On the heels of that terrible attack in Arizona there has been a lot of conversation in the media about healing. This has been a time of deep distress across the country with many images in the media of actions and reactions from all sorts of people. It is events like this one that points out our need to talk about our distress and shock. In order to heal, we must talk about our feelings and our responses to events that play a role in our life. We need to find a way to learn something positive from a traumatic event; we need to learn to talk about these events so that we can put things in perspective to allow our self to heal.
We all need to mourn our losses, including the loss of our own health. Being diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer is a loss, a trauma that causes pain. Cancer causes us to face our own personal mortality, for many of us an item that never before entered into our conscious.
A common, perhaps instinctive, action that most of us take when a crisis occurs is to come together – to mourn, to share and to support each other. I’ve seen this behavior in some very moving and profound ways surrounding the events in Arizona. In so many special services, speeches and commentaries there has been a general pulling together, a desire to confront the awful feelings generated by the event. What is going on is an attempt to find ease again in the midst of our distress. There is no way of knowing how long these feelings will continue, or how long the spirit of unity will live, but at least there is an attempt, an intention by many to find a better, more peaceful way.
Since Arizona, I’ve reflected a lot about our human need to be a part of a group, when we feel attacked, when we are broken and in pain, we seek out others. Our need, in one way or another, is to find support, a common ground, understanding, solace and comfort. In times of deep distress our impulse is not to want to go it alone, to endure the trauma in isolation, but to come together and support each other.
Cancer calls us to walk away from isolation. It calls us to reach out, to go deeply within, and to summon the courage to be vulnerable and open enough to find common feelings and common ways of experiencing hope. Cancer signals a certain brokenness that calls, instantly and intensely, for healing.
Cancer support groups can be filled with passion and compassion, desiring deeply to help bring healing to its members. Members of cancer support groups instinctively understand how important it is to come together in times of trial, to help lift one another from despair. I believe that healing can come to the community because of the members commitment and concern for each other.
We cannot find healing alone, but we need it so very much. We all need the reassuring support of one another, of those who most understand, to bind our wounds and to help restore us to a better place again.
Joel T Nowak, M.A., M.S.W.