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Remember what it's like? To live without pain?

Seated on a dorm-room tiled floor with two bunk beds and a Dominoz pizza splayed out on their shag rug, all was well with me and my college friends-- until it wasn't. One of the girls received a phone call from her high school boyfriend. She stepped out of the room.

They'd been dating for several years-- and though they went to different colleges-- chose to stay together. They were a good couple; we all thought they'd get married.

From the hallway, I heard her hit the ground and scream loudly. Wailing.

My other two friends and I ran out of the room to find her lying on the floor curled up around her stomach, covering her face, screaming and crying. She couldn't even say the words, but we all know-- he had ended the relationship.

We picked her up and brought her back into the dorm room-- and then we (especially I) had NO idea what to do with this inconsolable broken-hearted girl.

We'd been friends for several years and I knew her well-- but I hadn't dated like she did. I did not enter college with a high school boyfriend. I didn't know what that pain would feel like-- and I remember thinking WOW I hope I NEVER experience pain that bad.

It was awful. It went on for hours.

We tried to get her up to walk, drink water, do something--- anything-- else than lying on the floor crying and screaming. Eventually, she fell asleep like that. And woke up for the next few days doing the same thing. As time passed, she couldn't stop talking about him and wondering if she'd get another chance. Watching his social media. Asking questions--- had any of us heard anything??

He started dating another girl he'd met in college soon after.

Gut-punch, knife-twisting pain surged through her once again.

The next year, another close friend of mine was visiting home from college when the same experience happened to her. Even though this wasn't my first experience I still had NO IDEA what to do or say. I just sat there with her-- we walked, she could barely stand. Gutted.

And the pain didn't leave quickly. It throbbed and coursed through her veins, a constant reminder of unforeseen change.

It wasn't until years later that I'd come to know this gut-wrenching, awful pain. Loss. Grief.

No matter the cause, the reaction (that awful, awful poisoning pain) is the same. I felt it for so long after my brother passed by suicide at thirty-one years old that I couldn't recall what it felt like to NOT know pain. It is just this continuous bruise, stomach exposed to everything and open like a gunshot wound.

This morning, as I was writing myself a Letter from Love, I acknowledged that the mystery I felt when I was younger and the sheer fear inside of me to NOT experience what those girls had experienced had transformed into something that is with me always.

The pain of loss and grief never goes away.

Like being terrified of something (dear GOD I hope that NEVER happens to me) and then it does. It will. It happens for all of us at some point.

Since living with the heaviness, explained by another friend as a sharp rock that you hold--- the sharpness lessens over time-- but the heaviness does not. It is there, present as it always was from the moment it happened to you.

In my Letter from Love to myself this morning, I wrote about being grateful for the experience of love so deep and full that it gutted me to lose it. To experience the human intensity of loss and grief. To walk with it every day and learn to hold it differently, gently. To want to escape so badly you wonder what would be the quickest, most painless way to die. Because none of us wants to experience life with pain-- especially ongoing, chronic pain.

Much of my life, since then, has transformed into managing the pain. Physically, emotionally... it is never NOT present. It is always present, like that rock that I hold-- it has gotten less sharp but the weight of it has not changed.

This morning I reflected on that young girl watching my girlfriends' hearts break -- and can see it from a new perspective. As much as we want to crawl out and away from the pain, it is the reminder of how precious it is -- to open oneself up to another being-- and allow love in.

Love will always be the greatest risk, but like many things-- it too, comes with the greatest reward.

Holding the pain today, as heavy as it is, is a reminder of the life I GET to live. The love I have had and the love I continue to grow. My hope is we can all be a little gentler with one another while we're still on this side-- experiencing painful human life.

With love,


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