What It’s Like When Someone You Love Is In Pain

It’s been almost a year since my Pop-Pop died. It was the first death I experienced as an adult. The first death that truly affected me personally and taught me about the fragility of life. It was hard to see him suffer. It was hard when I no longer received phone calls from him. But the hardest part of all was watching the pain my mom went through. She lost her dad. When he died, part of her died too. The pain I felt from losing my Pop-Pop was tough, but the pain I felt from watching my mom suffer was the worst part of all. Here are some thoughts for anyone who has ever had to watch a loved one experience pain.
Flickr / evanmischelle
Flickr / evanmischelle

You want to do everything, but you feel like you can do nothing. You know they’re hurting and it cuts you into a million pieces.

You hate that they feel trapped inside their own heads, and you want to scream “I’m here! I’m right here! I won’t let you drown.” But you hear their monotone voice and you feel like everything you say passes through them. In one ear and out the other. They listen to you as you try to cheer them up and make them laugh, but their eyes are dead and that warm light within them is missing. And all you can think about is how to get it back.

You’ll do anything. You will do whatever is in your power to make them stop feeling this way. To make them stop hurting. To make them come back. Watching someone you love suffer is not just painful. It takes everything out of you. You’re so distraught over their suffering that you actually feel physical side effects. It makes you feel nauseous and lightheaded and completely out of whack with your own body.

You don’t understand the concept of wanting to take someone’s pain on for yourself until you actually watch someone you love go through heartache. It doesn’t matter if their heart’s been broken or they’ve been rejected from their dream job or they’ve just lost someone close to them or they’re dealing with illness. It doesn’t matter if this is your girlfriend or boyfriend or parent or sibling or best friend. Whoever it is and whatever the cause of their pain is, it hurts you more than you could have ever expected.

It can often be a shock – how deeply you feel their pain and how much their sadness and grief seems to be echoed inside of you. It can even be a bit alarming. How is it possible to feel this connected to another soul? How is it possible that you feel almost just as pained as them, not because you’re experiencing what they’re experiencing, but because you hurt when they hurt? How can your emotions be this intertwined with someone else’s? How can your mental and emotional wellbeing be this dependent on someone else’s current state?

The hardest part of watching someone you love go through pain is that you’re reminded of exactly how helpless love can make you feel. Love takes away your logic and your composure and your power and your rationality. Everything that makes you feel secure and certain and in control is lost. You’re just left with feelings. Pain and worry and deep cuts and concern and fear and constant powerlessness.

This is the cost of love. Even if your brain logically had no say in this, this is what your heart and your soul agreed to when they decided to love. It’s alarming and scary and confusing. It can drive you insane and make you feel defenseless. But that is the cost of feeling something strong and real and deep.

You cannot love someone if you feel nothing when they are in pain. You can feel “bad” for someone going through something if you feel affectionate or infatuated towards them. But you don’t love someone until the idea of them experiencing any kind of suffering makes you feel sick. Until the idea of them experiencing pain tears your heart out. Until you’d be ready to do anything or take on anything if it meant that they could be free from whatever pain they are experiencing.

It’s difficult when someone you love is in pain. But it’s reality. We all suffer. We all go through things and we all experience pain. It’s what makes us human. But it’s also what allows us to form such strong connections with other humans. As my mom always says, “The deeper the love, the deeper the pain.”

It’s hard to accept the powerlessness that love brings us. It’s hard to accept the hurt and the helplessness and the endless worry. It’s hard to watch someone you love suffer. But at the end of the day, it’s a reminder – a very strong reminder – that what you feel is deep and honest and real. What you feel is vulnerability and pain. And what you feel is the very thing that is going to connect you to someone else, long after they’re gone. TC mark

Kim Quindlen

I'm a staff writer for Thought Catalog. I like comedy and improv. I live in Chicago. My Uber rating is just okay.

Trace the scars life has left you. It will remind you that at one point, you fought for something. You believed.

“You are the only person who gets to decide if you are happy or not—do not put your happiness into the hands of other people. Do not make it contingent on their acceptance of you or their feelings for you. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if someone dislikes you or if someone doesn’t want to be with you. All that matters is that you are happy with the person you are becoming. All that matters is that you like yourself, that you are proud of what you are putting out into the world. You are in charge of your joy, of your worth. You get to be your own validation. Please don’t ever forget that.” — Bianca Sparacino

Excerpted from The Strength In Our Scars by Bianca Sparacino.

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