Life is hard. It just is.

Sure, there are lots and lots of good, happy times in life. But often, even the good can be hard.

I personally think that’s the way it should be.

Otherwise, we’d all atrophy and become really weak. Just like muscles that can only strengthen with opposition, our souls have to struggle to gain strength. I believe that life is meant to be enjoyed, but that we are also here to grow. That means hardship. And pain.

We’ve all experienced emotional pain to one degree or another. The birth mother who makes the seemingly impossible choice to place her child; the adoptee who struggles to find his past; the hopeful adoptive parents who have fought for years for the gift of having a family; the foster child who is completely innocent but made to suffer; the foster family who loves and gives without expecting that love to be returned.

How do we push past that pain? And is there purpose in it? Following are some things to consider that might help with your pain, remembering that life is not to be only endured, but also enjoyed:

Distraction: The best form of distraction I know is to focus on another person. It’s hard to feel your own pain when you’re helping another through theirs. Is your emotional pain at the forefront of your thoughts? It doesn’t matter what you’re doing, the pain is always there? It’s almost a magical cure: finding another who is suffering and helping them. Of course, their suffering may be something completely different, something you can’t quite relate to. But as you think about that other person, call them, clean their home, make a meal, create a gift—you can’t help but forget yourself. Even if it’s only for a few minutes, as you forget yourself and focus on another, you get closer to closing your wound and healing. The more you focus on others, the less painful your situation will be.

Immerse Yourself: You’re feeling pain because the situation you’re in is truly painful! Give yourself the gift of grieving, of sadness, of feeling. But there is a line that divides grief from self-pity. Watch yourself, or ask a trusted person to let you know if you cross that line. At that point, dwelling in your sadness will be destructive rather than healing. But all professionals will tell you that ignoring or brushing over sadness will prevent healing. Do your best to recognize what you’re feeling, to feel it, then to move on.

Share: Whether it’s through blogging, talking with a friend, participating in a support group, writing, or becoming a vocal advocate, share what you’re going through and/or what you’ve been through. This gives meaning to your pain, since the very thing that hurt so badly is what will allow you to help another. Although none of us can know exactly what another is feeling, it is helpful to have someone near who has at least experienced something similar. When I experienced a traumatic miscarriage, my mother hopped on a plane and was with me immediately. My husband sympathized with me, but my mother had miscarried and could offer a comfort I couldn’t get from anyone else. Years later, I was with my own daughter when she miscarried. I had wondered for years why I had to go through miscarriage . . . and at the moment I was focusing on helping my daughter, some healing took place within myself. I saw purpose to the pain I’d carried for so many years. Thus it is with all of us and our experiences. What we go through allows us to offer real comfort to others.

There is no fun or light-heartedness involved with pain. But there can be purpose. If we allow it. Where there is purpose things seem to be more bearable. So please, find purpose in your pain and move forward resolutely. You really will smile again. It was Albert Camus who said, “In the midst of winter I found there was within me an invincible summer.”