Taking the full measure of life

Giving Hurt Its Due

July 1st, 2008 · 22 Comments

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Exasperated, worn out, upset, sad. Angry.

I had surgery on my lower abdomen 8 days ago.  The surgery went an hour longer than was planned, so by the time I was awake, my doctor was performing another surgery in another operating room already.  The nurses jolted me awake, gave me my clothes to dress in, tried to feed me gluten (wheat crackers), rolled me out to the parking lot.  My family was so relieved that there was no return of cancer that their first words to me were that everything was fine and that the doctor hadn’t found anything.

Nothing? I’m okay? Really?

It wasn’t true.  What she found wasn’t cancer, but she hadn’t expected to find cancer (that was my family’s fear, not the doctor’s).  And my plunge from disbelief and elation that nothing was wrong down into the truth of the situation filled me up with emotion that boiled inside me.

“But it’s not cancer. It’s a chronic condition, and it can’t kill you.”

Yes, that’s all true. But loss isn’t always relative, at least not immediately.  I often have friends who are upset over something that has shaken their world, chastising their (usually crying) selves, say, “But I know I shouldn’t be this upset—I should be grateful—because it could have been worse.” It could have been a broken spine instead of a broken arm. The rape could have taken place as part of a lifetime series in Darfur instead of as a single event with a frat boy. The financial disaster could have resulted in homelessness instead of just moving home with the parents.

And perspective is good. Don’t get me wrong; most of us (at least most of us who are able to sit around and read blogs) can say about most of our life events, It could have been worse, yes.  But guilt over a lack of perspective is not good, and perspective usually takes time to develop.  As I tell my beloved friends in their times of hurt, let us endeavor not to forget this:

Hurt hurts.

We need the space and the time and the ability and, yes, the right to work through what hurts without judging or chastising ourselves for doing so.

And I forgot that, for a few days.  Or half-remembered, I guess, and gave myself good lip service about it anyway, but I didn’t take it to heart.  Until we went back to the doctor so that I could hear the various news from her, and she gave me the news (on and on and on) about what she had sliced and removed and implanted inside my body, and, oh, as a reminder, if I want a biological child, this year may be the last time to try, and I started to cry in her office.

“Why are you crying? I see so much worse cases than this. You’ll start feeling better soon.”

“I know you see worse than this.  But that does not mean it’s not hard that this is my body this is happening to.” Yes, I said it with the emphasis.

She didn’t get it. (She’s a good doctor, really, but doctors are so rarely emotionally adept people.) It actually wasn’t important that she got it, though.  What was important was that it broke open the floodgates for me.

I cried in the car. I cried at lunch. I cried at home. I entered a blue funk, entirely, that afternoon.  What’s wrong with me? And then it hit me. Of course. I was angry.  I was angry that this is how I’ve lived my life, waiting for the next time I need to be sliced open or the next diagnosis, knowing something is coming, knowing my body rarely ever just functions correctly for very long.  I have a new diagnosis or two to add to my list; I have additional pressure to go ahead and have a baby despite not being ready for one; I have the possibility of more surgery and the definite of further treatments.

Yes, there are worse diagnoses. Yes, it’s good I have health insurance to have surgery I need. Yes, it’s good I might be able to have a baby at all, and—Yes, yes, yes, but stop for a minute, pause the judgment, and just let it be:

Hurt hurts.

Anger and loss and frustration are valid emotions.  Stuffing them down inside ourselves leads us to try to cope through other means.  And those other means don’t tend to work, because we need time and space and energy for healing where we just air ourselves out.  We need to be allowed to possess, then release, the emotions that come to us.  Not to revel in them permanently (that is to create misery), but to give them their due.

I emailed a couple of friends on Friday afternoon, after my doctor’s appointment.  They had written to check in on me, and I decided to lay it out there. I told them, basically, “I’ve had a loss, and I’m hurt and angry and don’t know what to do.”  I cried while I wrote the emails.  I moped. I thrashed. I didn’t sleep that night. I wished I could exercise some if it out, but I couldn’t move much at all yet.

The very next day, Saturday morning, I felt a bit better.  And I feel better still, now. I’m still angry and grieving, and that’s okay.  Resignation is replacing frustration, and these other emotions will evolve into acceptance.  I know good can come of this situation, as good always can.  I know it could have been worse, could be worse.  I know that I lead a blessed life in many, many, many ways.  But before my body and mind and spirit had any space for acceptance or gratitude, I had to admit to the hurt and the give the hurt its due.

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22 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Lizzie // Jul 1, 2008 at 1:31 pm

    Sally, you are wise beyond your years. Really, you write what many people think, but cannot express. Thank you for sharing this scary, hurtful time in your life for your words are surely helping others heal.

    Your readers are thinking of you 🙂

  • 2 COURTNEY // Jul 1, 2008 at 1:39 pm

    You are going through a natural process. You are in my thoughts.

  • 3 glutenfreeforgood // Jul 1, 2008 at 2:02 pm

    As always, Sally — well said. Eloquent, in fact. Lizzie’s right, you are wise beyond your years.

    Sending good energy.

