How to turn our pain into fuel for growth

Wednesday March 18 2020

Pain, despair and grief come in unwanted, at any point that they will turn our lives upside down. PHOTO| FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP


Pain. Despair. Grief. These are all factors of life. Whether we like it or not, at some point we will come face to face with the evil triplets.

Every encounter with them is enough to knock us off our feet, throw us into depression and fear. The world as we knew it feels alien and disjointed.

At such times, we wander if we will ever find our way back to the sunshine again.

We once experienced a burglary incident at home. I remember waking up that morning and going downstairs to find the door wide open, the curtains flapping in the wind, several personal items including the television and stereo system missing.


The burglars had turned the living room upside down, and there were things lying around in disarray. In those early moments as realisation struck that we had been robbed, my eyes first went to the walls of the living room. As irrational as it seems, I was looking for my family portraits.

I sighed in relief when I found them safe and intact. After that, I looked around the room to see what was missing and that’s when I discovered the electronics were gone.

While I was distressed about that, I would have been devastated if I had found the pictures missing.

Looking back, I wonder at the hilarity of my thoughts now. Of course no thief wants to take the family photos but when you discover you have been robbed, you are not necessarily thinking straight.


In my defence, I must say that the reason those photos were priceless for me was because many of them belonged to the era of photographic films. If you lost the films to a photograph and then lost the picture, it was like losing a memory.

Unlike today, there was no way to retrieve data from a crashed phone or computer, or even, save it on Cloud.

Our priorities shifted that morning as we went to report the break-in at the nearest police station. Thereafter the police visited what was once my living room, but now a crime scene, looking for clues.

When they left, we went about cleaning the house and putting it in order again. There’s a way a break-in violates you, and it involves the feeling that someone who you do not know comes in uninvited and takes whatever they want.

For many days, I would struggle with the thought of those faceless strangers and their impunity. They taught us many lessons though.


They showed us our weakest links, and reminded us that even when life turns upside down, there is still much to be grateful for.

For one, I was grateful that they did not come upstairs and attack us. I was grateful that they left the family photos.

In many similar ways, pain, despair and grief are like thieves. They come in unwanted, at any point that they will turn our lives upside down.

Days after, we are forced to come to terms with what happened and make a decision on how to live going forward.

Oftentimes, when the tides of grief and pain have subsided, we do our best to forget what we have been through and bury it deep.

However, could there be another way to deal with the pain? What if we take all the debris of these personal tragedies and use them for greater good?

What if we allow the grief to make us more compassionate? What if we use pain to grow stronger?


What if we use despair to help us reach out to others who are struggling?

Everyday, countless people across the world use their pain, grief and despair for others. It’s the mother who lost a child to a terminal illness who sets up a foundation to help other families through their personal tragedies.

It’s the woman who survived drug addiction who uses her story to help addicts stay sober. It’s the disabled man who through his shining example, helps others to see that they can conquer greater heights with what they have.

When life knocks you down, it’s all right to take a moment to gather your breath and heal. It is good to get back on your feet again. It is great to use your pain to help others.