Photo credit: Carolina Heza,

So here I am, heart wide open, applying my new coaching and leadership skills in my quest for peace … and, yet, something big is holding me back.

As a scientist, an economist no less, I am a master at rationalizing and that’s what I had done with my miscarriages: whenever the pain flared up, I shut down my heart and went back to the head – it’s not uncommon, you can do other things with your life, you don’t need a four-person family.

But the pain wouldn’t let go of me. I would blame God and the world just to find myself back in judgmental rationalizations to cover it all up.

During iPEC’s coach training, we were given a foundation principle that read:

“Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.”

Every time I saw it, I was overwhelmed by emotion. When I asked a teacher about how grief would fit into that foundation principle, her response in good coaching fashion, was a question: “How does it fit in for you?”

And I silently cried again.

To me, it obviously meant that suffering – and hence grief – is stupid: it’s your own damn fault if you choose to suffer!

A few weeks later the pain and blame came up again, seemingly out of the blue, and my coach asked: “Have you actually grieved this loss and come out on the other side?”

I had no idea what that even meant. But I made a decision: not grieving has obviously not worked for me, since the pain keeps coming back to haunt me.

So I made a plan. I created a playlist with songs that I knew would trigger my pain and I listened to it, daily, to see where my pain level was at. I asked around for books on grief, read blogs, and articles.

That time is a bit of a blur but I remember being deeply grateful for every beautiful thing I saw and experienced. As I worked through my grief, I was so in tune with myself and the world that peace was slowly but surely creeping in. The barometer on my pain, while listening to my playlist on a daily basis, showed the drop without a shadow of a doubt.

At some point, I used a seven-hour drive to Chicago and back to listen to the audiobook, When Bad Things Happen to Good People, by Harold S. Kushner. That’s where I found my silver lining — one that allowed me to honor my lost children, and yet, transform the experience into a learning opportunity.

This experience has brought me back to a part of my heart that had been closed off for a long time. My interpretation of “Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional” has completely changed. There is no judgement around suffering and grief.

It is optional. If it helps to go there for any reason, by all means, go for it!

Choosing to suffer when you deem it helpful doesn’t make you weak or a cry baby. It makes you a courageous soul that does what it takes to be at the cause of your life and find peace in the process.

Credit: The concepts inherent in this article are the author’s interpretation of materials issued by the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (iPEC).