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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

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Top Ten Sleep Disturbances – #7 Pain

Written by Heather Johnson, RN
Resource Nurse, Empira

A Serious Intruder on Restorative Sleep

Donna distesa a letto con dolore alla schiena

A recent poll of the American public, found that 21% of Americans experience chronic pain and 36% had had acute pain in the past week. Combine those totals, and it equates to 57%, leaving only 43% of Americans who report being pain free. Pain ranks as number seven in the Top Ten Sleep Disturbances.

People with pain often report feeling less control over their sleep. They report being worried about lack of sleep and its effects on their health. Worry leads to stress. Stress and poor health, often go hand-in-hand and can often be linked to fragmented sleep. Fragmented sleep translates to interrupted sleep which prevents a person from receiving 7-9 hours. Seven to nine hours of uninterrupted sleep is necessary for restorative sleep. Restorative sleep is needed for physical and emotional healing. Sleep loss is known to contribute to feelings of depression and fatigue, which in turn can increase a person’s pain perception. Research indicates that if a person experiences poor sleep due to pain one night, they are more likely to experience pain the next night, and the next night, and so on. We know that pain can be a serious intruder on restorative sleep.

Pain, depression, and fatigue are interrelated. Further, pain often is linked to insomnia, and, when both of these problems coexist, the perfect recipe for additional problems has been created. Additionally, evidence suggests that sleep loss increases reports of pain, when you don’t sleep well you have a heightened sensitivity to pain. This vicious cycle of poor sleep due to pain affects multiple areas of a person’s day to day life.

What can a person do?

  • Determine the source of the pain. Is it physical pain? Is it emotional pain? Get to the root of the problem, identify the root cause. Once you’ve identified the source, address the source with the right solution or intervention.
  • Seek direction from your medical provider.
  • Exercising or stretching of sore muscles by stimulating blood flow and easing pain
  • Evaluate your positioning in bed; your pillow, mattress, and environment.
  • Retrain you brain to think of something positive as you head to bed for the night.
  • Research non-pharmacological interventions such as, relaxation techniques (focus on your breathing), guided imagery, aroma therapy, heat/cold, and massage.
    If it’s physical pain, consider a longer acting pain reliever, one that will last throughout the night.

Don’t let pain rob you from a good night of sleep!

References:
Cosio, D., Lin, E; PPM: Practical Pain Management. Disturbed Sleep: Causes and Treatments. 2018. https://www.google.com/amp/s. Accessed November 20, 2018.
National Sleep Foundation. Recommended Sleep. 2015. https://sleepfoundation.org/how-sleep-works/how-much-sleep-dowe-really-need. Accessed November 20, 2018.
Onen, SH., Alloui, A., Gross, A., Eschallier, A., Dubray, C. 2001. The effects of total sleep deprivation, selective sleep interruption and sleep recovery on pain tolerance thresholds in healthy subjects. J Sleep Res. 10, 35-42. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2869.2001.00240.x