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Spiritual Pain

Written by Kelly Klund
Resource Nurse, Empira

I’ve had natural childbirth……. twice. I’ve had my appendix rupture and I suffer from migraine headaches.

For these types of pain there is a “plan”. You hold your child in your arms and forget the pain. You have surgery to remove an inflamed appendix. You take your medications and stay in a dark room to cope with a migraine.

We all recognize times when we have had physical pain, but what is spiritual pain? How do we recognize it and how do we respond to it?

The Marie Curie Organization defines spiritual pain as the distress or anxiety you feel related to a loss of meaning or purpose. This can include loss of identity, worth or esteem and includes dealing with regrets or unresolved issues. Spiritual pain challenges your core values and beliefs about how things are supposed to be.

There is no surgery for a challenge to your core beliefs. There is no take two and call me in the morning for a pain that comes from our soul and not our cells.

The Sacred Art of Living Center teaches that there are 7 elements to spirituality for all of us.

  1. Awareness of “the other”. What is valued or sacred to me?
  2. Sense of responsibility. How am I responsible to the world around me?
  3. Sense of vocation. What is my reason for being?
  4. Sense of community. Am I being cared for by and giving care to others?
  5. Sense of repentance. What is my capacity for forgiveness with myself and others?
  6. Ability to be present. Is my focus on the past, present or future?
  7. Faith. What is the relationship between my personal story and the greater story?

We have all had, or will have things that cause spiritual pain.

When I got divorced my world shattered as I acknowledged that my family was not going to be defined how I’d always dreamed it would be.

When my daughter was diagnosed with leukemia my faith was challenged and I was upset with God.

When my adult son struggled with the pressures of life I battled with my sense of responsibility on a daily basis.

The cure for pain is in the pain.

In preparation for this blog I came across an amazing quote by the 13th century poet Rumi. He said “The cure for pain is in the pain”. Thinking about this statement has been profound for me.

The cure for pain is in the pain – ancient Persian poet and philosopher Rumi quote printed on grunge vintage cardboard

When we have spiritual pain we can’t ignore it, there isn’t a rug big enough to hide it under and there are no Band-Aids that can help make it better. We have to go into the pain to truly address it.

In my divorce I had to acknowledge a sense of failure to set a course for a new life.
I had to accept that my daughter could die from her illness in order to appreciate every moment of her future.
I have to, at times; feel the pain of allowing my son to struggle in order to see him succeed.

If we ignore it…… it doesn’t go away. In contrast, it pours out of us and on to everything in our path. In the journal Spiritual Distress: Integrative Review of Literature it is stated that “…. concepts of spiritual distress presented common and related elements to the human being subjective and individual response to life experiences, which harms the human spiritual dimension.”

I challenge you to examine how The Sacred Art of Living’s 7 elements of spiritual pain play a part in your life and to lean into your spiritual pain to find your cure.

Sources

https://www.mariecurie.org.uk/help/support/terminal-illness/wellbeing/emotional-spiritual-pain https://sacredartofliving.org/ https://www.researchgate.net/publication/41619584_Spiritual_distress_Integrative_review_of_literature https://doi.org/10.5935/1676-4285.20081551