Seeing Death Clearly

Soul Injury at the End of Life with Deborah Grassman

February 04, 2024 Jill McClennen Episode 51
Seeing Death Clearly
Soul Injury at the End of Life with Deborah Grassman
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Show Notes Transcript

My guest this week is Deborah Grassman and for 30 years, she served as a hospice nurse practitioner within the Department of Veterans Affairs. While trained as a psychiatric nurse practitioner, her focus shifted towards hospice care, where she unearthed a unique revelation about trauma's transformation at life's end, an aspect not formally identified before.

In her discussions, she shed light on the distinct challenges veterans faced during their end-of-life reflections, often linked to military service, moral injuries, and life reviews.

Veterans exhibited unique needs, and her observations prompted the Hospice Veteran Partnership, later adopted by NHPCO. Her journey accelerated into webinars, films, books, and nationwide training, emphasizing veterans' distinctive end-of-life experiences.

She founded a non-profit, Opus Peace, addressing unexplored aspects of trauma at life's end. Veterans expressed not only PTSD but also a deeper soul injury, feeling lost or disconnected. Recognizing a pattern, she termed it a "soul injury," a wound separating individuals from their authentic selves.

Stoic facades often crumbled at life's end, revealing three impediments: unwarned loss and hurt, unforgiven guilt and shame, and fear of helplessness and loss of control. Recognizing these, her mission became helping people heal their relationship with themselves.

Opus Peace, her non-profit, aimed to propagate the soul injury message, offering tools and concepts. Two books, "Peace at Last" (focused on veterans) and "The Hero Within," focused on healing one's internal hero, could be accessed on their website.

Opus Peace conducted four-day virtual training sessions, providing resources for workshops on soul injury. Online courses, titled "MasterPEACE," covered various topics and holistic tools, making education accessible. Donations were encouraged to support their pioneering work.

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[00:00:00] Deborah Grassman: At the end of life, stoic facades grumble and they come down. Everything comes down at the end of life because your conscious mind starts getting weaker. Your unconscious mind starts getting stronger for all of us. Welcome 

[00:00:12] Jill: back to Seeing Death Clearly. I'm your host, Jill McClennen, a death doula and end of life coach here on my show.

[00:00:19] I have conversations with guests. That explore the topics of death, dying, grief, and life itself. My goal is to create a space where you can challenge the ideas you might already have about these subjects. I want to encourage you to open your mind and consider perspectives beyond what you may currently believe to be true.

[00:00:37] In this episode, my guest is Debra Grassman, a hospice nurse practitioner with 30 years of experience at the Department of Veteran Affairs and founder of the non profit Opus Peace. She shares with us what she has learned from her patients about how trauma affects the end of life and about veterans unique challenges during their final days.

[00:00:59] Through her work, she identifies a concept she's termed soul injury. A wound that disconnects individuals from their true selves and the practical tools she uses to help. Her holistic approach emphasizes dying healed, encouraging listeners to reflect on what they'd leave unsaid or undone if they died today.

[00:01:19] Thank you for joining us for this conversation. Welcome to the podcast, Debra. I appreciate you coming on to talk with me. I'm really interested in hearing more. About your work with veterans, how you got into this work about your nonprofit, and I appreciate you taking the time today to talk to 

[00:01:37] Deborah Grassman: me. Well, thank you for having me, Jill.

[00:01:39] I appreciate your interest in the topics that we're going to be talking about today. Yes, I worked for 30 years. for the Department of Veterans Affairs as a hospice nurse practitioner. I was trained as a psychiatric nurse practitioner, but my work was actually in hospice. And so I did the typical hospice nursing practitioner type stuff, you know, what happened though was that I discovered kind of a unique phenomena about trauma and how it.

[00:02:10] Morphs at the end of life that no one had ever really formally identified before. And so when the department of veterans affairs put together what they call hospice veteran partnerships, where we were nationally partnering with community hospices to provide hospice care to veterans. I started talking about what I saw surfacing at the end of life with veterans.

