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Meadowlark Hospice

Dawn's Notes

Growing Pains - June 2019
by Dawn Phelps, RN/LMSW

I remember when our youngest sister Annie was a little girl.  Annie would wake up in the night with what we called “growing pains.”  My sister Hope would hear Annie whimper or cry, and Hope would get out of bed, go to Annie’s bed, and rub Annie’s legs until the pains subsided so Annie could sleep.

Some years later, I remember when my young grandson Sam also had terrible pains in his legs, particularly at night.  The pain was so bothersome that my daughter took Sam to a doctor to ask for advice.      

I used to think the pain was caused by the growth plates in the knees stretching since growing pains mostly occur during the growth years from 2 to 12 years in 10-35% of children, a little more in girls than boys.

But according to Mayo Clinic, growing pains may not be due to growing at all.  Instead it may be due to overuse of muscles by very active children, and some cases may be related to flat feet.  The good news is that growing pains are not dangerous or deadly, and they will pass even though the pain can make children miserable and interrupt their sleep.

Treatments for growing pains may include massaging the muscles, applying heat, stretching the muscles, or administering a mild pain killer such as Tylenol.   

But physical “growing pains” are not the only kinds of growing pains that humans experience in life. For instance, toddlers get many bumps and bruises during the time they are learning to walk or climb.

Young children sometimes break an arm or become sick from various childhood diseases.  Adolescents may experience emotional growing pains due to the fear of not fitting in, and bullying may create extreme emotional pain.                                                          

Young adults may be challenged with relationship struggles, breakups, even divorces.  Our aging population may face health issues which includes physical and emotional pain.  Many are faced with “growing pains” when those we dearly love die.         

What can we as adults do when we have growing pains?  How does one help a teen-ager who has been bullied, a parent whose child has died, a hurting adult, or a heart-broken older person with their “growing pains” after the death of a loved one?   

Grief can burrow deep into our souls, causing an ache and longing that interrupts sleep at night and turns daytime hours upside down.  Emotional pains of grief, like the “growing pains” of a young child, are not visible, but are very real none-the-less. 

One does not usually die from the “growing pains” of loss, and some of the things my sister Hope did for our youngest sister may help—the presence of someone who cares.  Reassurance and physical touch (hugs are good) until the pain of grief gradually decreases. 

After a death of someone we love, the sharp, emotional pain of grief may overwhelm us, causing us to cry in the night.  But just as the “growing pains” of childhood slowly decrease and slip away, so does the intense pain of grief.

Hang on.  Grief is similar to huge ocean waves that, with time and healing, become smaller and less frequent.  Like “growing pains” of childhood, the sharp pain of grief will usually slowly decrease, we know not how, and joy will return.

“The pain of grief is just as much a part of life as the joy of love: it is perhaps the price we pay for love.”
- Dr. Colin Murray Parkes

Call about the next "Living Life after Loss" Group at:
Meadowlark Hospice
709 Liberty, Clay Center, Kansas
(785) 632-2225
Dawn Phelps, RN/LMSW, Group Facilitator