How to Deal with Pain and Uncertainty

“The human spirit is stronger than anything that can happen to it.” ~C.C. Scott

A blueberry muffin, that’s the last thing we spoke about before she went under.

I didn’t know it then, but it was to be the final conversation my (middle) daughter and I would have for a very long time. I was trying to distract Nava by talking about food; in this case, the promise of the rest of her muffin when she came back from the bronchoscopy.

We were thrown a steep curve ball out of left field when Nava went for an exploratory procedure and ended up on a respirator in a drug-induced paralyzed coma. 

Almost three months later, miraculously, she was slowly awakened, but not to any muffin; rather, to a  life that would require a strength of spirit, body, and soul unlike anything we could’ve ever imagined.

Nava was in an uphill battle to rebuild her life, muscle by muscle, limb by limb, as she relearned and reclaimed each bodily function.

Her spirit, attitude, and disposition carried her through this torturous climb and that carried me through, as well.  You could say I piggybacked on my daughter’s positive, brave, fighting spirit.

What do you do when your feet are jello, the ground is mush, and you’re drowning in a dark abyss of unknowns, amidst horrific pain and suffering? How do you begin to grope along the edge and regain some sense of grounding?

Here’s how I navigated pain and the unknown.

1. Become knowledgeable in the “problem” area.

Having information in a situation where you are totally helpless and have no control gives you something to hold onto.

For me, it was conferring with doctors on a daily basis. It became my lifeline in a foreign world of illness and advanced medical technology.

2. Find a healthy outlet for maintaining your physical and psychological well-being.

When the doctor offered me anti-anxiety medication, I made the decision to resume my walking regime. This kept me strong and helped manage my stress level without the use of meds. (I’m the antithesis of a pill popper.)

3. Hold onto even the smallest semblance of normality.

In a world that’s turned upside down, maintaining some familiar routines helps keep you grounded.

I maintained my observance of the Sabbath and lit candles to welcome it in, sometimes right in Nava’s room.

Every Friday night, since we don’t drive on the Sabbath, we found a place to sleep in walking distance to the hospital. We had our meals, together with my ex, at the Ronald McDonald House. This went on for the thee months that she was in the ICU, and then for the subsequent nine months that she was at the rehab hospital.

4. Do enjoyable activities, even if it’s for the sake of other family members.

Upon the advice of the doctor, I took my younger daughter to the mall, the movies, and other outings.

It was hard to do while Nava  teetered on the brink of life and death, and it felt weird to pay for clothes at a cashier and try to smile; but those brief interludes within the ordinary aspects of life provided a little relief  from a world that reeked of tragedy.

Showing appreciation for people working on your behalf  feels good for both you as the giver and them as the receiver.

When we went apple and vegetable picking, we brought back baskets of  beautiful red delicious apples and huge purple eggplants and brought them to the hospital. It was a small token of thanks to the tireless nurses in the critical care unit, a moment of joy and gratitude.

5. Allow yourself a good cry.

Curl up in a ball, go under the covers, and cry till you can’t cry anymore. The tears may not heal, but they do wash away the blurriness; you can then see a bit clearer.

6. Pray.

Pray to whomever for the strength and ability to deal with whatever’s come your way. I always felt there was something far greater than little old me that helped carry me through. We all need to believe that we’re strong, and stronger than we think.

Photo by notsogoodphotography

About Harriet Cabelly

Harriet Cabelly is a social worker, certified positive psychology coach, and life coach emphasizing living life to its fullest and creating a good life out of (or despite) adversity. Read more about her at Rebuild Your Life Coach and read the latest from her blog.

See a typo, an inaccuracy, or something offensive? Please contact us so we can fix it!
  • Leah5

    What a wonderfully life-affirming post this is. Thank you so much for it.
    Leah, Australia.

  • Leah5

    What a wonderfully life-affirming post this is. Thank you so much for it.
    Leah, Australia.

  • My god, Harriet, what can I say. This is where I am. Someone very close to me is in the very same position, we finished the 4 month stint in hospital and r in rehab state right now…It is hard and I came to this post thinking it would be about the usual life stuff- jobs, relationships not working etc and I found exactly where I am. Thank u for this. Simple yet I know from experience, very useful advise..God bless you and your daughter with all the health and happiness.

  • Beautifully written, and extremely useful. Thank you for this.

  • Beth

    I was so moved as I read about your experience with Nava. Your examples of how you navigated the pain are simple, yet very powerful. They are lessons we all hope to never use; but need to know.

  • Klalota

    So moving and uplifting. Thank you for sharing your very personal experience and wisdom.

  • There’s nothing more powerful than hearing the wisdom of someone who has walked the road. You’ve obviously been on a life-changing journey, and your experiences are so valuable to those who will this road soon. You are blessed…to be a blessing.

  • Thank you for this.
    Just what I needed at just the right time.

  • Pingback: Stretching Yourself and Creating Smiles | Tiny Buddha()

  • Pingback: Stretching Yourself and Creating Smiles « Rebuild Your Lifecoach Blog()

  • Pingback: What I’ve Learned in My 23 Years of Living | Grad Meets World()

  • Pingback: Finding Beauty in Your Scars | Tiny Buddha: Wisdom Quotes, Letting Go, Letting Happiness In()

  • Amy lee

    A friend of mine introduced me to senscool. After getting rear ended by a car I and
    my husband suffer from back pain. Although the pain is much better after taking
    prescription and over the counter pain medication but it is still there. After using
    senscool both of us get pain relief for at least 4 to 6 hours. It worked miracle for
    us. The best part that got me sold on this product is that all the ingredients are
    natural. This product is now a “must” item in our medicine cabinet. In fact I always
    keep an extra bottle. I applied the gel on my shoulder and was not surprised at all
    as it has the same effect. It helps the muscle relax and has a very cooling effect.
    Senscool should be in every one’s medicine cabinet.

  • Daniel craig

    If I have to use one word to describe the benefit of Dolrx that would be “amazing”.
    A few months back I noticed swelling in my left wrist. Being a business woman I
    could not afford the painful days and nights. I took all the pain medication
    available in the market but all in vain. After taking Dolrx for 2 days my swelling
    started to subside and I felt much better. In a week time all the swelling was gone
    and pain had subsided. I am so much sold on this product that I will highly
    recommend it.

  • Pingback: How to Help Someone Feel Loved and Understood | Tiny Buddha: Wisdom Quotes, Letting Go, Letting Happiness In()

  • Pingback: How You Made Tiny Buddha Beautiful This Year: Our 2010 in Review | Tiny Buddha: Wisdom Quotes, Letting Go, Letting Happiness In()

  • S L R

    from Venezuela

  • Nice one..