Bearing the Pain and Suffering


Bearing the Pain and Suffering

heart-297313_640A few years ago, one of our members (@carlaschuchman, who cared for her husband) asked a question I often think about: How do we bear the pain and suffering our loved ones endure?

My mom had a difficult night last night which became a tough day today. She's bleeding again and back in ICU.

This afternoon, before being transferred to ICU, she had another test to pinpoint the source of the bleeding. As they wheeled her out of her room for the test, my dad bent to kiss her head and hold her hand. After she left the room, he sobbed. He bent over, leaned against the sink and cried his heart out.

My mom is miserable, tired of the setbacks, the hospital, the prodding and poking. My dad is heartbroken, anxious about my mom's discomfort, misery and future.

As my dad sobbed, I rubbed his back and stood right next to him. I couldn't say anything because I wasn't sure what to say. I don't want to offer false hope, I don't want to pretend all is okay, I don't want to deny that my mom faces a serious medical situation.

When you can't help, can you still hope?

As I write this, I can hear my dad praying in bed.

How do you bear the pain and suffering when you can't offer any healing for that pain and suffering? I remind myself to be present, simply, fully, whole-heartedly.

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Denise, all you can do is be there. Touching and holding them as they suffer. I can remember when mom's femur broke at the rehab hospital and I sat with her in the ER. She had endured so many years of unbearable pain and was now in more pain. I thought how much suffering does one person need to go through? How many more obstacles will she have to overcome. She didn't need this, it wasn't fair. My heart broke for her. If I could have taken her pain away I would have. But all I could do was be there for her. She endured more setbacks, but she managed to brave them and on most days overcome them. I did too, and knowing I was there for her, all the way through, is what has given me peace now that she is gone. You are doing everything for your mom and dad. You are doing your best. As heartbreaking as it is for you to see them in pain, in the long run your comfort will see them through. My thoughts and prayers are with you, mom, dad and the rest of your family.


Oh Denise, it is just plain so heartbreaking -- what you and your parents are going through. One of the hardest thing I experienced was watching my dad cry. My heart goes out to you. The desire to have the right words... I know that so well... but your gut let you be silent and present. A touch, closeness, allowing another space to cry.... is the best thing you can do at times. \n\nI remember an instance when I was going through a really, really difficult time and on the verge of tears at work. Phil rolled across the office in his chair close to mine, and just sat with me. This was before we were a couple. Just partners at work. He didn't touch me. He just sat there quietly. It was a very powerful comfort, obviously, one I never forgot.


Your presence is the whole thing. I love you, and I am here, and I will be here. That's the most powerful message ever.

Lillie Fuller

I think all we can do is be present. The backrubs your dad received from you probably meant more than any words you could speak! I'm praying for you all.


What my dad most needed in his final months and what my mom seems to need now is to not be alone, to feel listened to and loved. Sitting quietly and holding hands goes a loooong way! The pains and difficulties ebb and flow. My mom's oft-cited words of comfort come back to me, \"This too shall pass.\"