Who among us on the Key Peninsula has not been wounded by blackberries? Even when taking the utmost care, those persistent vines can open up an ugly wound quicker than you can say ouch. It is possible to receive a puncture wound caused by thorns, or perhaps a laceration — the tearing sort of wound. Wading deep into a blackberry patch can result in multiple skin tears, all for the sake of a luscious cobbler or preserving a quickly disappearing path.
Many of us have had wounds of a more serious kind — from trauma, illness or accident. Wounds that are sometimes life-threatening, that are painful, and slow to heal.
Recovery from physical wounds requires time and attention. The human body is remarkably adept at repairing itself, given a chance.
More serious wounds need professional medical attention. In order to avoid long-term complications and achieve fully functional recovery, the wounded person requires proper nutritional support, a supportive environment, and adequate medication for pain control. Frequent follow up with medical professionals is necessary. Healing is not a solitary undertaking.
If all of the necessary ingredients for healing are provided, a good outcome can be anticipated.
What happens when our wounds are emotional, not physical? What if we suffer a deep, gut-wrenching wound to our psyche? The death of a loved one, or the loss of a love relationship? We suffer these, too, as gaping, excruciating wounds. A loss that seems impossible to heal, and no amount of bandaging seems to stem the flow of agonizing pain. Where do we turn? What kind of help can possibly begin to close these wounds, allow the tissue to reform around a broken heart?
Just as with a physical wound, so should we approach wounds to our soul. Wounds of the soul need the support of mental health professionals, spiritual guidance, faithful friends; those who will walk alongside us through the valley. Expertise in assessing the extent of the wounds is helpful and should be welcomed. Is the grief complicated or extending far longer than is deemed normal? Is medication needed? Is the pain reaching a place of no return when the suffering threatens to overcome the sufferer? Just as in the physical realm, those wounded emotionally need a team approach to healing.
Healing wounds of the psyche requires time and attention, in the same way our physical wounds need ongoing care. Persons living with emotional pain do better when they reach out to others and accept their help. Weeping, wailing, conversation, prayer, laughter, writing, singing, movement and rest are all therapeutic for the person suffering emotional pain. Having supportive companions who will not shrink from the pain, but will sit patiently and empathetically with the sufferer goes a long way toward healing.
In addition, the traditional gifts of food are truly helpful. When the sufferer is unable to manage the most basic of tasks without being overwhelmed, comfort food is exactly what is needed. Rest and nutrition are valuable components of healing. The gifts of assistance with household chores, transportation, and multiple hugs bring healing energy even when the sufferer is too broken to comprehend much beyond the pain of the moment.
Finally, with the support of family and friends, guidance and advice from experts in the field, and a sufficient amount of time, the person suffering emotional wounds will make progress toward healing. This is not to suggest there will be no scars, no longing, no intruding memories. Instead, there can be reconciliation. Acceptance of the current status can be achieved. Life will be changed, but it does go on.
Vicki Biggs is a longtime social worker. She lives in Home.
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