Knowing the Pain Is Not Like Understanding the Pain

Author: Shanette Booker

I have heard it from friends, family members, and other widows who have also heard it: “I know what you are going through and I understand your pain.” I know we all have heard it and if not, then we have heard it this way: “I don’t know what you are going through but I understand your pain.” I find myself always thinking: “you don’t know and you will never understand…and if you truly did, you would wish you didn’t.”

Shanette and Dre Booker

I don’t want to run my friends off, I don’t want to scare family away, but they don’t make it easy to be nice when you continually hear those comparing things in their lives to the loss of your loved one. In my case it’s my husband and I am sorry but the loss of an elderly family member to me isn’t the same. I know that kind of loss and I know that it is totally different. Again, this is where I want to simply go off on someone and just yell out “YOU DON’T KNOW MY PAIN…YOU CAN’T UNDERSTAND MY PAIN!!!”  Some ask me why I don’t, “Why don’t you go off on them Shanette, why do you just sit there and take it?” It’s not that I just sit there and take it, it’s just that I know that they really don’t understand or know the pain the way they think they do.

I spoke with a fellow widow and we discussed how close friends and family members will always start a conversation off with, “I heard or saw this….and it made me think of you.” To us that is just as bad because it’s a reminder of the pain and love that we have lost. We know that our friends and family have the best intentions and love us dearly, but sometimes they really don’t know or understand that pain we are feeling. 

There really is a big difference between knowing and understanding that pain we feel. The difference is this: We all know what it is like to lose someone, we all know what it’s like to feel hurt and to feel that loss of a loved one, but we don’t understand completely what the other one feels because we are not walking in those shoes. It is hard to understand why we choose to do things differently than we previously had, why certain songs make us smile when we should be crying, or why our style of living has changed and we just aren’t “the same person” anymore. We all know a lot of things and have learned so much during our lifetime, but when our path changes, that’s when the understanding becomes that much harder to do.

We must remember that our friends and family are trying to help us and really want to show their support for us, they have the best intentions, they just don’t understand that their intentions aren’t always the best for us or a great help at times. So next time we hear the line: “I know your pain and understand what you are going through”…just remember what is really being said: “I know your pain and am trying to understand what you are going through.” Death is death, yes, but each death is different and how it is handled is different as well. We must realize that our friends and family are just trying to figure out how to help us cope with our loss and that they do genuinely care and love us, it’s just hard because they don’t understand what we are going through and what we are really dealing with. They only know what they see and what we tell them.