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May 10, 2018

Releasing the Past: Healing Soul Injury

by:  S. Craig Greer, M.Div

In 2001 the movie Pearl Harbor was released. During the time leading up to its release and afterwards, World War II veterans began opening up, many for the first time, about what they experienced. For 50 years they kept these stories to themselves carrying the weight alone.

For many it was like yesterday.  The emotions were intense and the tears flowed from this generation of men and women who served in that war as if it just happened. What they saw and experienced they could not and would not share with spouses, children and friends.  They kept the horrors and emotions inside and were stoic.

My father, who lied about his age and entered the navy toward the end of the war, would never talk about his experiences.  I heard from my brothers a bit, but never could piece it together.  I am convinced that experienced contributed to his depression and self-medication throughout the years.

These experiences not only damage the psyche and isolate us from the ones we love, but more often than not they cause a spiritual pain and suffering. Experiencing the horrors of war, the suffering and death of others as well as being put in a situation where one has to take human life, leaves spiritual wounds.  No matter our faith or background.  No matter the justification or reason.  These scars stay with us and like all wounds need air and light to heal – but often stay hidden and keep us from enjoying life –  bound in the darkness afraid to live.

There is a term for this called soul injury and not only does it affect veterans, but anyone who has experienced a devastating trauma in their lives.  There are events that call into question the core of our beliefs and damage our spirits and can lead to unmourned loss, and unforgiven guilt and shame.  As a result, these wounds reside in the dark corners of our being because we are afraid of the hurt and cower in the comfort of the dark in the hopes that it is safer and it will somehow subside.

In alcoholics anonymous there is a saying:” You are only as sick as your secrets.”  This is a core spiritual truth.  Just as the WWII vets began discussing and healing after years of pain and found healing– we all need to be able to not only tell our story, but experience acceptance and forgiveness and have our soul restored.

For more than 30 years Deborah Grassman, a nurse practitioner working at the VA has seen what soul injury does.  Through her work with veterans, she has learned from their experiences, ways to acknowledge soul injury and bring hope, healing and forgiveness to the wounds of the past.

Deborah will bring her workshop, Soul Injury: Liberating Unmourned Loss and Unforgiven Guilt¸ to Canterbury United Methodist Church on Tuesday, May 22nd.  The event is free and sponsored by Comfort Care Hospice and Opus Peace.  Registration is at 4:30 and the event begins at 5:30. Continuing education for nurses and social workers is available.

To register for this free event go to