Monthly Archives: April 2009

Chronic Pain Brings Losses That Need Grieving

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956734_desolationThose with chronic pain/illness have much to grieve. Often this is a topic that is not discussed very often.

What is grief all about? Grieving is a disorderly process, unpredictable in appearance and manifestations. It is hard work and the steps to and the time it takes to processing it are individual for each woman. It differs in expression, intensity, and time.

Because our society hasn’t (as a whole) taught us about the grief process . . .

  • its wide array of feelings,
  • its impact on our behaviors and body,
  • and the fact that grieving is normal . . .

 . . . many women struggle needlessly and far longer than necessary.

People are also afraid of the intense feelings of others. So they change the subject, minimize the feelings and intellectualize the situation. This is done by saying something that appeals to the intellect instead of the emotions.

To grieve well, a woman in pain needs to first acknowledge those losses. Some of these losses could include . . .

  • The changed nature of relationships – roles (at home, work, social settings) are now different for the woman in pain. “I think I alienated a lot of people at work … because I was out sick so much …. and others [had to] cover for me” (LS).  Sometimes friendships are lost.
  • Loss of present income and/or loss of future earning potential.
  • Loss of youth, healthy body functions and physical abilities, including clear thinking and use of intellect.
  • Spontaneity – Living with chronic pain is hard work and typically everything needs to be planned out in order to manage the symptoms.
  • Loss of independence.
  • Retirement dreams often must be changed, put on hold or deleted.
  • Pleasure – Available time and effort are spent on coping so that fun is often neglected.
  • Satisfying Sexual life – Low energy level and interest contribute to this loss. Also the fear of pain can contribute to lack of sexual intimacy.
  • Positive future plans – often these are viewed with fear, when time is even given to thinking about the future.
  • Self esteem.
  • Identity.

Action Steps:

  1. What is a loss you need to acknowledge?
  2. How can this information help you be a better griever?
  3. What is one thing you can do to help a woman in chronic pain grieve a little bit better? 
  4. Use the above loss list as a prayer guide.

“Without question [there have been losses associated with my chronic pain]. I am not the woman I once was, I lack the stamina & strength I once had….check that…it is a DIFFERENT strength & stamina.” CS

Related Articles

  • Things to Do/Not Do For Someone in Chronic Pain
  • Words to Say/Not Say to Someone with Chronic Pain 
  • One Reason Why People Ignore Those with Chronic Pain
  • 1 out of 3 People Suffer from Chronic Pain
  • 4 Differences Between Acute & Chronic Pain   
  • Looking Fine & Still in Chronic Distress
  • Feelings & Thoughts Affected by Chronic Pain
  • 4 Ways Grief Has Changed My Beliefs
  • Loss Leads to Depression
  • This Grief Attitude Annoys Me
  • Dozen Ideas to Move Past the Blah’s
  • Things to Do/Not Do for a Woman in Chronic Pain

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    93005_lifesaver_1Obviously we can say things that make a situation worse. Or we can say something that brings value, encouragement, insight or education. These words are fruitful, helpful. The same is true with actions.

     Our actions can degrade, deflate and discourage. They can make someone feel worse. Or like positive, well thought out words, our actions can add value, encouragement, insight or education to the situation. These types of actions are fruitful, helpful.

    Below are some actions that are and are not helpful for a woman with chronic pain and/or illness.

    Don’t Do These Things[1]

    1. Don’t baby the woman or swoop in handle her affairs without her permission.
    2. Don’t diagnose or give medical answers. Instead encourage her to seek professional, medical care.
    3. Don’t use labels. A woman is not the pain; she is a person with pain (a disease, condition or syndrome).
    4. Don’t let complaining be your main  bond. Don’t allow the woman to get into the rut of complaining.
    5. Don’t stigmatize, judge or blame her especially if you think her behaviors and/or poor health habits have led to the chronic pain. Be merciful and gentle and point the woman to God.
    6. Don’t help the woman begrudgingly. If you cannot help the woman joyfully, don’t help at all.
    7. Don’t share every cure you’ve heard of for her pain/illness. She’s probably already been bombarded with cures. Let her time with you be one of respite from that kind of talk . “If you must share something, mail the information to the person with a nice note and never mention it again.”[2]
    8. Don’t make the woman into a project.

