The Dalai Lama is credited with the saying “Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.” Last week in our group, our friend Laura shared with us what she had learned about her choice in suffering. How is it possible to believe suffering is optional when we are in the midst of such tremendous pain from our loss? It helps to understand that pain and suffering are not the same things. This graphic shows how emotional pain (not physical pain) is a natural response to an emotionally disturbing event. Suffering is our response to the event with negative self-talk and actions intended to avoid or numb the pain we feel. We can keep filling that suffering portion of the graphic up with unhealthy coping mechanisms and negative self-talk, but none of them ever address the actual feelings that have caused our pain. In fact, negative self-talk may be another way we avoid feeling the actual pain.
Our friend Natalie reminds us each week with her avatar that how we speak to ourselves matters. You might notice how frequently negative self-talk moves us into suffering and away from healing. We can never erase the pain of losing our loved one to suicide, but we can work toward being kinder to ourselves and move away from the actions within our control that cause suffering.