[00:02:35] And oftentimes it was their military service. Oftentimes it was the moral injuries that sometimes they had either committed or received or both. Those kinds of things, you know, when someone's getting ready to meet their maker, so to speak, the next day, the next week, the next year, for all of us, that life review, that thinking back and getting ready to meet our maker, those kinds of.

[00:03:00] Issues often surface and sometimes those issues would cause agitation. And for me as a hospice nurse, there is nothing worse than having an agitated patient. So I started identifying some of the unique. Features that veterans experienced. And that kind of prompted the Hospice Veteran Partnership and then NPCO, the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization picked it up and suddenly kind of overnight, I was doing webinars and films and everything else, writing books to train really the whole country and how veterans have some unique needs.

[00:03:38] I mean, in many ways, veterans die the same as everybody else does. I mean, death is death. And in some ways. Veterans die differently. Most of those ways can be generalized to anybody who's been traumatized and the things that often surface. For example, we're getting ready to put on a sexual violence workshop.

[00:03:55] You don't think of sexual violence and hospice, do you? I can tell you sexual, whether you're a perpetrator or a victim, sometimes those issues surface. at the end of life that can complicate peaceful dying as well. I have ended up starting this non profit never anticipating that that would be my destiny.

[00:04:15] It just kind of came to me, so to speak, when other people were sort of clamoring for this information because no one else. Even people that deal with PTSD and the trauma experts don't really deal with it in a intense way at the end of life. Those patients tend to drop off older or as they get fragile and they start into hospice, you know, PT treatments drop off, so to speak.

[00:04:38] So they hadn't really seen what I had seen. So that's how it sort of got started. One of the things I would hear veterans say to me sometimes is when I would ask them about their PTSD, I would ask them about their moral injuries. Those types of things to see if there was anything that was still troubling them that might interfere with their peaceful dying.

[00:04:57] A lot of times they would say, well, yeah, PTSD has been a problem, but it's more this soul injury that I have. And at first I thought they were just talking about their PTSD or they were just talking about the moral injury and what have you, but. Over time, and with enough patients saying this type of thing to me, I realized kind of the underlying pattern was really what they were talking about was how their PTSD or how their moral injury or whatever it was had caused them to become disconnected from their real self.

[00:05:32] They felt lost. They felt kind of MIA, you know, missing in action in their own life. And now they're at the end of their life and they're going like, my gosh, I missed my life, so to speak. Now, at the same time, many, many of those veterans also told me how they realized they were missing in their own life early on and had all the things they had done to recover from that and restore wholeness and come back to themselves.

[00:05:58] So I really. I paid close attention to that and eventually was able to articulate that and started calling it a soul injury. I started asking my patients, well, have you ever experienced a time when you kind of felt lost or disconnected from yourself and kind of felt like you had a soul injury? And oh my gosh, people would just, yes.

[00:06:20] And then quickly. A meaningful conversation would come out. In hospice, I didn't have a lot of time to be developing a long term relationship with these people. Sometimes they were only going to live a day, a week, a month. I needed to get to the bottom line quick. And that term soul injury, they knew immediately what I was talking about, but more importantly, it opened the door to these meaningful conversations where we could get to the heart of what was troubling them.

[00:06:47] The facade comes down. We ended up defining soul injury as a wound that separates you from your own sense of self, a wound that separates you from your real self. And that real self is beyond the facade. Veterans taught me about stoic facade. Oh boy. You know, that stoicism was very, was very important. And it's often still very important, isn't it?

[00:07:13] But it's more about being able to use that facade more like a door that you can open and close, as opposed to a wall that ends up imprisoning you. And that's often what would happen. And of course, at the end of life, stoic facades crumble. They come down. Everything comes down at the end of life because your conscious mind starts getting weaker.

[00:07:33] Your unconscious mind starts getting stronger for all of us. So because much harder, you don't have your conscious mind so strong to be able to tamp down those memories, to tamp down and keep up that strong stoic facade. And so we become very vulnerable. So as I started paying close attention to what was causing the facade, what was causing the separation from the real self, and, and of course, that became a matter of, well, what's causing that.

