by Chaplain Resident, Fr. Joshua Genig, Ph.D.
In The Wounded Healer, the late Roman Catholic priest Henri Nouwen speaks to the tangibility of the messiness of life for those who care for others. Healers, of all vocations, are wounded because they have, at some point in life, been thrown into the destructive forces of this world, but have emerged on the other side.
Sometimes this woundedness is physical, but often it is emotional and spiritual. It is the kind of woundedness that can come from the trauma of physical abuse just as much as it can emerge from the trauma of caring for those dying alone…or the trauma of coming home every night worried about what you are bringing to your loved ones…or the trauma of seeing more death in a week than you are used to seeing in a year.
Yet, as Nouwen notes, a great blessing emerges when those who are wounded begin to see their own scars as a mark of solidarity with a broken world.
Making one’s own wounds a source of healing, therefore, does not call for a sharing of superficial personal pains but for a constant willingness to see one’s own pain and suffering as rising from the depth of the human condition which all [women and] men share (Nouwen, 90).
Though wounded healers have begun to emerge from being wounded, they forever bear the marks of that woundedness. However, rather than being a hurdle to providing care, these wounds actually enable the healer to enter into the suffering of others in a profoundly intimate and life-giving way.
This is where all of us at Michigan Medicine hope to be. But we are not there yet…
Becoming a wounded healer takes time. It also takes healing for the healer. Right now, in the midst of this great pandemic, filled with all sorts of societal and medicinal uncertainties – along with all the immediate financial uncertainties which leave us all wondering what is next for us – we need to be as intent on helping wounded healers heal as we are on asking wounded healers to help heal others.
To put it simply: wounded healers need healing too.
If you are reading this and you being cared for at Michigan Medicine, please say an extra prayer for your wounded healers. They are suffering in ways you cannot imagine. It is different than your suffering, yes, but it is suffering that is real and tangible and affecting their lives too.
If you are reading this and you are caring for others at Michigan Medicine as a wounded healer, please know that we are praying for you. We are here for you. We will be here for you in the days, weeks, and months to come. We know that your wounds need bandaged up, even as you are caring for others while bleeding-out yourself. And we want to come along on this journey with you; we want to enter into your story with you, if you will give us the privilege of doing so; and, in time, we trust “the living truth that the wound, which causes us to suffer now, will be revealed to us later as the place where God intimated [God’s] new creation” (Nouwen, 98).