The Silver Lined Clouds of Suffering

suffering

“Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.” – Helen Keller

Often when people learn that I am a counselor and wellness coach they ask, “Don’t you get tired of hearing people’s problems day after day? Isn’t it depressing?”

I smile and respond, “No, not at all.”

The Chinese kanji for “crisis” is the same for “opportunity.” When clients come to me in crisis or with problems, it is my work to help them see the opportunity for growth and expansion that is right there in the midst of the difficulty.

But it is not only my clinical training and experience that enables me to help others this way.  My own human experiences have been rich soil for cultivating a deep belief in this idea of silver-lined clouds.

My journey of conscious personal growth began at age 24 when I went into therapy myself after a rocky decade of adolescence and early adulthood.  My therapist introduced me to the practice of mindfulness and meditation which set me on a course for life, teaching me how to help myself find grounding and center, settling my mind and heart.  It was the beginning of a path I have followed enriched by the difficulties along the way and it led me to become a therapist and a meditation and yoga instructor for others.

When I was 34, my third child was still-born. His name was Garrett Michael.  I went through 11 hours of painful labor to deliver a baby that we knew had already died.   The silence in the delivery as he was born was crushing. I held his perfectly formed lifeless body in my hands and felt only emptiness.  I remember saying over and over, “This wasn’t supposed to happen…”

The days and weeks that followed were an ocean of sadness, confusion, and anger.  I learned to ride the waves of grief noticing the sensation of these emotions in my body, breathing with and through the intermittent floods of emotion that alternated with numbness.

Between the waves, I meditated, finding rest and eventually connection with a thread of peace that began to weave through and between the waves of sorrow.

Through this experience Life handed me,  I came to know the grip of grief that was like no other emotion I’d ever felt.

In time, I began sharing my story with others. Each time over the years, it became easier to share the lessons I gleaned without being washed with sorrow.

From all of this, I could better relate to clients in pain with issues of grief and loss, holding a space for their healing with great compassion.

It was the experience of moving through and overcoming my own suffering that changed my world view, realizing the blessed fragility of this human life.

The painful grieving of losing Garrett Michael enabled me to treasure my other children all the more and to move through life with a greater sense of purpose. In turn, I am able to hold a space for my clients who are suffering knowing they too will make it through and overcome eventually realizing the gifts that come along as well.

Photo by { pranav }

24 thoughts on “The Silver Lined Clouds of Suffering”

  1. As a psychotherapist myself (and a fellow sufferer) I feel the same way about seeing suffering on a daily basis. I am inspired by these courageous ones who trust me with their pain, and I know how far I have come myself, so I know it’s possible and I hold hope for them when they cannot. As a Dialectical Behavior Therapist, I know the value of acceptance and of being present to the emotion instead of pushing it away. This was a very helpful post, Lynne. Thank you for sharing your story.

    1. Linda, I bow with deep respect to you for the work you are doing with clients in DBT. Moving through those waves of emotions with acceptance and mindfulness is indeed so valuable. I appreciate your comment… Thank you for the work YOU do to help others!

  2. Just wanted to thank you, Lynne Louise, for sharing the pain and the inspiration of your very personal story.

    I wonder why we ever got the idea that a smooth life inevitably leads to happiness whilst sorrowful events will destroy us and are to be shunned or numbed into oblivion.

    It’s not original, but one can’t help observing that it is the people who have suffered but hung on and accepted who have the most depth and who can lead others to a more compassionate and insightful life. Quite a price to pay though at the time.

    I, too am eternally grateful to have been introduced to mindfulness – I would have been chewing carpets by now had I not.

    Please allow me to thank you again and to wish you continued success on your mission – Garrett Michael blessed you, didn’t he? And continues to do so.

    Kindest

  3. Thank you for sharing, grief can be handled in many different ways. Speaking and sharing definitely kept me sane. After losing 6 family members in the span of 3 years, father, brother, sister, grand-parents and niece. I still can’t imagine the pain that you went through losing a child, blessings to you and your family.