[00:08:02] We really discovered, basically, it fell into three categories. So the first category being unwarned loss and hurt. Second category, unforgiven and shame. Third category, fear of helplessness and loss of control. So those Three impediments are what often would get in the way of people being able to completely inhabit themselves fully.

[00:08:27] Interfered with them being able to be fully present to themselves. So of course then the next step was, okay, now we have a name for it that we can have a meaningful conversation. Okay, now we have the causes of it. What do we do about it? So that kind of propelled us into, in a lot of ways, our, our mission, which is to help people heal the relationship they have with themselves.

[00:08:52] So the tools that we use are designed to do just that. One of the most helpful tools that I have found and that we use pervasively, we get just overwhelming results with is what we call the anchor your heart. And how that kind of came about is with dying people, oftentimes when they would start being very vulnerable and talking about what was going on, how scared they were, or how sad they were, or all of those things, they would just kind of automatically start holding their heart.

[00:09:25] They put their hand on their heart as they're telling me these things when that stoic facade would come down. And then when they became a little more weak, sometimes I would tell the, the family member who was sitting at bedside. Place your hand on his or her heart. Nice and firm. This isn't like the Pledge of Allegiance, so just put it there.

[00:09:43] No, this is a nice, firm, and what it is, is it's a grounding tool, is what it is. We've had researchers from University of South Florida and Wright State Medical School in Ohio do research about this and has validated how clinicians I have found this to be so effective. So we called anchor your heart every year on February 2nd.

[00:10:07] We have national anchor your heart day where we do a worldwide virtual webinar and then followed by 10 minutes of worldwide anchoring our heart just to connect to ground within ourselves. So, Anyway, that's in a nutshell the last 10 years of Opus Peace. Opus Peace is the non profit organization to carry this message forward about soul injury and about how you can heal the relationship you have with within yourself so that in fact you can have peace.

[00:10:42] And the word opus is a Latin word that means work. It also can mean masterpiece. So it's often used in classical music to describe the composer's biggest, hardest work masterpiece that they have. But really when you think about it, all of us have. Certainly endured suffering when you hear these kinds of stories that on people's hospice bedsides, they've often been able to redeem that suffering.

[00:11:10] And when you hear those stories, that's their opus of something happened to them. It caused them suffering and probably for many, possibly many years, they. Numbed out that suffering. They ran away from that. So they used all sorts of numbing agents to not experience that suffering. But at some point they stopped the numbing.

[00:11:30] They started letting themselves get real with whatever it was they had experienced. And that's when the. essentially engage their soul to help them recover that spark of life inside that's always leading us and guiding us toward wholeness. It will slow down enough, quit numbing out and, and allow it to, to bring us to that point.

[00:11:53] So those are the self help tools. We don't do intervention directly. We're not at direct care providers anymore, but what we do provide is self help tools. Concepts for the head, right? Information's important being able to open our heart and in addition to opening heart, really feeling the sensations.

[00:12:13] That's where the research shows now is the importance of healing these traumas and what have you is being able to experience your own body and feel the sensations because that's where unmoored loss and hurt gets stored. Is unconsciously in the body, and then more importantly, you always talk about the gut because the third step of anchoring your heart is really being able to connect with that part of yourself that's already whole, that part of yourself that's not afraid of emotional pain, that's holding your emotional pain for you right now, unconsciously.

[00:12:46] It's there already, whether you're feeling it or not, whether you're noticing it or not, it's there. And there's a part of you that's large enough and vast enough and strong enough to be holding that for you. And the nice thing about hospice, I mean, people often say when I tell them I did hospice work for 30 years ago, Oh, wasn't that depressing?

[00:13:03] I thought, and I always say, no, no, not at all. It's sad. Of course it's sad. You know, people are having to let go and lose everything they know and love, and it's dear to them, and it's familiar to them. They have to learn how to let go of that and open up to something, whatever it is or not is. It's completely different than whatever we know now.

