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April 6, 2021

A Love Letter to Parents Suffering from Chronic Pain.

Dear sweet one,

I see you at 3 a.m. standing over your baby weeping because it hurts so much to pick her up.

I hear the thoughts running through your head that you are failing as a parent. I feel the guilt and shame coursing through your aching body. I can be here with you because I have also lived in this body.

I understand the feeling of being trapped in fight-or-flight mode but not being able to physically carry out either.  I know the desperation of not being able to run after your child nor lift him into his car seat.

I have felt the frustration of waking up each morning, hoping the pain will be gone, only to feel that familiar piercing with the tiniest movement.

I am here to tell you that this pain does not define you. It is not who you are; it is what you are experiencing.

Be as gentle with yourself as you are to that soul you have been given the responsibility to rear. Shroud yourself in the compassion you give to that tiny human who is shedding tears. Nourish your body with the same passion you nourish the body of your offspring.

Pain is the most effective messenger of our system. When pain shouts, it is time to stop and listen.

Be still with your pain and ask aloud: “What do I need?”

Patience is key to hearing your answer. But with your loving persistence and unravelling, the answer will appear.

In my moments of suffering from pain, I found the following five things to be most supportive:

1.  Allowing myself to rest. Sometimes this meant hiring a babysitter for a few hours so I could get some sleep or simply to get horizontal and allow my mind to rest.

2. Breathing. Breathing is the ultimate regulator in our bodies. Connecting with our breath can help us feel in control. A beautiful strategy is one called box breathing, which is inhaling through the nose for the count of four seconds, holding the breath for four seconds, exhaling through the nose for four seconds, holding the breath out for four seconds, and beginning the cycle again.

3. Getting outside of myself. Pain can be all-consuming and it is easy to feel trapped in our experience. Is there anything outside of yourself that feels bigger? For me, it is nature. I like to go outside and listen to the birds or watch a sunset. The sheer beauty of nature reminds me there are other experiences to be had aside from pain.

4. Being present. This can be more challenging than it sounds, as presence in our body can be overwhelming and terrifying when we are in a state of pain. I use an exercise I call “coming to my five senses.” I focus on what I can see, smell, taste, hear, and feel in that moment. This reminds my brain that even though my body is experiencing pain, my environment around me is, in fact, safe.

5. Lowering my voice to speak to my children so they have to stop to listen. I watched a father in a wheelchair use this strategy with his young daughter. She was wanting to run to the playground by herself, but he felt it was not safe. He spoke gently and quietly to her so she had to strain to listen. In doing so, she calmed and took on his patience and he was able to reason with her in that moment.

As parents, we need to be supported to hear what our pain has to say. Asking for help can feel like the ultimate failure, but trust me, my sweet soul, your vulnerability is the greatest gift you can offer this world. Softening and allowing yourself to receive will create the space you need to heal yourself.

It is healed mothers and fathers who will raise children who will heal this planet.


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