  • 4 Ricki // Jul 1, 2008 at 3:02 pm

    So sorry to hear this, Sally. And glad at the same time that you’re okay and back to your “regular” activities (like blogging).

    Wishing you all good thoughts and affirmations.

  • 5 Lori // Jul 1, 2008 at 4:28 pm

    I’m so sorry to hear this, Sally…
    I wish I was there to give you a big hug!!! Sending lots of love your way. Get well soon! 🙂

  • 6 Jenn // Jul 1, 2008 at 4:57 pm

    I can’t imagine how you wouldn’t be hurt. What a horrible thing to be going through. It must seem like an uphill battle sometimes. . . one step forward and two steps back. And then the pressure to have a baby on top of that. . . sigh. You have every right to be hurt and upset, and I’m so glad that you recognize that and let yourself feel it. I’ll be thinking of you.

  • 7 AndrewE // Jul 1, 2008 at 5:31 pm

    Wow, this really touched me. It made me look at some things in my own life through a different lens.

    I hope things look up for you soon.

  • 8 Kim // Jul 1, 2008 at 7:41 pm

    Max and I are thinking about you. Let us know if there’s anything we can do for you.

  • 9 Kim // Jul 1, 2008 at 8:24 pm

    Dear Sally,
    I hope and pray that the hurt you feel is eventually replaced with something less painful. Please keep taking care of yourself.
    Big healing hugs,

  • 10 Mary Frances // Jul 1, 2008 at 8:33 pm

    Sally, Our thoughts and prayers have been and will continue to be with you and your husband. God Bless and God Heal,

  • 11 Onestripperpole // Jul 1, 2008 at 11:18 pm

    Sending you all the warm fuzzies, positive thoughts and blog hugs I can muster!

  • 12 Kristen // Jul 2, 2008 at 6:36 am

    so sorry that you are going through this. sending good/healing thoughts your way.

  • 13 Teresa // Jul 2, 2008 at 7:48 am

    You must be an old soul- you are realizing at a relatively young age what I am still just beginning to see at 52. Love and peace are the legacy of pain. As your heart opens to feel pain, you also open yourself to receive love and peace. Resisting pain, pushing it away also closes our hearts to the love, peace (and joy) that can follow.

  • 14 IzzyBeth // Jul 2, 2008 at 9:46 am

    Hurt does hurt. And if more people recognized what you have – we’d all be able to ‘deal’ better than we do. 🙂

  • 15 Laura N // Jul 2, 2008 at 10:47 am

    Very well expressed. Hope your healing continues.

  • 16 melody // Jul 2, 2008 at 5:54 pm

    This entry bring tears to my eyes…

    I’m so sorry for your loss and having to be sliced open again.

    I lost my ovaries when I was 23… and I was VERY lucky to have both of my children… but it still hurt and HURTS to this day… most people don’t understand it at all… so I rarely talk about it.

  • 17 K Renee // Jul 2, 2008 at 8:14 pm

    I hate to see you down, Sally.

    I’m thinking of you.

  • 18 Carrie // Jul 3, 2008 at 10:31 am

    I’ve been reading your blog for some time now and have never posted a comment. I think the things you reflect upon in your life and write about are truly amazing, as are you. I used to practice acupuncture and Chinese medicine. I am the mother of 2 boys, one of whom we found out last year has autism. I know run a full-time home-based program to help him. I found your site through blogs for gluten-free because I have him on a similar diet (no gluten, no casein, no refined sugar, no additives, etc).

    We are also doing a whole lot of soul searching, reflection, learning to change our attitudes, all very similar to what you are doing in your life – we have to pay an expert to help guide us through all this so I am very inspired every time I read your blog at your genuine appreciation of the aspects of life.

    I totally agree with you about hurt. When I treated my clients with acupuncture I always told them that no matter what issue they were dealing with was always real and a very big deal to them. You can’t compare problems between people. We all live our own lives and what you face and what hurts you is real and not ever to be compared to “something worse” in someone else. It’s real to you and that’s what you’re feeling and that is OK.

    I have no idea what you had done, can only read between the lines, however, I wanted to direct you towards a website of a woman who does some really incredible work in the US that I used to often read about. May not be applicable to you and I would never dare to try to diagnose. I just know how hard it is to find answers sometimes, to find something that works for you, and my intention is only to offer what I know in case it might be helpful.


    Her website title has changed since I was familiar with it, but the woman is Randine Lewis.

    Thank you for sharing parts of your soul – you’ve made an impact on me.


  • 19 Meg Wolff // Jul 9, 2008 at 3:27 am

    Giving hurt it’s due is very important work.

  • 20 Amanda // Jul 11, 2008 at 6:02 am


  • 21 G.G. // Jul 16, 2008 at 9:25 pm

    Thanks for writing this. I can really feel where you’re coming from. Stay strong and hang in there!

  • 22 Overcoming Frustration // Dec 22, 2008 at 12:44 pm

    […] it is, absolutely.  As I’ve covered before, hurt hurts–there’s no denying it.  But it doesn’t do me any good to stay stuck in mad, or […]

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