[00:13:23] But the soul becomes much more tangible, much more to the surface at the end of life. And when people stop There's almost always a point in time, sometimes it comes early, sometimes it comes later, where that fear of death, that fear of what's getting ready to happen, finally is let go, and that facade comes down, people open up, and their soul comes forth.

[00:13:48] To be able to sit at bedside and bear witness to that, oh my god. A physician I used to work with, he used to say, we all know what a miracle it is when we see a baby being born. But he said, we forget how, what a miracle it is as we die. Death is just as much a miracle as birth. I said, Dula, you absolutely know that.

[00:14:09] But I just loved that when I heard our physician, a very medical physician saying that as. He was new to hospice. He said, Oh my gosh, I had no idea. In fact, he said one time, are you all in hospice over there doing that hospice work? And I sometimes had to supervise you. He was the director of a whole division.

[00:14:27] He said, you were like a stone weighing me down, like stone in my pocket weighing me down every now and then I had to cover you all. And he said, and when I started working here, Oh my gosh, I discovered you were a gem. He said, I had no idea. So those of us who You really have put in many years per se of hospice really get the benefit of getting to see I've been with more than 10, 000 dying veterans.

[00:14:51] Many of them had been traumatized. So my experience is a bit unique, even from other hospice workers. That's 

[00:14:57] Jill: amazing. work that you're doing now and that you have done because I can imagine, as you just pointed out, that working with veterans at the end of life, there's so much that they're going to be processing that you would say the general population doesn't have to process.

[00:15:15] And thank God for the veterans that they do what they have done so that the rest of us don't have to experience those things. What originally brought you to hospice work though, especially to work with veterans? Like that's not something I hear of that often. How did you get drawn into working with hospice, but specifically 

[00:15:35] Deborah Grassman: with that population?

[00:15:36] It's a bit of an embarrassing story, how I came to work at the VA. I was a naive nursing student out to save the world, right? And so we would do rotations through all the hospitals in our city, including the V. A. And when I went to the V. A. I mean, it was definitely very different, very different culture, very different issues.

[00:15:57] I felt it immediately, even as young as I was back then. I had this. idealistic thought that, well, they really need me. They need someone like me that can really love and understand them and all of that. I start out one of my books by saying something to the effect of, you know, I had this arrogant idea that these men and women were like fish that, that needed saving from drowning, saving fish from drowning.

[00:16:23] And what I didn't realize was they weren't drowning and what I needed to do was to learn how to swim. So for about the first I would say 10 or 15 years of my career, it was really, I had to unlearn what I thought I knew. I had to unlearn what I thought that they needed. And I needed to learn how to be fully present.

[00:16:47] Of course, when you're young, you don't really know how to do that. And you have other agendas, and that was true for me as well. But then as I started seeing the wisdom, not only did they have trauma, we had a lot of people with alcohol and drug backgrounds as well. And we also had a lot of those veterans who had, as I said, redeemed their suffering and had this wisdom.

[00:17:08] They had seen things, they had been through things that none of the rest of us had, and they had learned things. And so I just allowed them. to teach me. And one day our hospital was doing a call for veterans artwork from throughout the whole state of Florida to do a display. And on the day of the display in this huge room filled with hundreds of paintings from veterans, I'm going through lickety split.

[00:17:32] And I got in front of this one painting and it was a painting of a soldier's face, very close up. And in his one pupil of one eye was the picture of what he was seeing, which was a burning hut from Vietnam. And what struck me was the tear that was rolling down the soldier's face, and that tear was, was a tear of blood, the loss of vitality.

[00:17:59] And that's when my eyes were open, because prior to that, I was thinking with the Vietnam Vets, I mean, I was of that era as well, and I was thinking, you know, the war's over a long time ago, they just need to get over it, they just need to get on with it, you know, blah, blah, blah, what's with all the long hair and tattoos?

[00:18:13] But that painting, suddenly I saw what that soldier saw, and so my eyes were open, but more importantly, my heart was opened. And the prejudices that I had held toward Vietnam Vets, for example, were suddenly gone. I always tell people, we all have prejudices. If we think we don't, that's the real problem, because we have this brain that acts as a filter, and it's about bringing that filter out of the dark.

