The wounded healer?
These days, we see an increase in armed conflicts across the world and within Europe. We know the suffering this brings to people caught up in these conflicts. It made me wonder how and if wounds can be healed.
The term ‘wounded healer’ came to my mind. The term traces back to Greek mythology, but it is also the title of a book by the Dutch psychologist and priest Henri Nouwen, who lived in the United States and who taught at Yale and at Harvard University. Being a well known, even famous, lecturer and writer, he actually suffered from loneliness and feelings of rejection. Finally, he settled in a community in Canada where people with mental health conditions lived together, and where he became very good friends with one of them. Finally he was able to accept and receive what he longed for – genuine attention and friendship in a humble environment. He said that in our woundedness, we can be a source of life for others (1).
It may be worthwhile to reflect on that a bit more. About people with life limiting conditions, who, in their vulnerability, can still be a source of life to those around them. About ourselves. If you have experienced grief and sorrow yourself, this may help you to recognise and support the suffering of those around you. Finally, a wounded person can be a healer for others, but a healer can also get wounded along the way. This is why it is essential to care for the carers, both formally and informally.
The EAPC aims to connect people working in palliative care across Europe and beyond. People with different backgrounds, with different experiences, with different perspectives … even maybe on life and death. The aim is to work with interdisciplinary colleagues to provide better palliative care for those in need. To learn from each other, to be more comprehensive in our care, to be more sensitive. Sometimes it is said that to work within palliative care one should be a bit older and have some life experience. I don’t know whether this is totally true. At the EAPC we very much welcome younger people with an interest in palliative care. We would like to think inclusively, recognising people’s individual strengths and the contribution they can make.
The weeks before Christmas can capture feelings of hope, an opportunity to look forward to what the future will bring. It can also be a time to step back a little bit, to reflect, to remember, to spend time with family and friends.
In a recent EAPC webinar about music therapy, attendees were asked to share songs that are meaningful to them. Here’s one of mine. It is a song called ‘Hallelujah’, sung by Andrea Bocelli, a musician who is blind. I like the plainness of the guitar and the older man and the younger girl singing together, in multiple languages but with a shared intention.
On behalf of the EAPC board, we would like to thank all those who have worked with us in 2023 to move palliative care forward. We thank especially our members across all countries, our task forces and reference groups, our blog editorial team, as well as the members of scientific and local committees for the recent and upcoming EAPC congresses. Much of this work has been done on a voluntary basis and we gratefully appreciate this. Finally we thank the EAPC staff for all their support.
Wishing you all the best for Christmas.
- Henri JM Nouwen, The wounded healer: Ministry in contemporary society. Darton, Longman, and Tod. 2014 (first published 1979).