     Do These Things

    1. Create a safe place for the woman to talk. This should be a quiet, secluded spot. Give her time to answer the questions and to express how she’s feeling. Validate her pain (physical and emotional). Don’t ignore her problems.
    2. Refer the woman to a professional counselor when needed. If the woman is depressed and/or needs to learn new coping skills, a professional counselor is the appropriate resource.
    3. Encourage the woman to find a support group. There are many secular and some christian support groups for the many types/causes of chronic pain/illness. If she feels overwhelmed, maybe you could offer to find the information for her.
    4. Provide spiritual input. See if she’ll host a Bible study in her own home. Offer her a devotional about pain. Or go through a short Bible study with her.
    5. Ask the woman if she’d like more information. If yes,  refer her to the appropriate books, community resources, websites and/or another woman with a similar issue who is further along in the journey.
    6. Encourage talking openly with family members and friends. Isolation is a common problem.
    7. Ask her if you can pray for her either right then or on “your own time.” Ask what she’d like prayer for – don’t assume that you know. Pray for her family since she is probably burdened about how her chronic pain/ illness is affecting them. Don’t use prayer as a time to lecture or prove a point. Also ask if she’d like a prayer partner from church.
    8. Send notes and cards of encouragement consistently. Buy a stack of cards and pre-address and pre-stamp them. Then every week or so send your friend a card. You don’t have to say anything fancy. Write something simple like, “I’m thinking about you today. Do you remember when we __________? That’s a special memory for me. I wanted to let you know you are still special to me today.” Or, “I’m proud of how you are handing your life. You inspire me to handle my life with more ___________.” You could include a comic, a joke, a verse that brings hope or a funny picture.

    Action Items: What is one thing you will stop doing? What is one thing you will do today to be an encourager? Do you have any other ideas that would be helpful?

     “Ministering to a woman in pain needs to be real – meals, helping with the kids, cleaning her house – not asking, just coming over and doing it.” EK

    Related articles

  • Words to Say/Not Say to Someone with Chronic Pain 
  • One Reason Why People Ignore Those with Chroinc Pain
  • 1 out 3 People Suffer From Chronic Pain
  • 4 Differences Between Acute & Chronic Pain   
  • Looking Fine & Still in Chronic Distress
  • Feelings & Thoughts Affected by Chronic Pain

  • [1] Numbers 1-6 are ideas from Debbie and Kathy, two women who presented their story in the Women in Pain 2  class January 15, 2009.

    [2]Lisa J. Copen, So You Want to Start a Chronic Illness-Pain Ministry. San Diego:  Rest Ministries Inc, 2002, p. 45.

    What to Say/What Not to Say to a Woman in Chronic Pain

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    33395_mouthOften why a woman has chronic pain and/or a chronic illness is not easy to decipher. Often it’s not easy to even give a name to that  pain or set of symptoms. It is unexplained. 

    Many people are uncomfortable with the unexplained.  They feel compelled to give answers for this unexplained situation. Instead of being quiet, they give answers that turn out to be stupid, not thought out and/or are hurtful. Many times a person’s theology is poorly reasoned and so they say things that are ignorant and/or judgmental.

    Below are some words that are and are not helpful for a woman in pain.

    Don’t Say This

    1. Why aren’t you healed yet?
    2. What haven’t you learned that God is trying to teach you?
    3. What did you do that God is punishing you? Just confess the sin and He’ll heal you.
    4. God must be withholding your healing for a reason.
    5. You must not be praying correctly.
    6. If you had enough faith or prayed with the right words, God would heal you.
    7. I know just how you feel!
    8. Don’t dwell on it. It could be a lot worse. Look at the bright side.
    9. It’s lucky you’re so you’re young. There’s time for a cure yet.
    10. Everything works together for good.
    11. So many people are praying, I know that you’ll be healed.
    12. You’re never given more than you can handle.

    Yes, #10  and #12 are true. But the person giving the “answers” must have the right to speak into a woman’s life and must speak at the right time.

     What do you think gives a person the “right” to speak into someone’s life? How do you know when the time is right?

    Do Say This[1]

    1. What can I do to help you? How can I support you best?
    2. I am here with you in this.
    3. What are some Scriptures you really like? Would you share when you’ve experienced God’s presenece and /or answers to prayer?
    4. What events in your life are changing and how are you coping? (#1)
    5. What motivates you to keep going when you are feeling down? (#217)
    6. How do you feel God is working though-or- despite this illness in your life. I’m interested. (#12)
    7. What do you wish people understood about your pain/illness? (#13)
    8. Ask, “How is your pain level today?” No one ever asks this and yet [her] life revolves around it. [She’ll] appreciate your concern. (# 172)

    As someone with pain, which of the helpful words did you most resonate with? Could you add to this list?

    As a supporter to one with pain, what is something you will say today to a woman in pain? Something you’ll stop saying?

          “The biggest help is probably validation without judgment.”  CS

    Related Articles:

  • One Reason Why People Ignore Those with Chroinc Pain
  • 1 out 3 People Suffer From Chronic Pain
  • 4 Differences Between Acute & Chronic Pain   
  • Looking Fine & Still in Chronic Distress
  • Feelings & Thoughts Affected by Chronic Pain

  • [1]Numbers 4-8 are from Lisa Copen’s book Beyond Casseroles: 505 Ways to Encourage a Chronically Ill Friend. San Diego: Rest Ministries Publishing, 2008.

