Dr. Richard O'Connor
(860) 364-9300

Coping with Grief and Pain

If you want to be happy, you have to let yourself be sad.  Nobody gets a free pass.  The deepest joys in life come from our attachments—usually to other people—and life will take those other people from us at some point.  Grief is an essential feeling, the natural emotional response to loss. There are other kinds of pain that seem inevitable; physical pain that as we age becomes debilitating, the mental anguish that comes with stress and with disappointment, the sympathetic pain we feel for our loved ones.  The awful truth is that when we’re happy, we have a lot to lose.  But we don’t have to let grief or pain immobilize us, send us into a depression, or ruin our lives forever.

Grief takes time, but it works if we let it happen.  Humans are marvelously adaptable, and we have a natural healing process.  At first, the loss is the biggest thing in our lives, but with the passage of time other experiences gradually push it into the background.  Time is essential, but in today’s world there is tremendous pressure to get on with things.  Our friends want us to be over it long before we’re ready.  Our job certainly expects us to be fully attentive again.  But be patient; grief and pain won’t kill you, but trying to stuff those feelings may make things a lot worse.

       We have to learn the skill of mindfully sitting with pain.  As with other feelings, we have to learn to experience them without feeling overpowered by them—but this is different, more difficult, because it can hurt so much you fear you can’t stand it.  This is where meditation practice really helps; as in meditation, we can see our feelings as raindrops falling on a tranquil pool—they splash, they make ripples, but that’s all.  They don’t harm or destroy the pool; in fact, they add to it, as all our experiences, even pain, add to our lives.

March 10, 2013

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3 comments on “Coping with Grief and Pain”

  1. My Dad passed March 23, 2015. I've also have had to deal with 7 other deaths since December 2014, 3 of them being my aunts, the rest being family of close friends. There have been 4 death's since my dad's passing. Every death seems to reopen all the pain I feel. I'm going to try the meditation you suggested & hope there are no further deaths for now until I have time to heal. Your writing tells me I know you understand how this feels and I so appreciate the info you provided.

    1. I'm sorry for your losses, and apologize for getting so far behind in replying to these posts. I hope you are doing better now.
      As they say, grief is normal, but depression is something else again. Grief feels like depression, but the grieving person usually expects to recover (as you seem to do)--not so with depression. So don't be afraid to mourn for your dad and other loved ones. It's the process of mourning that lets us make them part of ourselves.
      Richard O'Connor

  2. I so relate especially to the procrastination. I am depressed and have done much reading on subject. As a lifelong caregiver to an autistic with serious behaviors for 25 years today. I'm past support groups as I have little positive to share and could actually frighten new parents much like the pubic. Will you address my demo population directly as I can assure you I am not alone. Married to a man who stays I can assure you most do not. The clincher for me is type one diabetes came first age one then classic autism at age three. The singe most difficult is behavior and self injuries behavior along with her having rearmed from adult daycare how to use fecal incontinence to control me also. How do I rise myself above all this when I don't see any hope whatsoever wherever I look. Friends bailed years ago and family treats us worse than the general pubic most ties Thanks L2:^\

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Dr. Richard O'Connor maintains an office in Sharon, Connecticut. Call 860-364-9300 or email rchrdoconnor@gmail.com to arrange an initial consultation.