The Pain Scale of Life: Helping Each Other Cope

by Vanessa Meinke

Everyone has seen those hospital rating scales for pain. On a scale of zero to ten how bad does it hurt? I for one have never given a score greater than 9 because for me I have yet to experience the “worst pain in the world.” To me that could only be used in the case of loss of life, limb or maybe a wicked paper cut soaked in lemon juice.

Wong-Baker FACES Pain Scale

This, of course, is just how I view pain, and the pain scale because pain is subjective. I’ve come to learn that grief, heartache, and hardship are also subjective. The way we view our circumstance can only be compared against our history and our “worst pain” to date. The numbers each mean something completely different to all of us. My pain today might be your ten or maybe it’s a two because you’ve known deep loss.

vanessamI bring this up because when you find yourself in the midst of trial, people can react in ways that add to the current hurt rather than help. Most people feel the need to clam up about their current struggle because, for lack of a better phrase, yours is bigger than theirs. Others feel it’s their responsibility to pull you out of your grief by reminding you that someone has it worse.

I can tell you now from experience that neither one of those is the right approach. A hurting person does not mind hearing about your struggle; in fact, distraction is a huge technique for blocking pain. So if your second grader is struggling with math…tell me about it! If your car broke down and you can’t afford the repairs…I’ll listen. And if your sweet baby stopped sleeping through the night, I’ll try and encourage you, but remind you to hold that baby tight!

To the second group of people, I can assure you that someone who is in a position of struggle is acutely aware of the greater hurt that someone is feeling at the same time. The hospital is a great example. I know a mother who just lost her baby. I heard the helicopter rush in three times one evening. I know a mother who knows her baby’s life is nearing the end. And I know a mother who is fighting to carry on the sweet legacy of her 16-week-old lion-hearted baby boy she lost six weeks ago.

A hurting person is most likely not so wrapped up in her struggle that she does not see, does not know, does not feel blessed in the fact that it “could be worse.” Just remember your “worst” is someone’s “better” and your “better” is someone’s “worst.” There’s no right, no wrong, no official grader that can certify your “10” as a “10,” but if you tell me you’re hurting, I’ll listen and I know you’ll do the same for me.

Author: Vanessa Meinke • Date: 12/10/2013

About the Author

Vanessa is a happy but tired mother of 3. Her youngest, Kellan, is medically complex and undiagnosed. She has been riding this medically fragile rollercoaster since Kellan’s birth almost three years ago right beside her soldier husband. Laughter and writing are the techniques she uses to “cope” with this extraordinary life.

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