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“DO NOT IGNORE ME,” it shouts through the door. “I will keep coming back until you acknowledge me.”
Pain is right. It keeps coming back. Returning at odd times and under unrelated circumstances. Always unannounced. Banging on my door.
At first, I barricade the door. I won’t let it in. I don’t want to confront Pain. But it keeps coming back like it said it would. Pain keeps its word. Eventually, I open the door and let it in because Love told me to. Love’s explicit instructions are to invite Pain in and sit with it for a while.
Pain is the price I pay for its profound and deep experience, Love reminds me. Love gave me the gift of a husband who showed me what it’s like to be perfectly loved. We adored each other in ways some people never get a chance to experience. Fully, unconditionally and with every crack and crevice of our souls.
Until he died.
Love tells me Pain is banging on my door because I have nowhere left to hide. It’s time to accept Pain. Acknowledge it. Love says I can’t keep moving around Pain. I must move through it.
So, Love tells me to let Pain state its case. And listen. Really listen. Love tells me it can’t be its best self if I don’t let Pain have a say, too. They work together, Love and Pain. Without one I can’t appreciate the other. That’s what they both tell me.
When Pain knocks again I open the door because Love told me to. But my knees buckle and the echo of my pounding heart pierces my eardrum. I try to slam the door, but Pain knows the tricks. It blocks the door with its foot and pries it open anyway. I’ve been patient, Pain says. But you must see me now.
Pain sits down. I scratch the sweat beads from my neck and dig at my bleeding hangnail to avoid eye contact. Pain whispers that I have to feel it in all of its forms in order to feel Love again. One can’t know the depths of Love without it. Pain lifts my chin and dabs a tissue at the never-ending cascade of tears. Let it all out, it says. Everything will be OK, Pain says. I’m not your enemy. I’m here to help.
I look into Pain’s eyes. They are wet with tears, too. Pain cries with me. I squeeze its hand. I don’t like you very much, I say. Pain nods.
It feels like a massive boulder crushing my heart and restricting my breath, but Pain and I often sit together in the dark recesses of my soul where Love used to live. Pain leaves whenever it decides I’ve had enough. When my puffy eyes can no longer see and my scratchy throat can no longer speak, Pain stops. We both know this is not the last visit and we agree to meet again. We’ve come to an understanding that if we accept each other the next visit won’t be as heavy.
Now, whenever Pain knocks, I invite it in and we cry together. Sometimes deep, pulsing, vomit-inducing sobs. Sometimes lighter, cleansing tears. Pain tells me I’m doing a good job of working through my grief. Pain tells me to continue crying and to feel it, encompass it, on the same level I feel Love. It’s the only way.
You will thank me one day, Pain says.
Love and Pain Coexist
Love also tells me I’m doing a good job of working through my grief. It sees the work I’m doing with Pain and smiles. They both want what’s best for me and they convince me I will survive. Pain says if I don’t ignore it I will feel Love again. Love says it’s my job to accept everything, even Pain, with an open mind and an open heart. Even things I don’t understand. Don’t close your heart, Love says. Love tells me it will be back. Love reminds me it will return when the time is right.
I tell Love I don’t believe what it says. Because I can’t ever love again the way I loved my husband. And Love tells me I shouldn’t have to. Love wouldn’t want that for me. There is more than one way to feel Love, it says. Love gave me a gift with my husband’s devotion. A profound gift it doesn’t pass out freely. But Love tells me I’m capable of feeling it again because I’m doing the work and learning my lessons.
Love says it will bring another gift to me. Not a better gift. That’s impossible. Just a different gift. Love will come back again and bring things I never even expected. Love promises.
But I have to invite Pain in first. And, I have to accept it. Move through it. Otherwise, I will never fully appreciate what Love has to offer. Love won’t show up again until I’ve done my work with Pain.
When I hear the knock, I open the door and invite Pain in.
We cry together.
And I survive.