Our soul is what makes us human. It is the part of us connected to something greater than ourselves, and it is what gives our lives purpose and meaning. For some people, traumatic events can disrupt their identity and sense of inner goodness and peace. When we think of injuries, we envision damage to one’s physical being. Soul injury, on the other hand, is an injury to one’s psychological well-being. 

What is a Soul Injury?

A Soul injury is a newer concept that refers to the trauma or harm that affects a person’s spiritual or emotional well-being. It was originated by a group of VA hospice nurses who witnessed soul injuries firsthand as they surfaced at the end of life of some combat veterans.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of a Soul Injury?

Soul injuries are often caused by experiences of intense emotional pain, such as the loss of a loved one, abuse, or other traumatic events. People who have a soul injury have a sense of emptiness and may feel that life has lost meaning. Because soul injuries impact people’s feelings about themselves, they often feel empty and disconnected. 

According to Opus Peace, the people most at risk of a soul injury are:

  • Victims of sexual assault, crime, accidents, natural disasters, bullying, neglect, and domestic violence
  • People who have experienced heartache, loss of personal health or a loved one’s health, death of a loved one, or betrayal by a significant other
  • Minorities and marginalized members of society, culture, or group
  • Stoic cultures that hide or are ashamed of expressing emotional pain
  • Veterans and First Responders, their families, and civilians who have experienced a war zone
  • Personal and professional caregivers who are vulnerable to “burn-out,” “compassion fatigue,” and secondary traumatic stress

From the list above, it is easy to see that most people are at risk of soul injury. As Central Oregon’s oldest hospice provider, we see patients at the end of life. During the end-of-life process, it is normal to search for peace, acceptance, and closure. However, we have found that some patients struggle to find peace with what they have witnessed or experienced in life. Our goal is to elevate awareness of soul injury and how to treat it. 

How is Soul Injury Treated?

Unlike physical injuries, soul injuries can be challenging to heal and may require specialized care and support. Soul injuries can be treated using various methods, depending on the individual’s needs and preferences. Here are some of the most common ways to treat a soul injury:

  1. Therapy and Counseling: Therapy and counseling can help individuals process the emotions associated with their soul injury. Therapists may use a variety of techniques to help individuals work through their trauma, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, psychoanalysis, or somatic experiencing. Talking to a therapist or counselor can also provide individuals a safe space to share their experiences.
  2. Spiritual Practices: Many people find comfort and healing in spiritual practices such as meditation, prayer, or yoga. These practices can help individuals connect with their inner selves and find peace and grounding. Additionally, spiritual practices can help individuals find meaning and purpose in their lives, which can be especially important after experiencing trauma.
  3. Connecting with Others: Talking to others who have experienced similar trauma can be incredibly healing. Joining a support group or participating in peer-to-peer counseling can give individuals a sense of community and validation. Hearing others’ stories of recovery and resilience can provide hope and inspiration.
  4. Specialized Care: In some cases, individuals may require more specialized care to address their soul injury. For example, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is a specialized form of therapy that helps individuals process traumatic experiences. Trauma-focused therapy is another type of therapy that is specifically designed to address trauma-related issues.

At Hospice of Redmond, we aim to support our clients, patients, and community by providing information that helps them lead and live the best lives possible. Similar to moral injury, PTSD impacts many Central Oregonians. We invite you to attend a free presentation we are hosting on PTSD at the end-of-life on Thursday, March 28th, at 3 pm. The event will be held at Hospice of Redmond’s Community Room. More information about this event can be found on our website, hospiceofredmond.org, under “Community Events.” All are welcome. 

Addressing unmourned loss and unforgiven guilt can dig away at one’s soul. It is our goal to help reverse any damage and build a path toward peace and serenity. Let us know how we can support you or your loved one. Give us a call at (541) 548-7483.