Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue

Mindful Monday: Dare to Stay with Your Pain, Stay with Your Loneliness

Because today is Columbus Day, I am posting an archived “Mindful Monday” from October of last year. That way I can expend more energy on healing my inner child :)

One of the final steps in healing our wounded inner child, writes John Bradshaw in his classic “Home Coming: Reclaiming and Championing Your Inner Child,” is to stay with your loneliness. Explains Bradshaw:

The deepest core feelings of grief are toxic shame and loneliness. We were shamed by [our parents’] abandoning us. We feel we are bad, as if we’re contaminated. And that shame leads to loneliness. Since our inner kid feels flawed and defective, he has to cover up his true self with his adapted false self. He then comes to identify himself by his false self. His true self remains alone and isolated. Staying with this last layer of painful feelings is the hardest part of the grief process. “The only way out is through,” we say in therapy. It’s hard to stay at that level of shame and loneliness; but as we embrace these feelings, we come out the other side. We encounter the self that’s been in hiding. You see, because we hid it from others, we hid it from ourselves. In embracing our shame and loneliness, we begin to touch our truest self.


In “The Inner Voice of Love,” spiritual author Henri Nouwen writes this about loneliness:

It is not easy to stay with your loneliness. The temptation is to nurse your pain or to escape into fantasies about people who will take it away. But when you can acknowledge your loneliness in a safe, contained place, you make your pain available for God’s healing.

God does not want your loneliness; God wants to touch you in a way that permanently fulfills your deepest need. It is important that you dare to stay with you pain and allow it to be there. You have to own your loneliness and trust that it will not always be there. The pain you suffer now is meant to put you in touch with the place where you most need healing, your very heart. The person who was able to touch that place has revealed to you your pearl of great price.


It is understandable that everything you did, are doing, or plan to do seems completely meaningless compared with that pearl. That pearl is the experience of being fully loved. When you experience deep loneliness, you are willing to give up everything in exchange for healing. But no human being can heal that pain. Still, people will be sent to you to mediate God’s healing, and they will be able to offer you the deep sense of belonging that you desire and that gives meaning to all you do.

Dare to stay with your pain, and trust in God’s promise to you.

I think I’ve only recently met and stayed overnight with my core loneliness and found my scared inner child … hiding out behind the rocking chair in the living room with purple eye shadow and sparkly, hot-pink cheeks … because Katherine got to it before I could. And I think I’ve only been able to approach such an upsetting and ugly place because, as Nouwen explains in a few chapters before the above passage, I have begun to trust that my experience of loneliness and emptiness is not the final destination, that beyond the loneliness is a place of love and acceptance. Explains Nouwen:


So you have to go into the place of your pain with the knowledge in your heart that you have already found the new place. You have already tasted some of its fruits. The more roots you have in the new place, the more capable you are of mourning the loss of the old place and letting go of the pain that lies there. You cannot mourn something that has not died. Still, the old pains, attachments, and desires that once meant so much to you need to be buried. 

You have to weep over your lost pains so that they can gradually eave you and you can become free to live fully in the new place without melancholy or homesickness.

To read more Beyond Blue, go to, and to get to Group Beyond Blue, a support group at Beliefnet Community, click here.

  • susan

    Thank you Therese. I have been feeling very lonely since my relationship ended. Not physically lonely, but a feeling of lonely that has crept into my soul and my viscera. This helped. It was just what I needed today.
    You really rock, you know that?

  • marilyn

    i have always had someone around me even if it was a bad relationship but never had to face allof this alone.and as of the last 4 years have to go through alot of self analization and dealing by myself.i have to agree when its just you and the demons from the past it can be very tough.right now i feel emotions i never new i had and it really scares me.hopefull i can just get through one day at a time.

  • Larry Parker

    I would say the same as Susan, Therese — I NEEDED to read this, TODAY, for whatever reason the Universe dictated.
    Thank you.

  • Carol

    very insightful… this will be with me for some time…
    thank you!
    ~ Carol

  • Lizzie

    Well, thanks you helped to “touch that place.”