    Accepting Honest Scrap Award Means I Share 10 Honest Things

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     honest_scrap_awardHonestly, I’ve been nominated! Here are the rules . . .

    A) List 10 honest things about yourself—and make them interesting, even if you have to dig deep!
    B) Pass the award on to 7 bloggers who you feel embody the spirit of the Honest Scrap and whose blogs you find brilliant in design or content.

    Thank you, Spring, for this nomination. If you all like the design, the applause goes to Jenny. If you like the content, the applause goes to me.  🙂

    I’ve thought long and hard about this post as I wanted to make sure I didn’t repeat things I’ve already written. Not that I expect you all to have memorized it all.  😀

    1. I love to garden especially when the yard has plenty of sun and lovely soil. When I lived in CO I used to shop at a super store that had a garden centre. Every week I’d come home with another plant and sneak it into the ground. Usually my dh noticed weeks later. To his question, “Isn’t this new?” I’d reply, “Oh, no. We’ve had it for awhile.” Seriously, if I stayed there, I would have had to enter a treatment facility or join a 12 Step 5350_passed_out_on_couchprogram for gardening addiction. Honestly.
    2. I prefer sleeping on the couch.  It makes me feel all snuggly and safe.
    3. I’m an out-of-control snacker when I write papers. I get myself all stressed out and to relieve the stress I eat. I only do this when writing papers. So I wonder how much weight I’ll lose once I’m done with school.
    4. I’m more of a listener than a talker and more serious than fun. I find small talk difficult.  Once in awhile I do get quite chatty and silly. Some people, like my Sista and Lorna, seem to bring this out in me.
    5. Even though I’m 51, I’ve only had one job in my “career.” That’s right here at CNC as director of women’s ministry and small groups. It will be an honor to be able to work there full-time come September. During my adult years I’ve mainly been a stay-at-home, home-school mom. That was also an honor.
    6. One of my favorite things to do is to snuggle with my god-son, Lennon. I love it when he falls asleep in my arms, even though he’s getting so big that he doesn’t really “fit” in y arms. He’s sprawled all over me. He’s about 18  months old.
    7. I love the idea of being connected to a small group of people. You know like a Cheers or Friends type group. I am attending a family friendly small group through church. I haven’t been going very long, but I think that this group is morphing into such a connected group. I’m the only “single” in the group, but they really seem to like and love me. Cool.
    8. I am a terrible pack rat. I don’t know why. It caused quite a few dissensions in my marriage. But you know what? I’m ready to get rid of that compulsion/habit/need/whatever it is. I’m ready to streamline. I’m ready to let God provide instead of me hanging onto stuff just in case I need it someday.
    9. When I research something, I go all out.  I read lots of library books and lots of sites on the web. I buy lots of books through Amazon one-click and of course read those. I want to know all there is to know about that topic.
    10. 351809_oink_oink_piggy_bank_310. I am compulsive about paying with exact change.  COMPULSIVE. Well, I was until about a year ago. Someone challenged me to put any loose change into a piggy bank and see if I missed paying with the change. I didn’t. WHAT a surprise. My pink, plastic piggy is about full. When I cash it in, I’ll use that money for my short-term trip to Jordan in July.

    I tag the following peeps because they are honest in their communications about themselves (some are on FB only) and/or their site is brilliant and  because I think they’d play along:

    Maybe those of you only on FB could list 5 honest things about yourselves. That is if you think 10 things  takes up too much room.

    One Reason Why People Ignore Those with Chronic Pain

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    1159993_outcast_1Often the Church is silent when it comes to dealing with people and their chronic pain/illness issues. Why is this? The chronic pain that is not healed can bring up unanswerable questions for others as well as for the woman. Chronic pain in others, especially pain in those who are friends or family, can cause a crisis of faith.  The chronic pain can raise questions about the power and goodness of God.

    • If God is powerful and good why does He allow bad things to happen?
    • What if God isn’t powerful or good?

    Many people do not want to wrestle with these uncomfortable questions. So they ignore (sometimes unconsciously) the woman in pain. By ignoring the woman or blaming her, it is easier for them to ignore the questions and to where the answers might lead.

    “The church was our major social life, so our social structure fell apart [when] we were just plain ignored by most of our church, judged by some. I really struggle with the realization that my non-Christian friends have been much more there than my Christian friends.”[1]

    Have you ever wrestled with uncomfortable questions about God? About a friend’s or loved one’s chronic pain/illness?  Where are you with the answers?

