The types are innumerable. I remember in 2013 enrolling in college a short time into the semester when news of a suicide occurring in the dorms spread like fire throughout the campus. I remember getting a direct account of the story from a friend who shared the same building, the details were frightful. An insecure young freshman had hung herself inside the room. The cause of this extreme measure turned out to be a quarrel with a boyfriend turned ugly. The matter didn’t resolve and her heartbreak led her to end her life. The depression and pain she must have felt was immense at a personal level. Even a simple “No” from a boyfriend could result in a suicide. One could argue it was a foolish act on her part, surely boys come and go in life and shouldn’t qualify as a reason to ponder suicide.
But the question is who decides how pain is measured? Which pains are greater on the pain scale if there is any such scale. It surely wasn’t the same depression that a war torn child experiences, loosing both his parents to an unnecessary clash of international politics, fleeing from the only home he knew. It wasn’t the same trauma as witnessing a shooting and seeing your classmates fall to the ground in front of your eyes. The list and occurrences of traumatizing human experiences is infinite but the common factor felt is pain. Whatever the root cause, her pain was intense enough as the pain of a war veteran haunted by ghastly images of battle contemplating suicide. There is no “my pain is greater than yours” pain just remains as a stab in your heart creating a bleeding wound. The amount of pain the girl felt led her down to the point of choosing not to live.
War victims try to live but as they flee some can’t survive and die. The horrors of war leave families destroyed and people scarred with painful memories of a painful struggle they lost. We all deal with pain separately. Even an adolescent who loses his dog could feel immense melancholy at loosing his best pet, a playmate and a loyal friend. Others may argue to suffer from “genuine” pain such as loosing a child in an unexpected accident where the chances of mortality appeared low in comparison to war. Does that appear a more real pain than the pain felt by a postpartum mother in depression? Of course no, but the melancholy factor remains valid for both. No matter how severe or slight a pain may appear from the outside only the heart knows how deeply its feeling the suffering.
Its time such as these during a worldwide pandemic and morbid atmosphere that coping with pain becomes all the more valid, since the most relevant pain every other person suffering now is the pain of death and loss of a dearly beloved which comes as an immense blow to the bereaved. The loss is indescribable. The immense change that comes from death brings a permanent scar on the lives of the living relatives which initially upfront and vivid, remains in the background as an insidious trauma that haunts you from time to time.
Pain manifests itself in the simplest, and unimaginable ways. Pain manifests itself in life or death, or in anything in life for that matter. Is anyone entitled to belittle the pain of a person wondering how to manage his financial condition after being laid off due to the shutdown, how he will put food on the table for his family, to that of a person after testing positive for COVID-19 wonders if he will ever see his family again? Both are concerned for their families and their own well being, both are in pain, it is unjust to taunt the laid off guy that “at least he didn’t catch the disease”.
The answer is not to compare. Hearing stories of others peoples “harrowing” experiences doesn’t mean that you have suffered less, doesn’t mean you are acting ungrateful because of a perception that your experience was “milder” than another. Comparison is not the answer. Comparison of one’s pain to another brings no fruitful conclusion or solace since every single human on the planet feels differently. Empathizing with anyone’s pain is a near impossible task. You cannot be in the shoes of anyone. People suffer intolerable pain and still somehow appear their normal usual self, while others breakdown into tears at the slightest turn of misfortune. What is needed is to cope, help with coping, to bring towards a coping mechanism or mindset. It can be yourself finding or making a new path towards healing or the help of anyone taking you towards your own journey towards acceptance, coping and ultimately healing.
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