  • Margie

    Thank you for this article today. I, too, find that when my “scared little girl” comes out, I feel very lonely. After reading this today, I reassured that little girl that the “grown up me” is with her and that together with God’s help, we can get through the pain and loneliness. Thank you!

  • Angie

    Hi Therese,
    I just discovered your blog and group on Beliefnet. Today I watched some of your videos on bipolar then immediately shared the links with most of my family!
    When I read this post I thought about how Father Denzil, our priest, frequently encourages people who are suffering to “offer it up” and join our pain with Jesus’ pain. There is no need to run away from the pain if Our Lord is there with us. I have been amazed how comforting this is. Also how the pain and loneliness and sadness do leave in their time, if I trust God instead of running away.
    I look forward to reading more of your posts!

  • kate

    I’m having a…well medium rough I guess…few weeks and have not had focus or time to stop here much.
    But…you’re comment about Katherine caught me…how strange that I’m up at night thinking about *me* , “Katherine” as a little girl because of a challenging but good assignment about inner child things from a therapist…grieving my mother less, and giving more space for myself to believe again what used to be so easy w/what Nouwen said about having the taste of fruit from the good times of old…while at the same time trying to have faith to face the truth of what some of the memories are now as an adult..and parent…
    while if I’m getting this right…you are up at the same hour in a rocking chair on a Sunday night rocking out some stillness before the Mon a.m. alarm bell launches us all into the week…
    speaking of which…huge long day ahead….on not enough rest…but this was helpful.
    chink chink (coffee mugs…real cream)
    pax, K

  • frank

    Hi Friends,
    Well, yesterday (Monday) was a unique day for me. I fasted from Sunday evening until 6:00 P.M. Monday night. I was pretty selfish most of the day and found myself dwelling on the hunger pangs. But as the day progressed, I had a time or two when I stepped out on faith and tried to find humor in the circumstance and minister to another. That was fun and took away the discomfort. It was a quiet day in several ways and there really was a sense of being alone and even lonely. I have been reading Into the Wild and it has haunted me to think of the young man going into Alaska, solo, and then dieing aloneof starvation. We recognize that various illnesses isolate us, but it’s not just bipolar disorder or other mental illnesses – physical illnesses can do the exact same. Pain separates us from others. The expresssion, “I feel your pain.” just never seems to ring true to me. I’ve said it but don’t think I was telling the truth.
    In any event, I’m encouraged by yesterday to reach out from my lonely place to others who might be in a similar place. It strikes me that we perceive others as being healthy and whole and having it together but, in truth, they have their own lonely spot that needs attention. If we can extend the hand of friendship perhaps we’ll see a healing that is reciprocal in nature.

  • Athirson

    But what does one do if they don’t believe in God?
    I will add that finding God is, for me at least, not the answer. Organized Religion has done enough damage to me already, it is where a large part of the “toxic shame and loneliness”, that author Bradshaw spoke of, came from.
    If no God, then what?

  • Charlotte

    In response to Athirson: No God? or No love of organized religion. God did not create organized religion. He created a body of believers of which He is the Head. Not everyone who belongs to a “local church” is part of that body.
    The bad experiences you’ve had with “churches” have been with people, not with God. Forget about the people. . . we all have feet of clay and at some point will fail you. . . focus on God, or Higher Power if that is all you can think of Him for now, and believe that He is all goodness and wants only that goodness for you. Only He can heal you and set you free.

  • Alyse

    Hi, I enjoyed your article on “Dare to Stay with your Pain.” My question is sometimes the pain gets really deep…afraid will be made worse, more en grained pain.
    I would really value your expertise.
    Thank you for the great article.

