Andy Balafas, Vitas Hospice
Chicago, IL

The concept of “Soul Injury” has developed a lot of interest in the Chicago area with little effort.  I have been asked to speak about it in three different hospitals, one of which is a VA. I have come to the humbling realization that because no one knows about Soul Injury and because I’ve received the Training, I’m becoming the “expert.” To do this, I can’t be afraid to be the expert.  I have to learn, study, and teach boldly. People are thirsty for this information.

At a staff meeting, I asked the question: ‘How would the world be different if we weren’t afraid of our emotional pain?’ Here are some of their responses:

Bereavement Coordinator – If children’s grief remains unaddressed, it becomes a foundation for aberrant behavior in teen years.  This may not be a matter of kids being afraid of emotions, but instead it may be due to adults who are not equipped to speak to emotional pain.  Often kids don’t have the language to describe grief.

VA social worker – To feel pain is to be human, but we are often not honest with our own humanity about this.  We leave ourselves vulnerable and this can be terrifying, while at the same time we want to shield our children from this. Acknowledging and embracing the pain is healing and often “The only way out.

Hospice chaplain – The world would be healthier by teaching our children through “modeling”.  If we believe that it’s okay to embrace pain as a natural part of life processes, then it’s imperative that we model what that looks like.

Physician – So much of life now is spent trying to shun feelings and seek unrealistic happiness. If emotional pain is normalized in society, we might ultimately see less destructive behaviors such as drug and alcohol abuse, violence, etc.  it might become a norm in society to teach coping mechanisms.  

Chaplain – It will require equipping families with tools to reinforce  support for their children.  The world would be a better place to live if each of us would take the time to assist/invest in the lives of others.

Interdisciplinary team manager – Less suicides with young people. It would reduce a lot of the loss of self and need to express negatively those feelings that they have had to hide… and now as adults express inappropriately and hurtfully.

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