[00:18:38] Into the light so we can see how it's impacting our relationships and definitely that happened to me with that painting and I actually ended up contacting that artist. He lived on the other side of the state. He sent me his diary that he kept. That was eye opening to he had been a drug abuser for 10 or 15 years, got into recovery, then started working with him.

[00:18:59] With this artistry, and I got a bird's eye view into all of that. So, at any rate, that's kind of how I got into it. As far as ending up in hospice work, I was initially a rehab nurse. I sometimes took care of stroke patients that ended up not rehabbing, something would happen. And I just remember the first patient that I died.

[00:19:22] And, This is kind of amazing, I was so concerned calling the wife to tell her she needed to come in, this had happened, he's on the rehab service, it shouldn't be happening, so to speak, she comes in, and she was just so at peace with what was happening with her husband, you could just see this love, even though this was a very different turn of events, and I just remember walking her down the hall as she was leaving the unit that, that night, and just seeing how she knew something that I did not.

[00:19:52] And so that piqued my interest then to start paying attention that maybe these older people, dying people who are facing death or have faced death have been talking about death. Maybe I need to pay a little bit more attention to that. So that's when my focus turned from rehab and getting patients better and getting them to, okay, well, this also happens.

[00:20:11] This is also a part of life. Gosh, it's maybe there's something there to just because death is ugly and death is difficult. Doesn't mean it doesn't have something to teach us and maybe it has something hugely important to teach us. I've learned that everything that I know that really matters, I've learned from the dying.

[00:20:29] I've learned from the dying. So, yeah, hospice has been one of the greatest. If, for me, we, we always had as our goal with patients on, uh, I ran, uh, inpatient hospice unit in addition to an extensive consultation service throughout the hospital, but on the inpatient unit, our goal, our stated goal with each patient was to help them to die healed.

[00:20:52] Healed comes from the word whole, to die whole, to be their real self, to, so to speak. I guess I would challenge your listeners to say that to them, is dying healed on your bucket list? I have dying healed on my bucket list, and I've had it there for about 20 years. I don't have too many more years. To live, I'm approaching that age for sure, but it has been on my bucket list.

[00:21:15] And I can tell you, it has helped me live a much more meaningful and fulfilling life because it is there. I always said, ask patients, pretend like you died today. What would be left unsaid or undone? If you ask yourself that question each day. If you'll ask yourself, or each say January 1st on your New Year's Eve preparation for New Year's Day, we would live full rich lives, and I mean emotionally rich lives, spiritually rich lives.

[00:21:40] If we would ask her, if I died today, what would be left and said or undone? And then develop a strategy for achieving those things, for doing those things, and I guarantee you it will have a lot to do with. grieving, forgiving, and letting go of things that you can't 

[00:21:55] Jill: control. Everything that you just said makes so much sense to me.

[00:21:59] And I feel like probably my listeners hear me say it all the time, how much my life changed when I, did my training to become a death doula. And I started asking myself basically that same thing, or if I died today, would I be okay with it? Do I feel like I have the healing and the closure? And do I feel like if I died today, what I look at yesterday and think, was I fully present with my family?

[00:22:26] Was I connecting with them or was I distracted by things that didn't matter? And it really did change my life. So I do agree. We should ask ourselves every day, maybe once a year is good, too, if that's where people need to start. But really asking it every day could completely change the way that you live your life, no matter how long that is, whether it's a couple days left to live, or hopefully for a lot of us, there's many years left to live.

[00:22:54] We can really live a better life if we were able to be okay at dying at any point and letting go of that control. But again, this is something I feel like I talk about a lot. So my listeners have definitely heard me say similar things, but it's nice to hear it from somebody else. So it's not just me where I'm like, no, see, look, there's other people that have this same experience.

[00:23:16] When you work with people that are dying, when you come to terms with the fact that you're going to die, when you face your own fears, it will help you live a better life. And I want to actually ask a little bit more. So you said you've written a couple books already and. Also, you talked about the tools that now through like your nonprofit, you kind of, I guess, train people, like how do people access this information that you're talking about?

