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T H E  J O U R N E Y

When we lose someone we love, there’s nothing that can prepare us for the depths of pain that result. Our emotions get entangled with our regrets and judgments, and things can get really complicated, really quickly. I’ve been there. In fact, I was stuck in heavy grief, shame and regret for ten years because I didn’t have the resources I do now.


Here’s what I wish I would have known when I lost my mother to suicide.


While loss is an inherent experience in life, a part of grief that I find that many aren’t as aware of is clean pain versus dirty pain.


Clean pain is physical pain (such as a broken leg) or loss (such as death of a loved one). Dirty pain is the story we tell ourselves about that clean pain. It causes deeper and unnecessary suffering. Clean pain is inevitable; dirty pain is a choice.


For example, my mother’s death is clean pain. 


Believing her death was my fault, or regretting actions taken (or not taken) prior to it, would be dirty pain. Any “should have, could have, would have” hindsight guilt is dirty pain. Dirty pain prolongs, drags out and muddies our ability to grieve cleanly and clearly.


As a certified Master Life Coach, I can help you differentiate between the two. Each requires its own special focus, and different tools, for healing and moving past the pain.


Healing clean pain, like grief, is mostly giving the time and space to feel all the stages of it.  There are five stages of grief:


  1. Denial & Isolation

  2. Anger

  3. Bargaining

  4. Depression

  5. Acceptance


There’s no “right” order to these stages, either. We can bounce around, and even revisit stages multiple times, before they are released. There’s also no definitive timeline to the process. We all grieve at our own pace. Don’t let anyone tell you, “It’s been (X) years, you should be over it by now.” 


Often we distract ourselves and bury our grief in busy-ness because we have a natural aversion to pain. When we give ourselves permission to feel into it, look at it, be with it, and accept it, that emotion will flow and go through it’s natural course…ultimately dissolving and integrating into a new, wiser version of ourselves.


Dirty pain is trickier. It’s like a tangled ball of string. Between society’s conditioning, the belief structure we grew up with and accepted without question, and our own personal journey of collecting stories about the way our life should be, it can be challenging to untie and untangle the knots.


Like a tangled ball of string, we approach it one knot at a time. Sometimes the knots are interconnected and we have to find the source of another knot to untie before we can fully loosen the one at the forefront. This is pretty much the process of coaching.


I hold safe, sacred space for us to untangle and dissolve the dirty pain as well as process the clean pain. The result is clarity, understanding, and ultimately: acceptance.




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