Suffer. They’re worth it.
Last week, I was in Athens seeing one of my favorite bands, Johnnyswim, in concert. They are a husband and wife duo who are extremely talented and have great chemistry on stage together. They are vulnerable in their lyrics, which is one of the things that draws me into their music even more.
They told the story on stage of a dark season of their lives a few years ago. They each lost a parent within months of one another. They talked about how they were struggling to push through, see the positive, and be ‘okay’ when a friend spoke these freeing words to them: “Suffer. They’re worth it.” She gave them the freedom to grieve, to hurt, to experience the pain.
I kept thinking about those words after the concert. It brought me back to conversations I have had with women working in the sex industry. So often their stories held such deep pain that they needed something to numb it, often taking them down the dark road of addiction. But in the safehome where I worked, we were gently leading them back into the pain, asking them to feel it. Sometimes that pain was overwhelming and could often only be handled in doses, but there was something freeing and healing about beginning to face it and walk through it.
we were gently leading them back into the pain, asking them to feel it. Sometimes that pain was overwhelming and could often only be handled in doses, but there was something freeing and healing about beginning to face it and walk through it.
While my story is different than the women in the safehome, and I have never felt the pain of losing a parent, I have endured the death of a marriage. When I think back on it, I firmly believe I was able to not only survive it, but actually heal, because I allowed myself to feel the depths of the grief. That loss hurt deeply, and it mattered. The suffering and grieving honored what was, and eventually, allowed me to make space for what was to come.
In a culture and society that is busy and drawn to perfection, I find that grief and suffering are emotions we want to push past quickly. We are uncomfortable in our own grief as well as the pain of others. The desire for everything to be okay is strong and tempting, but it shortchanges us. Embracing the pain brings a greater depth and healing to our lives and honors our losses. It is worth it.
I’ve included excerpts below from the Johnnyswim song “Let it Matter”:
I don't want to feel better
I don't want to feel good
I want to feel it hurt like losing someone should
I'm gonna let my heart break
I'm gonna let it burn
I'm gonna stake my claim with the flame I know it hurled
So if it matters let it matter
If your heart's breaking let it ache
Catch those pieces as they scatter
Know your hurt is not in vain
Don't hide yourself from the horror
Hurt today here tomorrow
If it's fragile and it shatters
Let it matter, let it matter
Written by Rachel Davis, Operations Manager and Senior Project Analyst for Wellspring International.
Photograph by Elizabeth Jones.