There is no way to stop pain. Being human means that you will have different levels of pain throughout your life and at each stage, but your perspective will guide how you handle and live with it.

A baby’s pain is an ouchie that is soothed by a kiss. A child’s pain will be felt a little harder. They’ll cry longer for attention then accept a Band-Aid, or an apology, and all is forgotten. The prepubescent will slam a door and stomp because the pain of a best friend ignoring them has become overwhelming. A good snack, a warm hug and comforting words will usually ease the pain.

Teenagers are a whole different lot. Wild cards. Pain could manifest itself in a myriad of ways from silence to drugs and alcohol. Or, more typically, growing, hormone-ravaged teens use their newly discovered voices to pitch the pain out of them. The receiver of the venomous words can feel like they’ve been sliced with razor blades.

Waters get murky when the college years approach. Those same emotionally volatile human beings are expected to venture into the world as more mature, responsible “adults.” Somehow, society expects dorm rooms, schedules, and ragers to help them become better humans who can manage the pain that comes with life—failing a course, losing a partner, feeling lost. These years are riddled with self-discovery, self-direction, and all things self. So when pain hits, college-age kids may not feel it as heavily due to all that is in front of them. Their coping mechanism may be to lose themselves in social media, withdraw, or study harder for an exam.

The 20-somethings look upon the college kids like they’re feral children. Making reference to “my college days” like they’ve grown so much emotionally that those times are almost ridiculous. They’ll manage rejection and loss the best they can through informative websites and apps. In many ways, they consider themselves ready for the world.

But is anyone ever really prepared for what life throws? Has anyone religiously practiced the self-soothing principles we read about or even preach? When life pitches a high and inside speedball laden with spikes while we’re still preparing our feet in the batter’s box, is there any way to not collapse?

I’m talking about the pain that shatters the soul. The death of a child, a parent, friend, or long marriage. Pure awfulness. Perhaps successfully managing such intense pain has to do with the person/family and how many harrowing fastballs they’ve endured in their lifetime, building up a sort of shield. Maybe it’s the support of who surrounds us when we fall hard. Is it an individual threshold for pain that makes a difference? Is it temperament? Some people are born with the ability to handle hard things. Others absorb and react.

There is no blanket answer. I could quote the many articles written about surviving grief. The stages, research and data. But will it truly help? I do know a few things from living through grief myself. Pain as such has changed my life perspective in profound ways. It’s reminded me of my worth, values, priorities and, strangely, the importance of taking care physically. Physical movement outside has been more therapeutic than expected. With or without music. With or without dogs. Just the act of going outside has provided significant relief. And crying. According to the Medical News Today website, crying releases toxins, reduces stress, aids in sleep, and provides a soothing effect. Think of how hard a baby crashes after crying their heart out. I actually had a network chiropractor prescribe me sad movies to help with tears.

And, maybe, just maybe, it’s these moments of sheer agony that remind us to lean into those surrounding us. All the people we’ve cooked for, listened to, given advice to. The ones who we’ve sent the silly text to bring a smile or brought a coffee to for no reason. It’s time to allow each friend and family member their moment to hold a piece of our heart in place until time lessens the pain…. 

With deepest heartfelt condolences to the Lincoln family for their too-sudden loss of their son, Aidan. “May the sorrow you feel in your heart lighten by the love that surrounds you.” —Unknown