We’re never quite ready for what we’re about to face in life when it involves two ingredients: unpredictability and pain. I’m one of those who thrive off of solid plans; I work best with some sort of structure, and knowing where I stand makes me feel secure. If you asked me, surprises are overrated. I’m not big on them.
However, I don’t care if you claim to be the world’s leading psychic — no one can completely be prepared for tragedy to strike. As I described in my last post, an unexpected tragedy struck one woman whose life would be forever altered. On Saturday, Dec. 16, 2006, 26 year-old Claudia Salley drove her husband and her four-month-old son Levi westbound on Interstate 20 in Shreveport, Louisiana. While Claudia slowed her family’s white Lincoln due to road construction, the 18-wheeler behind her didn’t.
Claudia’s vehicle was not only totaled by the sheer force of the speeding 18-wheeler’s impact, it took the “jaws of life” to get her out of the crushed vehicle, which was soon engulfed in flames. While her husband Jason walked away without injury, Claudia would lose her ability to walk after that day. She was paralyzed from the armpits down. Making matters worse, her four-month-old baby died immediately. Though counting her blessings that she survived at all, Claudia Salley and her husband would later rejoice in celebrating the birth of their twin boys in 2010.
Though, other tragedies don’t always have any sort of silver lining, and the aftermath can leave a community devastated and shocked. In Redondo Beach, California, where I live, literally just blocks away on the evening of Dec, 17, 2014, just eight days before Christmas, a group of worshippers were coming out of St. Vincent Catholic Church after attending a children’s Christmas concert and were crossing Pacific Coast Highway when Margo Bronstein, 56, ran a red light and plowed her vehicle into them. Bronstein is said to have been wheelchair bound most of her life and is also on prescription medication as well as painkillers. The ramifications of Bronstein being under the influence, according to police, and driving left deadly resulted in the deaths of Mary Ann Wilson, 81, Saeko Matsumura, 87, Martha Gaza, 36, and her 6-year-old son, Samuel Gaza. Meanwhile, eight others were injured.
Like the driver of the 18-wheeler, Bronstein wasn’t intending to kill anyone. Thus, she’s pleaded not guilty and is still awaiting trial. Regardless of whether or not there was intent to kill, people are dead as a result of these tragic accidents. Imagine being Martha Gaza’s husband, Glen Gaza, who was also struck along with their two daughters. Imagine having to witness your wife dying in front of you and your son fighting for his life only to die days later in the hospital. Then imagine having to come home after healing from physical injuries only to see Martha’s and Samuel’s Christmas presents still under the tree, gifts they’ll never be able to open. The kind of pain that one goes through after such a horrific tragedy is unimaginable.
When I speak of pain, I am not speaking of the physical but the emotional that leaves invisible scars. And it doesn’t have to be an insane car accident with deadly results. It could be that your husband or wife is serving dinner one day, acting as if nothing is wrong. Then you come home the next day to notice that their things are gone. In one blink of an eye your matrimonial vows are broken. Having gone through a life-altering, tumultuous marriage and an equally traumatic divorce, I can say that the healing process is different for everyone. The kind of pain that one endures feels like it might never end. But feeling the pain is a necessary process.
Why do we feel pain? Why must we go through it? Some people may not see the point in it. Some will do whatever it takes to avoid feeling pain. And leave it to us to find inventive ways to escape; it doesn’t always have to be through drugs, alcohol, gambling, or any other type of toxic addiction. Avoiding the pain only leaves it buried, and it can’t stay hidden forever. Regardless of how much you keep yourself busy or try to work, regardless of any other type of distraction that helps numb you, the pain will always be there, just waiting to bubble to the surface. The numbing is only temporary. The pain will need to be dealt with sooner or later.
The Bottom Line
Although we wish we could avoid feeling pain and never have to deal with the grieving process, that is precisely what we all must do. Every human, I don’t care who you are and what sort of super powers you profess to have. It is my belief that we all experience some form of emotional pain that takes us through the stages of grief and healing in order to come out of it, recovered and a new, better version. Those who never heal from the pain from their past never quite learn how to forgive, and without real forgiveness a world awaits of pain, engulfed and taken by bitterness, old lesions, and lasting emotional wounds left gaping open. Untreated wounds can have deadly results, consequences of addiction, self-sabotaging behaviors and self-destruction.
Sometimes the only solution when faced with the worst emotional pain and circumstances you can ever imagine is to not fight it. The best thing you can do for yourself is to allow yourself to feel and allow yourself the time, regardless of how long it might take you to go through the healing process. Part of that is forgiving those that hurt you and, most importantly, forgiving yourself. I don’t believe we can truly be the survivors we are if not for sheer power of pain that strengthens us.
There is some truth to the adage, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” and pain is a strengthener if used in the right way. It builds our emotional, mental and spiritual muscles. Pain allows us to endure. It fortifies tenacity and the will, the heart, to go on, no matter how badly we wish to give up. Pain is the most powerful motivator. I believe the greatest achievements, the most successful and inspiring stories of hope, derive from those that were inflicted with great pain and despite it, became stronger and rose above it.