Thankful for the Pain, the Grief, and the Lessons They Have Taught Me

November 21, 2012

My teacher recently asked a group of her students what we were grateful for, as the Thanksgiving holiday approaches. Easy answers would have been my children, my family and friends, and my good health, but somehow I knew she wanted us to dig deeper. So I raised my hand and said that I was grateful for having experienced the pain of fibromyalgia for six years and also the lessons learned from the sudden death last year of my beloved partner, Ralph.

I knew that my fellow energy healing students would understand my answer. But you may be puzzled by my response, so let me explain.

Sure, a few people may sail through life without much heartache, but for most of us, life is full of ups and downs, happiness and sorrow. A bad diagnosis, accident, the death of a loved one, the loss of a job or home can send us reeling to the depths of despair.

I didn’t realize years ago when I was suffering from debilitating pain that it was the turning point in my life.

That it would send me down the path I was supposed to follow. I couldn’t possibly appreciate it at the time. How could I? It hurt to walk, sleep and pretty much do anything. And along with it, my 30-year marriage was falling apart.

But in the end, pain was my greatest gift, and after I had walked through the fire, healed my body holistically, and took an honest look at myself, I learned the greatest life lesson of all. If we look beyond the pain or sorrow, frustration or fear, and trust that there’s a reason why this is happening and we approach it with grace, we will transform, illuminate, and soar to new depths of living.

My body has been my greatest teacher in this lifetime.

It is our vehicle for moving through life on earth. For most of my life, I never knew that our pain and emotions are stored in the body, and if unaddressed can often lead to disease and suffering. I was lucky. An invisible power, what I now recognize as my higher self, was relentlessly whispering to me that the pain I was experiencing  was something a pill wasn’t going to fix. It led me to an acupuncturist (an earth angel named Carrie), to the mind, body, spirit system known as Ayurveda, to the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and eventually to the study of energy medicine. But more importantly, it led me to my own self-discovery. Six years of pain? Yes, I am grateful.

I feel certain that had I not experienced this pain and the journey it took me on, I would have been ill-equipped to endure the sudden death of my partner. Trust me, I was on my knees with grief, like a wounded animal. I have written a great deal about this. My heart was broken and felt like it wouldn’t recover.

But deep down inside, my higher self was whispering to me again and I knew that I would not only survive, but that my heart would mend and grow even bigger from this tragedy. And indeed, it has. It took away my fear of death and left me with the knowing that only the body dies. Ralph’s beautiful spirit lives on and he’s a part of my life every day.

A dear friend of mine recently received some devastating life-altering news. The kind that takes your breath away. She said that this would now be part of her story, forever. She said this with gut-wrenching sorrow, pain, and I’m certain fear, along with the inevitable “Why me?” With deep compassion and love, I pray that once she wakes from her nightmare (and she will) she will remain open to the gifts awaiting her. We all have our stories, but we have the power to write the next chapter.

I just returned from time spent in the desert around Tucson, Arizona. My friend, Allyson, and I went for a hike and found ourselves in a fairyland of dry desert brush. We marveled at the beauty of it–seemingly dead, but in fact, full of life and a wonder all its own. We even found what looked like two pieces of fruit entangled in a barren shrub. I can’t help but think what a metaphor this is for our life and how we too can bear fruit under the most barren of circumstances.


My Thanksgiving list would not be complete without mentioning my deep gratitude to my family of energy healers all around the world. You touch my life every day with your love, support, humor, wisdom and grace. I am in awe of each and every one of you and I feel truly blessed.

And to all of you who take the time to read this blog and share your thoughts with me, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Maybe tomorrow, on Thanksgiving, before you eat your special meal, you will pause and think of past or present hardships and consider the possibility of giving thanks for them. I would be honored to hear your stories.

Happy Thanksgiving!


  1. This is beautiful and oh so true, Happy Thanksgiving dear one I am blessed to walk this path with you. XxEi

  2. Thank you, sweet Eileen! Let’s connect soon, okay? xoxo

  3. This was so beautiful. I had already been moved by your words, and when I saw the photo it instantly conveyed everything in that splash of color in the brush. Thank you.

  4. Dear Barbara,
    so wise – and beautifully written. Thank you for sharing your story and touching my heart. I do comprehend the gratefulness for our sufferings… our teachings. I consider myself lucky – I am grateful – that it took “just” the breaking of my marriage to lead me onto this path. Heartwretching – yet, even after 8 years – still teaching me and reaching further depth of understanding.
    See you soon – namaste Wiebke

  5. thanks barbara. i too have thought about being thankful, and after a concussion that has left me disabled, my life changed. and… changed for the better. it was and still is painful, and i am sad sometimes that i cannot do all of the things i was able to in the past but- i have grown so much as a person, and learned to love myself as i am, and i still can do many things. i have had to slow down, and this was the lesson. to slow down, and love me. take time for me, and to just take my time. i don’t have to be the road runner, or the goddess with many arms. 🙂
    all of that pain, and disappointment was heart opening. it has brought me to this point in my life, and… it ain’t so bad.
    sending many blessings for a blessed holyday season.

  6. Hey Sweet Lady, this was beautiful and so like you to find the “fruit” amidst what looks to “death”! I learn so much from you every time I connect with your Spirit! Thank you for sharing and yes I will be looking at all I have to be thankful for tomorrow, the everyday blessings and the sufferings that have turned into inevitable blessings. Joy to you this Holiday!! Love you, Jo

  7. beautiful Barbara. I really needed to read that today! thanks!!

  8. Barbara, you are such a wonderful role model for us all, turning your challenges into teaching stories of triumph. I am so grateful for YOU! Big love to you.

  9. Such wisdom in your words Barbara, and such beauty. Your loving heart has unlocked the secret to living a life you love. Thank you for sharing the keys to the kingdom, and know that you are a blessing in my life.

  10. As always, Barbara, thank you for telling your own story as a reminder of ours. I am grateful on this Thanksgiving to “know” you via Facebook and DKC. Blessings to you on your journey…
    Mary Elyn Bahlert

  11. Thank you, as always, for sharing your own story as a way for us to connect with ours, Barbara. It is a privilege to “know” you via Facebook and the DKC. Many blessings to you on this holiday and ‘way beyond! Mary Elyn Bahlert

  12. Thank you, Mary Elyn! I look forward to connecting with you again in person. Wish I was going to be here when you visit! xoxo

  13. Another wonderful post, Barbara. Thank you for sharing. Happy Thanksgiving to you!! XOXO Love, Amanda

  14. This is so beautiful Barbara, just as you are also! Thank you for being such a powerful role model!

  15. Dear Barbara, oh so true! I am grateful, like you, for all the losses that broke my heart open wide enough to receive the love and wisdom inherent in all life lessons. Thank you for expressing this truth so beautifully!


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