After its title captured my attention immediately, I recently viewed a webinar entitled, “Soul Injury.” Deborah Grassman, APRN, CEO of Opus Peace, moderated the webinar and described soul injury as:
- An aching wound perpetuated by loss without mourning and guilt or shame without forgiveness that is often manifested as a sense of emptiness, loss of meaning or a sense that a part of self is missing.
- A penetrating wound that separates one from a sense of self.
- A wound extending beyond the body and the mind into the depths of one’s being.
- A long-lasting response to a person or situation that causes an individual to feel personally defective, inadequate or unworthy.
She outlined causes of soul injury. They can take place after an acute trauma, but also can be an insidious version, slowly seeping into a person’s sense of self. Soul injury can manifest in myriad ways including: stoicism, anger, despair, violence, over-commitment, numbness, fear and absence of emotion. Soul injury forces part of the person to depart, leaving behind an incomplete self.
Deborah recalled herself as a young girl watching an episode of “Lassie” on TV. She was frightened for Lassie’s welfare during one of her adventures and began to cry. Deborah said her father entered the room, noticed her tears and chuckled to himself. She then overheard him tell her mother that Deborah was crying over a TV dog and he laughed. Deborah continued by saying her reaction to her father’s actions was to hold back all her tears until she was in her 30s. She explained her father was a very loving one and did not intend to hurt her, but did inflict a soul injury that she recognized later in life as lasting for many years. She then described how she began to feel emotion again, regaining the lost part of her soul.
The concept of soul injury and the process to heal it is valuable in any life. Hearing the words, “you have cancer,” can certainly cause soul injury. Recognizing this and giving the sense of loss a name can be helpful in the healing process. I believe we have all experienced soul injury at one time or another. It is a very interesting concept and I find it encouraging knowing the loss doesn’t have to be permanent.
Deborah Grassman is the author of ‘The Hero Within: Redeeming the Destiny We Were Born to Fulfill’ and ‘Peace at Last: Stories of Hope and Healing for Veterans and their Families.’ She has 30 years of experience as a nurse with the Veterans Administration, working with hospice patients.