Processing Fresh Pain

Fresh Pain…those first moments of a painful life changing event.

  • the sudden loss of a loved one

  • the realization of a betrayal

  • the news of a terminal illness

  • a physical or sexual assault

  • the moment of financial catastrophe

Although the moment can vary greatly for people, we all have an opportunity to experience fresh pain. It is part of the human experience and none of us are exempt.

These moments are so life changing because what happens immediately afterward has the power to completely transform your view of yourself and the world. How we process those moments of fresh pain changes us.

The work that we do as mental health professionals is about creating a space that fosters the triumph of the human spirit. We sit with the emotional experiences of others and help them redefine a world that is less jaded and a view of themselves that is more empowered. But we are not always there as first responders for the fresh pain of these emotional experiences.

Some people experience those moments alone, without anyone to bear witness to what is happening. Others may be surrounded by people, but not feel safe enough to be vulnerable. Or maybe they share with someone and are not met with sensitivity to what they are experiencing.

Have you noticed that something different happens when we human beings experience the fresh pain of a collective tragedy? Think for a moment how we all responded immediately following the events of September 11th.

In those moments, we see first hand this beautiful ability that people have to be heroes and helpers. It activates something within us and we see people rise to the occasion.


“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” To this day, especially in times of “disaster,” I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.” – Fred Rogers

This is so true. On 9/11 and in other moments of community crisis or disaster…the helpers are always there.

Whether it is a collective tragedy that immediately activates our sense of community or a more personal experience where we connect with each other in vulnerable moments…we have this unique ability to be helpers, healers and heroes for one other.

This 9/11, pause and celebrate the triumph of the human spirit. Those amazing moments when we completely set aside any differences and focus collectively on how to process what was once such a fresh pain for us all. Do you remember where you were on 9/11? Did you know someone that was personally affected by this tragedy?

Our personal experiences with fresh pain give us the ability to really connect with what others are going through. It creates a space for more compassion.

One of the best ways to memorialize 9/11 is to allow it to reactivate a spirit of compassion and mutual support. We really do need each other and moments like this help us remember how much.

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