Making Painful Decisions

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Sometimes change can be so difficult that we find ourselves doubled over in pain. Tears flow uncontrollably, and the pain is so intense that we just want to wake up from the nightmare we are experiencing and find that life is the same as it was before things changed.

These moments are especially challenging when the grief we are experiencing is a result of our own decision to make a major change in our lives. Sometimes we can wake up from the nightmare if we simply compromise our decision or settle into a life that gives us little or no joy. But, a painless life is a joyless life. As I wrote previously in It’s a Wonderful, Hard Life, “To live a full life, avoiding pain and grief is as self-defeating as avoiding joy.” An inspirational life of change and growth comes with a package of pain and joy.

Green Bay shore north of Sister Bay in Door County, Wisconsin.

It is natural to want to avoid experiencing moments doubled over in pain. It is less natural to want to change things we are accustomed to and comfortable with even when those things drain joy from our lives. So, it makes sense that so many of us go through life settling for less than what we truly desire. This is what keeps people in unrewarding careers, in abusive relationships, etc. The pain of change usually appears much greater than the subtle, sometimes life-draining, forces of comfortable pain.

How to Face Painful Change

Here are a few tips to remaining strong while facing painful change.

  • Allow yourself to cry. Fighting off tears can be stressful and can distort our view of the world. Tears have a cleansing power. They help us see things more clearly. Crying moves us through the grief process and lessens the pain in the end.
  • Spend time with supportive people. Spending time with someone who supports our decision, whether they agree with it or not, helps keep us strong. Sharing grief and tears with someone we trust makes the pain much more bearable.
  • Pray and meditate. Through prayer and meditation we are sharing our grief with God and gaining clarity and direction which, in turn, helps us know we are making the right decision.
  • Trust your decision. No one knows the life you want for yourself better than you do. No one can discover God’s will for you but you. Friends and loved ones can offer ideas and opinions which may help and guide you, but in the end, your opinion is what matters most.

To read more about how I dealt with the pain and joy of change by letting go of drug addiction and embracing a clean and spiritual life, see my post, Letting Go and Embracing Change.

6 responses to “Making Painful Decisions”

  1. Jennifer Avatar

    I was told today that pain can be the passage way to growth. I know that the change I want may not begin right away but I do pray and hope God makes the best decision for me. Your site is an inspiration.

  2. Vittorio Avatar

    How do we know that the difficolt decision we take is the right one? I just had to choose to leave my house, give my beloved cats away to a shelter in order to face health issues that are ruining my life. Those cats where the only company I had for years and I betraided them by putting them in a cage…they will be keep together and reassigned to a new family (luckly…). It was the only choice I had but I feel so bad! I lost somone I love (my cats, you should see how they looked at me when they understood what was going on), I leave my apartment that will be rented in order to pay the mortgage and left all my things and dreams in a storage room!
    I had no other choice but still I don’t feel like I did the right thing….I am not religious and that doesn’t even allow me to pray for my life and my cats.
    Let’s say the truth, someone’s life can really suck and sometimes there is no margin for improvements…

    1. Danny Avatar

      My heart goes out to you @Vittorio. It’s hard to imagine the pain I would feel if I had to give up my cats.
      I think it really is impossible to know when a decision is “right.” In fact, I think it could be argued that there rarely ever is a single “right” decision. We make decisions constantly in life, and each decision changes the trajectory of our life slightly. The only way to know for certain which decision gives us the final result we’re looking for is to see into the future, which of course, we can’t do. We can only do the best we can with the limited view that we have and trust that we did the best we could and learn from any mistakes.
      You’re right. Sometimes things in life do really suck and there’s not much we can do about it.
      I could tell you that the pain will become more bearable with time, and you will find joy in life again, but that doesn’t lessen the pain of this moment, which is the only moment you ever experience.
      The best I can offer is to encourage you to be in the moment and allow yourself to fully experience everything that is going on inside of you. I think that the most powerful spiritual practice that exists is simply being present in the moment and accepting things as they are. Religion and belief in a supernatural deity sometimes helps people get to that point but are optional. Take a moment to notice your body and the physical sensations within it. This brings you in the present moment.
      When I do this, it takes the edge off and helps me let go of the feeling that things have to be different than they are, because it reminds me that things in this moment can’t be any different than they are. During especially trying times, sometimes just noticing the sensations within my body and surrendering to the reality of the moment makes me feel sick to my stomach. Then I just notice that sensation.
      It might sound quirky and maybe a bit simplistic, but I find it to be powerful force of change in my life.

  3. Vittorio Avatar

    Thank you Danny!
    And… apologies if I sounded aggressive, my mood is not so good lately.
    What you say, about allowing feeling the emotions and being in the present , can actually be found in many meditation techniques (that I am trying to practice).
    We cannot know if our decisions are right, I agree with you. We can hope so and try to learn from our mistakes, as you say.
    Someone once said ” we cannot change the whole world, just ourself….” I would like to add ” if anyone takes the effort, we will get a better world “.
    Also, even if I am not religious, i found myself praying for my cats….you never know…. 🙂

  4. Lisa Avatar

    I needed to read your words today as I struggle with the decision I had to make but its so hard. I lost my best friend to death and feel guilty that I couldn’t do more. I finally told my alcoholic husband it was over after trying for years to make it work and he wouldn’t change, and I miss him so much. He took less than a month to move in with someone else after 19 years of marriage, as if it meant nothing. He wants to come back w/ me and texts me that he is only there because he can’t be alone. I can’t live with him and cant’ live without him. Life sucks! Your words help me know that this is normal, but I wish I knew how long it will go on. We live in a small town and he is flaunting her everywhere-I hate when people tell me they are sorry for me. I can’t tell them why it ended because I won’t bash him so instead they feel sorry for me because he moved on.

  5. lucy mgumba Avatar
    lucy mgumba


    thanx you for wake up my mind today because I was very far to my decision,i was thinking like the whole would is against me but at list now I gain something.