How to Love Someone Who is in Pain

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Pain is an inevitable part of the human experience. More than that, it is actually a key element of our survival. It is designed to be a warning signal that we cannot ignore, alerting us that something is wrong and we need to take immediate action to fix it. This is generally very helpful to keep us safe and healthy. However, there are certain types of pain that do not go away by taking one simple action. The warning sign carries on flashing with no obvious way to turn it off. It could be crippling anxiety, an eating disorder, the loss of a family member, or literal physical pain.Pain can make it incredibly hard to function normally. It can impact every aspect of our lives, especially our relationships. Those around us might feel totally helpless, scared, frustrated or grief-stricken knowing we are suffering and feeling there is nothing they can do to help. Here are a few things to keep in mind when someone you love is in pain.

  1. You must prioritise self-care.

This may seem like a strange place to start, but if you’ve ever tried to give from an empty cup you know how unproductive and even damaging it can be for everyone involved. You usually end up drained, resentful and overwhelmed. It’s absolutely necessary to put on your oxygen mask first because the last thing you need is another person feeling down and out. Go for a walk. Meditate. Catch up with friends. This does not mean you are being selfish or forgetting about your person. You are doing these things so you can continue to be there for them.

  1. Call the tribe.

Make sure there are other people besides you who can be there for the person in pain. Maybe it’s a friend taking them for a walk in nature, a massage therapist to relax their body, a psychologist to talk to over the phone, or a family member coming to stay. It really does take a village. You need a tag team so that you can continue to implement step number one.

  1. Accept the pain.

It is not your job to fix the pain. Let me repeat that: it is not your job to fix the pain. I’m sure you have already Googled it, already asked everyone you know what they have done to cure such pain and already wracked your brains with possible solutions. I’m not saying give up on them being free from pain. Of course it’s important to remain hopeful and for them to try any healing method that feels right for them. However, resisting the reality of the situation can quickly become tiring for everyone. After a while you need to accept that your person is in pain and surrender to that reality. That way you can put Google aside and focus on the here and now.

  1. Acts of service is probably their new love language.

Out of the five love languages, acts of service was always last on my list of what made me feel most loved. That was until I got sick, had no energy and was in constant pain. Now I have a new appreciation for even the smallest of acts. When I am in pain and someone cooks me a meal, vacuums the apartment or even heats up my wheat bag, I could literally cry with gratitude (and sometimes I have). Everyone is different, and it’s important to ask the person what they need if they are able to express that, but if they are anything like me they will be very appreciative of thoughtful acts.

It’s not easy to love someone who is in pain. However, since we will all experience pain to some extent at some point in our lives, we need to learn how to maintain relationships in the context of pain, as well as our own wellbeing.

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