  • Your Name

    Athirson – organized and unorganized religion can warp a vunerable being who EXPECTS others to treat the way they want to be treated. There are Christian, agnonostic, and athiest opportunists who play mind games and manipulate others just for sport but we all must believe in something better no matter what that “better” is. Even if you do not believe in God, you surely believe that you are not in control of everything. Bad things happen to good people for reasons we cannot fanthom but we must use those lessons to help others. Helping others is the way to overcome toxic shame and lonliness. You cannot foster shame and lonliness when admitting and using it for a higher good regardless of what that higher good is called. Thus you do not have to believe in God fostering goodness – you can foster goodness. I myself have come full circle from being raised to go to church everytime the doors were open to 20 years of avoiding anything associated with religion. Despite myself, God re-entered my heart when I was on the floor begging him or anyone to take my life and stop the pain. Without even knowing it at the time, God was holding my hand while I blindly was forced to make decisions. It had to be God’s guidance because I was not in my right mind, yet all decisions made were practically perfect in the face of events I could never have imagined and still can hardly grasp. Even being able to get online and chat for support is a relief from shame and loneliness – believe in that if nothing else – some people do not even have that. Lucky us!!!!!

  • Your Name

    I started to cry as I reda this because I am going through a rough time in my life.It’s so strange how I was telling myself recently to feel the pain and stick through the tears and feelings.This article reinforced that idea.Thanks so much.i needed to read this today.

  • John

    What a great article and thread of responses! Making important
    points on how one should approach God ( and to disclude being fed
    by people who attend local assemblies that have only their own
    interests and twisted version of practicing religion ) isn’t easy.
    Maybe that is why there are over five thousand denominations of
    christianity at work today in the U.S. alone and each have unique
    sets of rules of behavior and beliefs from one church assembly to
    The truth is that every person must make their own approach to God
    and HE will provide the means to know HIM so that HE recognises a
    true heart of submission toward HIM exists, or does not exist within
    their soul. We each must seek HIM. Not seek people. Not seek the
    approval of people or seek a church that is likable to our earthly
    ” Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may
    obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16
    When we seek HIM with an honest and pure heart, we will be found by
    HIM and we will learn that HE has been there the whole time waiting
    for our arrival. Our pain is a signal to us that something is wrong.
    He desires to be our relief from all pain and tears. He is waiting for each of us to finally come to HIM for help and relief.
    “I am your shield, and your exceeding great reward.” Genesis 15:1
    It’s all in HIM! and when you find HIM, or are found by HIM, HE will
    make certain that you know that it is HIM reaching out to you more
    than it is you reaching out to HIM. HE knows where we are and is
    eagerly waiting for HIS children ( that is how HE sees and thinks of
    each one of us ) to approach HIM and make our appeal to HIM.
    There is only ONE denomination in heaven. There is only ONE God and
    HE is CHRIST. Seek HIM! HIS name is Jesus.

  • Your Name

    Great post,thank you.When we learn to accept and feel the pains,it also means we will surely receive the right healing.By faith,hope and love,we shall overcome all the obstacles that leads us to fulfillment of what and who we truly are,we are made strong because we are connected to the vine,Jesus said,He’s the vine and we are the branches.

  • dee

    Hello and Blessings to All!
    I read this article with as much as an open mind as I could muster up, after several really bad days of depression, loneliness and chronic physical pain. I never thought of loneliness as pain, but now realize it is. As I face continued and increasing severe chronic pain, loneliness is next on the list of what I suffer from.
    Stepping out in Faith is scary. What is more scary to me is the nasty email I received from what I thought was a good friend I have had for twenty some years, increasing my alone feeling and also the dysfunction’s of my family pulling us all into our own self-centered corner of being alone.
    Being self-centered is something I do not want to be, but have found myself immersed in it, in a “child like” way. Change is hard, and trying to grow up as a child, in an adult body is also a challenge.
    Beliefnet has proved to be a warm snuggly blanket to me as I see others going through similar if not the same issues. Caring for other’s has been a life long occupation for me whether truly working in that field or by talking to someone, giving a hug or praying for and or with them.
    Thanks for the “wake up call” reminding me I am NOT alone in my battles but have a much Greater One on my side as well as my Beliefnet friends.
    Have a Wonderful & Playful Day All,

  • jen

    Challenge in our life is just came along but in my daily life since ,I had my pain 5 month ago i thougth it won’t go away, but with God nothing is possible he’s the one help me and guide me to heal me little by little,although it hard to accept the fact that my husband had another woman to the part that were going to have a divorce after 13 years of marriage.And since am reading this inspirational letter that you send me everyday it really help me a lot too,it uplift heart mind,and soul.

