’m cruel to myself, but realize after reading this that it is a process I’ve learned is more effective for myself. I really do want to roll around in the hurt and understand every aspect of what is causing the different emotions so that I can never have to experience it the same way or look back ever again. I love what you share. Thank you.

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