Day 2559: Other people’s pain

Dear other people,

Are you in pain? Are you in emotional or physical pain, here and now?

How does other people’s pain affect you? Does that cause you pain?

Yesterday at work, I talked to several people who were in extreme pain. That  pained me so much that I noticed moments when I wanted to turn away from their pain. It would pain me to tell you if I had turned away from other people’s pain, but I did not. I stayed with their pain and with mine.

At last night’s Coping and Healing group, other people in pain suggested that we focus on the topic “hope” as a way to ease the pain in the room.

I take pains to protect the confidentiality of all who attend my groups, so I’ll disclose only what I wrote last night:



In case reading that is a pain, here’s what I wrote:


Hope is the thing with feathers.

— Emily Dickenson

Hope is what we all need.

I believe that everybody has a spark

of hope somewhere even if they’re

describing themselves as hopeless.

I think of it as an ember of heat and light

ready to ignite.


The worst moments of my life

have been when I’ve lost track of hope.

I’m so grateful that somehow,

I have always found it.


If you have everything but hope,

you have nothing.

If you have nothing but hope,

you have everything.


Here’s the only other photo I took yesterday:


Does that poinsettia in the group room look like it’s in pain? It did to me, last night.

Here’s “The Hopelessness Theory of Depression” on YouTube, about other people’s pain:


Here‘s  “King of Pain” by The Police:


I facilitate five groups every week because I believe sharing pain with other people reduces that pain.  Feel free to share any pain, below.

As I say at the end of every group about other people’s pain, I am grateful that you showed up here, exactly as you are.




Categories: group therapy, personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 23 Comments

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23 thoughts on “Day 2559: Other people’s pain

  1. you are right not to turn away from the pain, but to listen and to share, hoping it may help others as well as yourself. a good lesson for life.

  2. You help so many with hope, Ann.

  3. You reach an age where everyone in your cohort can come up with pain stories that match or top yours. At that point, you stop being upset when you get a medical report when you ask others “how are you today” because your medical report is ready to share with them. LOL! (As a practical matter, I try not to share the medical report with people not yet in the World of Pain.)

    • I always appreciate what you share in this blogging world!

      • Thanks, Ann! The feeling is mutual, even if I sometimes I feel I stick my head into a therapy session while trying to find kitty photos or something amusing. Regardless, your posts are fun and provoke thought, are time well spent.

  4. Poinsettias often feel pain at this time of year. They object to central heating and begin to wilt. Humans take that as a sign of needing water and drown them. I’m glad I’m not a poinsettia!

  5. It might feels tough, when we can feel other peoples pain, but sharing use to help, if shared in confidence. Hope is so important, I agree Ann.

  6. Thank you for this.

  7. I spent yesterday afternoon visiting a friend. We were in high school together in the 70s, both played clarinet in the band. We’ve stayed friends for all these years, except for the past 15, when I was a bad friend and got annoyed with her for reasons that today seem silly and we drifted apart. I went to her mother’s funeral a couple years ago and she seemed surprised to see me. I wasn’t invited to her wedding (I was in her first and second wedding), which I sort of understood. I found out in September from a mutual friend that she is very ill, has spent the last 15 months in chemo treatment, just had a stem cell transplant…isn’t probably going to get better. We sat and talked for 4 hours until she was visibly tired. She is in pain. I feel like I carried that pain home with me. I hope it eases hers some that I took some with me. I don’t know.

  8. Emily Dickinson understood hope very well, as do the people in your group who described hope. I don’t want anyone to be in pain but I think of pain as a sign that a person is still alive, and as long as they’re alive there’s hope.

  9. puella33

    You are kind not to turn away from those in pain. I think by being there, you yourself grow by learning and understanding. Listening and being attuned to other’s pain is a virtue that not too many therapists have, and they should. You are right by believing that if you have nothing but hope you have everything. Hope helps us to advance ourselves and get out of today’s existentialism. Have a nice day, Ann

  10. Thank you for this, Ann. Today I had to face the pain in the lives of 2 family members I wanted so much to turn away from it but I didn’t. It was hard but I didn’t because of your words.

  11. Your poem is fantastic, Ann. I truly mean that.

    “If you have everything but hope, you have nothing.
    If you have nothing but hope,you have everything”

    I really believe that this is true! I know so many people living in deep distress, and I can be good at encouraging, but I have felt generally unable to “give” someone else hope. That must come through another source. This was a very meaningful post, Ann. Lots to think about.

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