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Numb the Heck out of that Pain

Apr 24, 2018

photo credit: Michael de Adder

I initially started this post with the intention of talking about pain and grief but it has since become so much more than that.  It’s become about unity and humanity.

To quote Danielle LaPorte:

May the grief unite us, may the unity heal what’s so broken in the human psyche.

As hard as it is, I’m constantly talking about how important it is to avoid numbing your pain because the only way out of it, is through it.

While I am completely in tune with the benefits of emotional pain, I dread the process of sitting in my pain to move it out.  My natural instinct used to be to numb it and yes, over the years I’ve realized that in numbing my pain, I was just prolonging it.  So these days, I’m aware about falling into that trap again. But. Let me be real here.  There are days I allow myself to go there and here’s why.

I’m selective. I’m consciously selective.

At the risk of sounding contradictory, there are times when numbing your pain is not just recommended but also highly needed – at that point, it’s a matter of survival.

When I heard about the tragedy that took place in Saskatchewan and the accident that took the lives of 16, many of whom were young men ages 16-21, I felt a depth of grief that I haven’t felt in a very, very long time.   These boys weren’t even mine but in them, I saw my sons.  That did me in.

I had a visceral reaction to this tragedy which included nausea, body aches and generalized malaise.  Quite honestly, I was shocked by my reaction.  I don’t consider myself a particularly overly sensitive person (but maybe I am) and yet, for days and days later, I was unable to release this pain from my body.

So what did I do instead? I crawled into bed and just stayed there-sleeping my pain away.  Sleep is greatly pain numbing for me but thankfully, also therapeutic. At least I can clock in those lost hours I may not have received a few days ago.

I’d wake up every now and then and jump on the internet, searching for more revelations and updates on the Saskatchewan tragedy but really, what I craved more than anything was connection.  And I found that missing link (while bawling my eyes out all by my lonesome self from the comfort of my bed) in the outpour of messages and shared rituals on social media for these lost lives.

There. I found a way to grieve through empathy- through our shared experiences and feelings.

Ironically, empathy is also the exact reason why I was feeling this pain.

I can’t even imagine how a parent ever heals from the loss of a child.

I recently told my partner that I don’t think I’d ever survive such a loss and that’s not an exaggeration.  I suppose in times like that, you find the inner strength to journey through the darkness and hope to God that you somehow make your way through it.

But first.  I need to take the edge off this pain.  

I need to take the edge off this pain before I can start putting one foot in front of the other.  Otherwise, I know I’ll lose myself to despair and despondency.

So at the end, it all boils down to survival or numbing? I’d pick numbing any day.  I believe it’s sometimes the only feasible first step and it’s not bound to last forever I hope.

In closing, I want to remind you that in this tragedy there were glimmers of light.

How is that even possible? Well…..

People often wonder what good can come out of lives that are lost so young and in such tragic ways.  And I say, these individuals lost their lives to inspire change.

What I witnessed happening in the communities in the aftermath of the Saskatchewan Humboldt Broncos tragedy was nothing short of a miracle.  The country and the world mourned together and in this mourning, people came together in unison.

And you know what else happened?

I shared this story on Facebook and I would love to share it with you so here it is:

I remember this conversation very clearly.

My oldest came to me when he obtained his driver’s license and wanted my advice on organ donation.

I gave him a half ass response – something to the effect that it was his choice, not wanting to even go there.

Can you blame me?

Well. Fast forward three years. And here we are.

No one can take away the excruciating pain and grief that comes from losing a loved one.

But. In the midst of tragedy, there are glimmers of light and the coming together of humans.

Logan Boulet was a light. Since his death, he has inspired thousands of young adults to donate their organs to save lives.

That’s powerful.

It’s time to revisit this conversation with my boys….properly.

It’s so important to grieve but it’s just as important to ask ourselves, what needs to happen now to honour the lives that have left us too soon or in tragic ways?

PS. It just so happened that as I was about to press post on this blog, a tragedy occurred in my home town, in my city, in Toronto. Just yesterday. A white van ploughed its way through the sidewalks of Yonge & Finch, killing 10 and injuring 15.

Once again, I sit with this grief, trying to make sense of it all. I am trying to find the light and you know what? There is one and here it is.  Our police force.  Our gun laws.

It’s about the cop who didn’t shoot.

There is SO much more I can say on this topic and on the importance of mental wellness but I’ll save that for another time because first, I have to numb in order to move forward.

For now, I have a note to pain and it goes something like this:

I hope your stirring will unite us and create change.

My prayers and thoughts go out to the victims of Saskatchewan and Toronto and their loved ones.

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