There are very real cumulative effects of bearing witness to suffering and tending to the heart needs and growth of others. It is an accumulation of energy that needs a place to release and time to rest and nourish between the acts of nurturing those we care for.
Healers need to be witnessed just as deeply as those they serve. Sometimes the witnessing is as simple as claiming the space for their own internal processing. We need the time and the commitment to consciously discern if we are well nourished and centered in our own truth, if what has accumulated within is ‘ours’ or ‘theirs’, and to have in place acts and tools for cleansing and re-charging our own energy.
This is nothing drastically new here – this notion of healing the healers – yet it is something worthy of much more attention and frequent reminding.
In my experience in nursing, there was often a lot of talk about the self-care that nurses (and other professionals) ought to partake in, but very little space and support built into the system to allow the necessary debriefing to occur organically and holistically.
And it’s not just in nursing – this need for debriefing and processing. It’s a fundamental piece of any service role, and – quite frankly – if ignored, it is detrimental to the quality of service and love we are able to give as healers, caregivers and practitioners… and in all of our relationships and interactions.
I saw the cost all too often in families I cared for, as well. The weight of caregiving would fall mostly on one person who often had poor support systems and no outlets in place to process a complete shift in the direction of their energy and time toward a suffering loved one. In hospice, this was compounded with internalizing all the gamuts of grief that are involved in end-of-life care, as well.
And it’s not just at end-of-life, either.
Particularly for women – most of us move through variations of caregiving and tending our whole lives. When we’re not offering it in service to others, we are often facing the deep necessity of making changes in our life that constitute self-care-giving.
And these two acts – the caregiving of self and the caregiving of others – are often deeply reciprocal in our own sense of well-being and purpose… when in harmony, that is.
Caregiving, healing, tending are processes that we ebb and flow in, continuous with what it means to be part of the human family.
There is so much to this vast topic.
I’ve lived my own dis-ease and burnout from extreme caregiving toward others, as well as from blatant neglect of my own needs – in various forms – and what I keep coming back to in times of blessed harmony is the reciprocity between the two (tending self, serving others)… and how it is absolutely necessary to have an outlet, a process for strengthening my awareness and resiliency, as well as a commitment to heed what my body and spirit most need, that I might then be well-equipped and fueled to serve others from my centered truth.
It is my creative practice that has served me most fully and wholly in this. The writing and art-ing and creative acts of spiritual truth that come from within. I believe it is this way because in a dedicated creative practice you cannot successfully avoid your own truth for very long – it just keeps tapping at you until you get it.
I believe it is such a powerful tool for debriefing, processing, and course-correcting because built into the creative process are the acts of witnessing, giving, receiving, curiosity, contemplation, trust and transformation.
Whether you come to it with mindful intention or just a willingness to move through the motions, it just works through us when we show up to how we are, and let our art to hold space for however that looks, trusting that we can BE well in service to others only through radical commitment to our own well-being.
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