Compassion, Self-Compassion, and Hope

Brought to you by Creative Healing for Youth in Pain's Parenting Blog

Angela Borchert, CHYP Parent
November 6, 2023 / 2 mins read

Seeing my child suffer from pain continues to be one of the hardest experiences I’ve had as a parent. I instinctively empathize, validate, and try what I can to alleviate the suffering. I know I need to believe that the brain is plastic, that pain pathways can change, and that this means balancing empathy, encouragement, and pushing again and again for function. Yet, in all these efforts, it is often difficult to maintain hope.

Over the years, I’ve learned about self-compassion and found three concepts very helpful for sustaining hope: being part of a compassionate community, being present in the moment, and being kind to myself.

In our Parent CHYPchat, we come together with peers who are sharing our struggles in so many facets. We empathize with one another and want to lighten suffering, not only for our children but also for ourselves. Feeling the compassion in our community has helped me reframe thoughts of inadequacy and see my frailties in light of our shared human experience. I am deeply grateful for the endless generosity and impactful support of our community.

As I find myself constantly working on accepting and reaccepting reality, I have discovered that mindfulness understood simply has helped me not lose hope. I am learning not to spend too much time on thoughts of the past and the future but to live more intentionally in the present. I was filled with regret and guilt when I considered what I could have done to make somehow my child’s pain better, to navigate the health care system better, to react better. I was also filled with anxiety and worry about the future as I considered what this pain meant for my child’s life. I slowly learned how to be more in the present moment by concentrating on my senses when I am cooking, for example, or taking a pause to breathe deeply when I am walking our dog. I became calmer by feeling more grounded.

I also began to be kinder to myself by turning compassion inward. I initially tried to keep some control over aspects of our lives and kept not meeting (perfectionistic) goals. Once I started to focus on how my choices were expressing my values–on process rather than product–I became less self-judgmental and self-critical and, subsequently, more generous with myself and my child.

Learning about the need for community, being present, and being kinder to myself has been fundamental for me to practicing compassion and self-compassion–especially to finding and maintaining hope.

For inspiration, please look at the work of Kristin Neff and Chris Germer: