Can we find meaning in pain?

I once heard someone say that there are two types of pain. Pain that hurts. Pain that alters. My question is…… can we find meaning in pain? The pain of losing a friend, the pain of losing a student, the pain and hopelessness of knowing how useless you are to a seriously ill loved one. And If there really was a choice, I know which one I would choose.

Let’s be honest, 2020 is a year that many of us would like to write off. I know this is true for me. I have seen more suffering and loss in the last three months than the past five years of my life. What a year this turned out to be! Who knew, when we were celebrating New Year’s Eve that we would be faced with such a profound wave of loss, uncertainty and anxiety.

We have all experienced painful moments in our lives especially in the last few months. But can we really choose how pain impacts us? Don’t we just have to work through it because it is part of living? I guess it depends on factors such as the cause of the pain, the individual and the journey they are on.

To live is to suffer, to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering”. Friedrich Nietzsche 

I saw this quote in a friend’s blog. It spoke to me. It triggered a moment of reflection. Do I find meaning in suffering? The answer is, yes, or at least I try to find meaning and blessings in those gut wrenching moments,  although I know that is not always possible in the moment. 

November 2019 was all about UCAS applications. I was relentless in meeting my goal to process all of my year 13s university applications before the end of term. But life temporary interrupted that plan when I found a lump in my breast. I don’t need to tell you how that discovery frightened the life out of me. I lost my grandmother to ovarian cancer so I am always on high alert when it comes to changes in my body. Luckily I have an amazing doctor who was reassuring and immediately referred me for a mammogram. Everyone at the clinic was incredibly professional and kind. It was such a relief to find out that the lump was due to hormonal changes and I was given a full bill of health.

I believe that we can choose the meaning we find in life’s ups and downs. On this occasion, I chose this health scare to mean that I cannot take my good health for granted and that I need to make healthier life choices. Well…….my expanding waistline would say I am failing however I am blaming 2020 for that one.

During lockdown I was planning to invest in strengthening friendships but focused most of my energy on connections with my nuclear and extended family. I thought I had all the time in the world to catch up with friends but life had other plans. I lost someone who was a friend, a father figure and a colleague to Covid-19.

Sadly, this was during a period where my timeline on Twitter was filled with condolences and prayers for so many who lost someone to the pandemic. It was such a heartbreaking time but there was still an element of disconnection. You really only ever understand the pain caused by loss when it happens to you. I was not ready, it took awhile for it to sink in and I guess I am still recovering/grieving. But I am choosing to find meaning by recognising how lucky I am to have known my friend and to love and cherish the people in my life. I vowed to live a much fuller life and to focus on love because life is too short.

I love my job, I love being able to support young people achieve their goal. It is an honour to be the one who guides, educates and witnesses a student’s growth on a daily basis. It is rewarding to work in partnership with parents to provide that tough love, that positive reinforcement and those words of encouragement. I am my students’ champion. And like with my own children, I feel they are an amana (trust) onto me from GOD therefore I have a duty to nurture, educate and protect them. I take pride in performing that duty. But little did I know that last week would be the last conversation I would have with of one of my students. Who knew that our last interaction would be my words of praise and acknowledgement of efforts.

This week was tough and finding meaning in pain helped me get through it. This is definitely not the first and won’t be the last time that life happens while I am busy making other plans. But I have found that finding meaning in those moments really make a difference.

I am grateful that yesterday was a good day! So I am choosing to practice gratitude, to find solace and meaning in life and to focus on the blessings bestowed upon me.

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