     Related Articles:

  • 1 out 3 People Suffer From Chronic Pain
  • 4 Differences Between Acute & Chronic Pain   
  • Looking Fine & Still in Chronic Distress
  • Feelings & Thoughts Affected by Chronic Pain

  • [1]Stuart S.  Kassan, Chronic Pain for Dummies. Hoboken: Wiley Publishing, 2008, p. 29.

    Feelings & Thoughts Are Affected by Chronic Pain

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    152348_alessandraWomen with chronic pain experience a wide range of feelings and thoughts. Some of the most common feelings are fear, anger, bitterness and depression.[1]  Even women who are otherwise in good emotional health or have a strong religious foundation will experience some of these feelings and others.

    Ruminating thoughts can also consume a woman. Thoughts like doubt and blame pair up for a one-two punch to a woman’s serenity and sense of safety. Women doubt and blame themselves and God. At times it is hard work to think on the best and not the worst or things to praise and not to curse.  At times it is impossible for the woman to change the feelings or thoughts that have her hostage.

    Regardless of the depth of your faith, pain takes over and consumes your every thought.” EK

    The feelings and thoughts of others can also hold a woman hostage.“The emotional effects of having the illness discounted, of having one’s respectability and judgment questioned, and dealing with the criticism of others can add to a woman’s fear, anger, bitterness and depression. These kinds of negative actions are even displayed by good hearted and moral Christians.

    This is where the minister, counselor, friend, or family member can help. Encourage the woman to express exactly how she feels whether it’s anger at God (or whoever/whatever) or the need to seek His support. Whether physical healing ever occurs or not hope is always needed. 

    What is one way that you can offer hope to someone in pain? What is something that you’d like to hear/receive that would bring you hope?

     Related Articles:

  • 1 out 3 People Suffer From Chronic Pain
  • 4 Differences Between Acute & Chronic Pain   
  • Looking Fine & Still in Chronic Distress

  • [1] Stuart S.  Kassan, Chronic Pain for Dummies. Hoboken: Wiley Publishing, 2008, p. 15.

    Just Because I don’t Look Chronically Ill Doesn’t Mean I’m Not

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    1063894_female_on_the_beachMany women suffering from chronic pain/illness don’t look ill. Since it is invisible people often assume health and make comments that are discouraging and downright rude. Understanding for lack of participation[1] gets sparse as the illness gets worse or lingers too long. Name-calling (like lazy, hypochondriac, drama-queen, faker, and attention-seeker) adds to the condemnation and discouragement many women with an invisible chronic illness already feels.

    “To many we appear to be flaky and/or unreliable when the truth is very different. People don’t understand when you tell them you’re in pain and they can’t see why.”  CS

    How a woman interacts with her culture, physical environment and background affects how she behaves, experiences and deals with pain. Some of these behaviors include the following:

    • Anger
    • Anxiety
    • Depression
    • Fear of further injury
    • Isolation
    • Lack of energy/fatigue
    • Foggy thinking
    • Doing too much or too little
    • Staying in bed
    • Excessive doctor shopping
    • Over medicating
    • Talking too much or not at all about pain
    • Withdrawal
    • Quick temper
    • Trouble asking for and receiving help
    • Always thinking about and reacting to pain
    • Sleep problems
    • Eating problems
    • Negative self-talk and thinking

    A woman’s theology, emotional make-up, resources, body type and self-concept also affect pain management. For instance unresolved long-term emotional pain can bring on physical symptoms like migraines, asthma and IBS. The converse is also true; long-term physical pain can bring on clinical depression.

    “…My neurologist told me that pain and depression share the same nerve pathways in the brain. Some people think you get depressed because you’re in pain. This may be true in some situations, but you can also have depression seemingly for no reason at all (quite frustrating!) because you have pain. When I am going to have a major migraine, I usually become severely depressed 1-3 days before. I think it’s good to be aware of this and to have the people around you know so that they can help you walk through this.” TL

    A frustrating aspect of chronic pain is that often there is no diagnosis as to why the body’s pain switch is locked in an on position. Not knowing the why makes it difficult for health care providers to know how to help. This lack of a diagnosis leads many people (professional and lay alike) to discount/minimize the woman’s pain and treat her more like a hypochondriac than a woman with a real problem with pain.

    Actually women in pain trend to over-exaggerate their health. Not knowing the why also affects the woman in pain as she tends to ignore her symptoms and do too much. Having a diagnosis gives her “permission” to properly care for herself.

    “I am one of those invisible people. I’ve even had doctors tell me it’s all in my head. I’m glad they got a medical degree to figure out my migraines are in my head! “TL.

    Do you know a woman with a chronic illness/pain? Maybe you can ask her  how she feels today and listen to the answer. Really listen with compassion and believe what she’s telling you.

    Related Articles:


    [1] This includes participation in activities in all areas of life like home, school, work, community, church, politics, and with friends.