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Monday, October 18, 2010

Where can I find help?

Life is amazing!  It takes you down paths you would never imagine traveling.  If you told me 4 1/2 years ago that I would be taking courses, and studying Thanatology (the study of death), I would be saying 'what!' are you nuts.  But here I am, a college student once again.

In the last few months, I have heard the expression 'wounded healer' used quite often.  I have been given this title, and I have heard it used for survivors of all kinds.  A 'wounded healer' is someone who understands what others are going through, because they have gone through it themselves.  These are individuals who can share their life experiences with others, helping others find their way. 

I was at a youth convention yesterday, and the keynote speaker acted out several scripture passages.  In each case, healing of some sort was involved, and for the most part, those who were healed tried to bring others to be healed as well.  They shared their stories, what had been done for them, and how they believed that their family and friends could also benefit.  They helped others see that there was hope, and that if they reached out, they too could receive this grace.   They were able to share because they had experienced it. 

But too often, even after being made aware that they are not alone, that others have already traveled the road they are on; they still refuse to try.  A gentleman yesterday was talking to me about a situation he was going through, he had a suspicion that one of his co-workers was suffering from depression.  He had tried many things in order to help this person, but to no avail.  He feared this person, if nothing changed, might end up losing his job.  He tried to reach out to this individual, but of course, if someone does not want help, there is absolutely nothing that can be done for them. There is an old saying 'you can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink.'  How so true!  One can only stand by waiting and watching, praying that they do not harm themselves or others.

All the same we try, and occasionally someone will seek out the help of others.  In the last couple of years, I have found myself consoling others, really consoling others.  I may not know what they are going through, but I do understand the pain death leaves behind, the emptiness, the anger and the fears that arise.  I especially know the pain of losing my daughter, my father, grandparents and aunts and uncles, but I would not even attempt to say I understand what a widow is going through, I have no clue, nor what it is like to lose my mother.  

Never the less, I can listen, I can be there if they need, I can be a shoulder to cry on, I can be a hand to hold on to and a gentle embrace.  When my daughter died, it was these simple gifts that kept me going, that made me feel loved, cared for and what gave me strength.  

Support groups are a group of 'wounded healers,' these are people who have had to deal with death, faced the ups and downs of grieving, and who have made it through.  All too often people do not seek out support groups, or cannot find one locally to help them.  When Rachel died there was nothing close enough for my husband and I to go too, so I searched on-line, and when I couldn't go on, sought out counseling.  But I have since attended support groups in my area.

There are support groups for every situation.  Compassionate Friends is a group that focuses on parents who have lost a child.  Candlelighters are geared to parents who have lost children to cancer.  GriefNet is an online support group. For an International listing of support groups for those who lost someone to suicide.  A Listing of Suicide support groups in the US.   Hospice has support groups for all ages.  TAPS offers support groups for families who have lost a love one while in the military, both for adults and children.  Rainbows offers support groups internationally for children coping with death .  MISS for parents who have miscarried, still birth, or SIDS.  These are but a small handful of the many resources available.  Depending on where you live, you may find others.  Check with your place of worship, your doctor, local hospitals and funeral homes for what may be available in your area.  

In every support group you will find a caring group of people who have experienced what you are going through, who have been there and can help you find a new 'normal' in your life.  You will find many 'wounded healers' among them.  Support groups provide many benefits, some of the advantages of support groups are:  1.  Empathy - people who know the pain; 2.  Older grievers help newer ones, giving them help and hope; 3.  You will find people who will actually listen; 4.  Help you understand what is normal; 5.  provide you with a social network of friends; 6.  No expense; 7.  Opportunity to become involved in leadership role helping others.*

In my own life, not only have I benefited from the experience of others, of counseling, and my willingness to reach out, but I have also learned that I can help others along the way.  My goal is to achieve my Certification in Thanatology, and once I have completed this, helping others through my understanding of all things related to death and dying.  Helping them find their way through this maze called grief.

Blessings! and until we meet again.

*Course material from Introduction to Thanatolgy, Professor John Tormey, Bristol Community College.

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