How deep does pain go? Is there a limit to the expanse of my hurt? How much pain can someone take, and then, what takes over? Sorrow sometimes seems endless. I have not found a way to navigate around the emotional weight of loss in the doing of a day. I am unable to circumnavigate a thought, a memory, or an emotion. Pain comes as it comes and as much as I want to push it away there is no “away” to push it to.

Benjamin June 12 Pain's limitsSo, instead of pretending pain does not exist, I decided to step as deeply into the experience as I possibly could. This is where the question rose – what are the parameters of pain?

When do I reach the place where I can take no more? For me, pain has its limits and limitations. It constricts my heart and there is only so much I can do in that moment. The more I try to push through it, the more it constrains. I think I can do more, but in reality, all I can do is all I can do. I have learned that is enough.

As for pain having its limit, there has been many a moment when I just couldn’t take anymore. I had reached the edge of my endurance. In utter exhaustion, I had arrived at the farthest point in my pain. I had taken all I could take and it took all of me. Well, not entirely all of me.

I experience different types of pain and I’ll mention just three. There is the jagged edge variety that rips me to shreds. There is the pain that is so heavy I can barely breathe. And there is the kind of pain that leaves me so overwhelmed I’m just numb, immobilized, on the verge of extinction.

Matt’s last breath was the jagged edge pain. In the hours and days beyond that moment the pain was of immeasurable weight. When I was driving home from the crematorium with his ashes the pain was so overwhelming I was numb.

Each one of these experiences, and so many more, took me to the limit – to the place where pain metamorphoses into a world where pain dissolves. Either I simply can’t carry it anymore or it empties in my emptiness. There is simply nothing left for it to hold on to.

Benjamin June 12 through the painOne image I have of how pain operates in my life is that of crossing the sound barrier. A plane would approach the parameters of the speed of sound and begin to experience compression and violently shake. Until 1947, aircraft were not able to safely navigate this phenomenon.

The ability to create an aircraft that could go beyond the limits of sound initially brought with it the experience of coming up to the edge of sound, shaking the plane to its core and then passing this barrier and smoothly flying beyond sound’s limits.

On the edge of my pain, when endurance shakes me to the core, something happens that takes me beyond pain’s limits. Just as aeronautics had to have the right tools and dimensions to safely cross the sound barrier to smooth sailing, I needed to find the right ingredients to find my way through the pain and into the peace.

I have experienced no greater jagged pain than Matt’s last breath. I have never experienced anything on the scale of complete immobilization as the night I was driving back from the crematorium.

I put Matt in the oven myself. They let me slide my child’s body into the flames and bring his ashes out. It was part of going the distance with my child. I was his father. It was my task to be there for him no matter what, no matter where. I could not leave this to another and I am so grateful I found a funeral director who honored my request.

On the way home I was on the highway late at night, alone on the road, alone in my car, alone. Thirteen years had ended. Thirteen years of life had left me lifeless. The pain was indescribable.  So was the peace. I had reached my limit and entered the limitlessness.

Benjamin June 12 Types of PainI could not get to the peace without going through the pain. The only way to get to it is to go through it.

Earlier I asked when the pain gets so great, what takes over? I don’t know. I can’t explain how such pain can ultimately rest in peace. I have no clue of what happens when the sorrow barrier is broken. All I know is I can’t sit in the pain. I can’t force it away. I have to ride it to its very limits and somewhere at the outer limits of my pain I find the inner limitless of my peace.

What happened then, happens now. The pain I carry today is the underlying, perpetual experience of loss. I assume it will be with me for the rest of my life. I still experience episodes of all the varieties of pain I described earlier, and more. I know now the limitations of pain and the limitlessness of my peace. And I still use the same tools to make it through, not around, whatever the day holds.

Share Button