    Linda

      1. Dear Lynn and Linda…your stories are overwhelming…I cannot fathom AT ALL what you went through…I am a mother myself and it pains me to hear about stories such as these…I hope and I pray that God will heal you souls and give you strength to continue to serve others. There must be a reason you are here, to help others recover through your pain. I bow down to people who are able to help others so selflessly while living with the constant void. I wish for your healing until you meet again with your loved ones.
        God bless you both from the bottom of my heart…

  4. I knew you “get it.” I just did not know why. I agree this makes you a great therapist.. The pain and recovery is one of our greatest blessings now.

  5. Thank you for sharing your story Lynn and I’m so sorry for your loss. Actually becoming aware of how grief affects your body and paying attention to it can be a difficult thing to feel but is very transforming.

  6. Louise, I am always asked this same question as a therapist. But I find it easy to be present with clients while they are needing to share hurt and uplifting to help them find opportunity for growth from the suffering. I have been through painful times of grief and I think it is also this experience that helps me give empathy instead of sympathy for my clients; and give them realistic timelines and guidance for the personal growth.

    You are one of my mentors I follow as I love your journey. Thanks for this blog.

  7. Thank you for sharing your journey and perspective on pain, suffering and loss Lynn. I believe that there is so much healing in sharing our stories. It helps us see that we are not alone, while it opens us to also have gratitude for what we have, for what we have become. I believe that in sharing stories, we are feeding each other’s souls. Again thank you.

  8. Thanks Lynn for such an incredible and inspiring post. Luckily, I have not felt the pain of the loss of a child, but have endured my fair share of suffering, mainly at my own hands through procrastination and lack of direction.

    Loss, suffering, pain. They are all terrible feelings, some which we may, and perhaps, never should, get over, but from them comes clarity, an ability to reflect, and to value the things you have, as well as improving the areas of your life that need improving.

    Without suffering, there could be no passion, the days would drift from one to another. It would be like some strange limbo, constantly dreary, without the sunshine or the storms.

    I have worked with plenty of clients in the health and fitness space, and now help others transform their lives by finding the passion, finding their purpose, and using it to make an impact on the world.

    I love it, but it needed all the fails, the procrastination, the misery to find my way. Suffering was good for me, not at the time, or so I thought, but in the end, I needed it to find an alternative.

    Thanks for your inredible story, truly valuable. -S

    1. I agree – it is the contrasts of life that make us appreciate more deeply all that we have and all we have been through…. Keep up the good work you are doing to help people – I’m sure you are doing GREAT work supported by what you’ve been through yourself…

  9. Dear Lynn
    Thank you for sharing your story, and I couldn’t agree more with the fact that Chinese kanji for “crisis” is the same as for “opportunity”. As someone who is dealing with grief as well as trauma it’s always enlightening to hear how others have navigated their way through pain and suffering. I am so sorry for the loss of your son. My father was killed in a terrorist attack in September 2013 and it’s through this that I have come to understand that strength does not come from winning; your struggles develop your strengths, and when you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength. I don’t know where that quotation is from but I couldn’t have put it better. Mindfulness and allowing the emotion in when you need to are two of the most important things I have learnt over the last 16 months. A tragedy that changes your life does not have to be the end of it.

    1. Saira, I am deeply sorry to hear of this loss of your father. I can only imagine the range of emotions that color your own grief process. I am inspired by what you have shared as to how you are working through this pain yourself…. I send you a tidal wave of love and light…

  10. Lynn Louise, please accept my sincerest sympathy over the loss or your baby. Whereas I have never lost a baby I have lost much. Because of these losses, however, I have learned the joy that you describe here. It is in giving that we receive. By sharing my own pain and heartache it not only allowed my pain to lose some of its sting but it also allowed me to bless others with my heartache and my empathy with their pain. I have truly come to the bold conclusion that my pain and the journey through it is my greatest asset rather than the liability that I once considered it. How on earth can I enjoy the view from the mountaintop without knowing firsthand the pain and sorrow from the walk through the dark valley? I have found sheer joy from the ordinary circumstances in life and I used to need extraordinary circumstances in order to find joy. After all the best view comes after the hardest climb. We will all experience bad times but because of these dark times we can learn to view circumstances that we once ignored or took for granted.

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