The ache in my back and hip area has bothered me since January. It began as a very intense pain in one area but has now spread to another region, pushing its discomfort into every act of my day. Sitting, sleeping, standing, moving – the often throbbing or burning pain affects me.
For years now, medicine has used a scale of one to 10 to encourage patients to rate their pain. “On a scale of one to 10, how intense is your pain at this very moment?” Mine has never been a 10, but it often falls in the 7-9 range.
The first doctor recommended physical therapy after making a flippant diagnosis and telling me she lived with the same kind of pain for one year; then, poof, it went away. Disgusted with her attitude, I took my prescription for physical therapy to a clinic and went through four weeks of stretching exercises. Nothing changed my pain.
After telling the physical therapist that the therapy was not helping my pain, she immediately wrote a note to my physician saying I needed further testing for an accurate diagnosis. Independent that I am, I skipped the flippant doctor and went directly to a specialized clinic recommended by two friends. Hopefully, I am on my way to a definitive diagnosis and treatment plan. I do not want to live with this pain any longer.
No one wants to live with pain, unless it gives him some kind of perverted attention he needs. The truth is, however, that thousands of people live with pain everyday due to illnesses or injuries that cannot be resolved. The best of them rarely complain and readily receive assistance and comfort from others who understand their needs.
“On a scale of one to 10, how intense is your pain right now?” is as valid for emotional pain as it is for physical pain. I write from my experience of grief for the past 21 months. My attorney, having lost his father before Thurston died and endeavoring to understand his mother’s adjustment, shared her description with me during a recent meeting.
“Grief is like an ocean,” she explained to him. “Sometimes the tide comes rushing in, crashing against the shore and roaring its collapsing waves. At other times, the tide ebbs quietly back into the deep, easing its assault.” At the time I met with my attorney, the tide was rushing in again. He understood, then shared his memory of Thurston’s laughter and sense of humor.
Sadly, attempting to comfort, some people fail dreadfully. The one who said, “I’m ready to have the ‘old’ Harris back,” attempted to say she missed the person I was before grief. What she really said was “if you stop feeling so badly, then I’ll feel better.” Friends, the task of my grief is not to make you feel better. It is to respond to and process the life-altering event that has changed my own life forever.
A better friend will say, even two or 10 years later, “On a scale of one to 10, where are you right now in your grief?” That is a friend who desires to listen and to comfort and to allow the grieving to express truth in a safe place. That friend is not judging, nor is he seeking to make himself feel better.
On a scale of one to 10, generally speaking, I may be at a five. Other days are 10’s; never are there ones. Not yet. Lest you think grieving people think only of their grief, most are trying to learn to move forward. I do thoroughly enjoy my good days, but when the tide roars, those seven to 10 kind of days dominate my spirit.
On a scale of one to 10, with 10 being the best, make every effort to be the kind of friend someone needs.