  • Carin

    On June 30th I lost my job of almost 30 years full time, with that I lost our health insurance. My husband has had (disabled for 6 years) severe chronic pain and took his life in the middle of the night less than 1 month later. So many people hurting in this world with different pains, emotional, physical, lonliness, unemployement,depression, and the breakdown of society in general. We need to count on God to help us through the difficult times as well as the joyful times.

  • John

    Hello Carin,
    You are very couragious to share your circumstances and remain sure that God is your center. For you to have the pain that we now know about and to remain confident is a wonderful virtue. I applaud you.
    I too was recently layed-off from my job after thirty two years. I
    remain married to an alcaholic wife of thirty years. Both she and I were born of addicted parents. Hers were and are alcaholic and my mother was an RN scrip drug user and my father was an alcaholic. My
    only brother used drugs as a teen, dropped out of HS, became a full time crimenal, was arrested, convicted and sent to the state pen.
    I myself am a recovering addict who, while recovering from a motor cycle wreck, began using pain meds to help overcome the injuries, a broken jaw, cheek, nose, neck, ribs, hand, broken elbow and a dis-located elbow, a blown knee and a brain concussion just after I got hit in the face by a slap shot hockey puck that left the ice, cleared the glass at ninety miles an hour and into the crowd where my wife and I were sitting during a professional game. The puck flew over my wifes head, hit me then dropped harmlessly to the floor between my feet.
    That one cost me a broken cheek, sinus, a ruptured and bleeding face that required multiple inner and outer stitches. Before that I was mugged, beaten and left for dead face first in a pool of my own blood on my living room floor during an after midnight home invasion.
    Also, before that I served our country in the U.S.Army, suffered physical injuries, wounds, beatings and mental anguish until I came home via Walter Reed Army Hospital.
    Today I am some what intact, have limited use of all limbs and my brain has known better days. The point is that I see your pain and understand the difficulties presented by them. What doesn’t kill us makes us both stronger and a better witness to others. No pain, no gain ((((( LOL, YES/NO/MAYBE )))))!
    I have spoken here in a short list of only a few injuries that come to mind now. There are many, many more. We have suffered, you and I, and so have many billions of others before and after us.
    Recently I was praying in a secluded part of my church. I was asking God to help me when His voice spoke to my heart and inner most being
    saying,” I have suffered for you. How long will you suffer for my sake?” He showed me HIS cross to bare. HIS wounds. HIS injuries. HIS anguish, and suddenly I realized that HE suffered far more than me.
    Then HE showed me that HE suffered before me, HE suffers for me now and that HE will suffer for others after I leave this earth. HE suffered my weaknesses before and suffers my weaknesses now every time that I fail to pray and live by HIS faith in me. I am not my own. I have been bought by HIM at the cost of HIS suffering for me.
    I feel your pain, I really do. I now feel HIS pain too. He has chosen to suffer me, a burden that I cannot bare since I am no longer my own.
    I urge you to suffer HIM too, so that HE is free to suffer you.
    Together we will win victory after victory.
    Glory to God!

  • Eleanor

    It’s amazing how every single statement in this post is very true. I’ve been struggling w/ so much loneliness for years & have done nothing but to sourgrape about life & fantasize on things that I wish could be brought into life. It was only recently that I was able to recognize every negative feeling I have inside and realized that what I need more than anything else in this world is God’s healing. Indeed, it is w/ recognition & acceptance that the process of healing can jumpstart.
    Thanks for the post again.

  • http://Beautiful Cathy

    Henri Nouwen is my savior. His words, most especially from “The Inner Voice of Love”, have given me the strength to recognize the Grace to get through another day. Profound loneliness has often left me feeling as if I have run out of “maybe somedays”. Thank you for this beautiful reminder…

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