January 19, 2011

How Words Can Help Us to Heal The tragedies of the Tucson shooting has created many emotional wounds

How Words Can Help Us to Heal

The tragedies of the Tucson shooting has created many emotional wounds. The president has urged us to talk to one another in healing ways. To we will discuss how words can help in the healing process.

Emotional Wounds

We understand that accidents cause physical injuries and require treatment to mend properly. Many know that emotions can be hurt in trauma but are fuzzy on the details of what has been damaged or what needs to be done. Trauma wounds us by: Disrupting and distorting our:

  • Thinking
  • Perceptions,
  • Perspective
  • Judgment

These distortion lead to a loss of hope, meaning and purpose in a person's life. Healing is getting back the positive sense of one's future along with a sense of direction and ultimate purpose.

Common Mistakes:

Speaking in a way that promotes healing, however, isn't easy or natural. What is natural is

-- Denial of the seriousness of the event . (We spout insincere or inaccurate reassurance.  It's OK , everything is fine .)

-- Impatience and Frustration -- (Snap out of it. Get over it already.)

-- Getting stuck in the pain. (tragedy can be so overwhelming that caregivers can get pulled down too.)

The Two Keys to Emotional Healing :

Expressions which convey both empathy and challenge are needed facilitate healing .

Support and Empathy :

1) Patient Listening Acceptance of one's emotional place without judgment or criticism ,

2) Understanding, the person's thoughts and feelings

3) Personal concern and caring for the welfare of the person.

To recover from the shock and trauma of tragedy requires more than acceptance of the loss. Recovery also involves words that remind, expand and challenge our outlook and sense of purpose.

-- Reminding, Expanding and Challenging

1) Remind the person that there is more to life than pain and loss.

2) Expand the person's point of view beyond the self to a larger plain of concern.

3) Challenge the person to learn from the experience and to strive to live up to the goals and ideals which give meaning to his/her life .

Just like physical injuries, emotional wounds need proper care to heal. Grieving is the process which leads to healing includes not only experiencing pain but also a sense of joy which comes from the rediscovery of hope and the awareness that there is more to life than loss. To regain a sense of a positive future, one must also regain a larger vision than one's own personal pain.

It's not easy but with practice you can get the hang of it. Words which strike the right balance between comforting and challenging aid the healing process.

Rev. Michael Heath, LMHC prepared these remarks for Bridge Street 1/19/2011

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