[00:23:44] I feel like all of us at least know one person that's a veteran, right? We probably all have at least one person in our life that's a veteran, but it also is information. Everything that you've shared so far, it will be important. For all of us to read this information and to understand this information and to probably have some of these tools that you're talking about in our tool belt when we are working with anybody that is dying, whether it's in a professional role, but again, all of us, unless we die first, we're going to have to go through the end of life with somebody that we love and it's going to be easier for us.

[00:24:22] It's going to be. A time when we can connect with somebody and really, like you said, the facade falls down. You can really connect with your loved one on a different level when they're facing the end of life because you really start to see in some ways more of the real them that they've kept hidden for so long.

[00:24:42] So if we can all kind of have some tools to be able to go into those situations, not as afraid, not avoiding it because It might be scary. And in some cases, yeah, it's not pretty. Not all deaths are going to be something that's like peaceful and calm and like 

[00:24:59] Deborah Grassman: lovely 

[00:25:00] Jill: some will, but there's also going to be some messy parts that come with death, but death and birth are very 

[00:25:07] Deborah Grassman: similar.

[00:25:07] Jill: Right? Like there's some really messy parts of birth. So death is really not any different. So can you just tell us a little bit more about your books? And then also, if somebody is interested in working with your nonprofit or getting some of these tools, like how do we find these things? 

[00:25:24] Deborah Grassman: Sure. Well, the resources are located on our website and I would say that's the best place to go.

[00:25:30] That's soulinjury. org or opuspiece. org. Either one will get you to our website where a lot of the information is there. Two books currently with another book due to be published this next year, but the one book is called Peace at Last, and it focuses on veterans. It's very veteran centric, although anybody, especially traumatized people, can certainly benefit from it.

[00:25:57] The second book is called The Hero Within, and that book is more about how to heal the relationship you have within yourself, how to meet your own interior hero behind the facade. So those are the two books, those you can get off our website as well. There's They're also in audio form. So if you want audio, that way you can listen to them in the car or wherever that's, those are on our website.

[00:26:21] We do train other people in the message and give them all the PowerPoints and tools and everything to do. It requires a four day institute training. It's a virtual training. So that's. It's on our website as well. It's a plug and play type thing where you can facilitate your own workshops on soul injury and including unmourned loss and hurt, unforgiven, guilt and shame, fear of helplessness and loss of control.

[00:26:47] It's already formatted, ready to go. All you have to do is facilitate. We have the facilitators guides for how to do that. So that's available as well. We have, as I mentioned, February 2nd, every year we put on a free public service event and it always includes that anchor in your heart this year, 2024 on February 2nd, it's going to be self compassioning as a verb and how to do that, how to touch your pain, how to.

[00:27:16] Enter forgiveness, how to bring down that facade and meet your real self, those kinds of things. So there'll be a one hour webinar followed by the 10 minute anchor your heart worldwide. We have a sexual violence workshop that we're going to be doing. The most important thing that I would encourage your viewers to do, because it is the easiest and it's right at their fingertips, is we have online courses that we call Masterpiece.

[00:27:41] Again, you can click on our website. Under Masterpiece, we have multiple, multiple topics, including aging, sexual violence, loss unheard, forgiveness, veterans, veteran caregivers, healthcare care, caregivers, trauma. I mean, we have all sorts of topics, including all the holistic tools. That's, as I said. On at your fingertips to be able to take a course on a topic and it's all very, very affordable.

[00:28:11] And of course, we would love to have donations, tax deductible donations. There's a button for that too. So if you appreciate the pioneering work that we're trying to provide in bringing a very legitimate term called. Soul injury so that it can precipitate a very meaningful conversation about real stuff and becoming real and keeping it real so that we can fully be present to our own self, then obviously we would love to have that kind of support.

[00:28:43] Jill: I'm thinking even some of the work that you're talking about, if somebody has, especially a veteran in their life, is this something that we can kind of say, Hey, you know, why don't we do some of this work together? My half brother, he was in the Iraq war, but I know right after he got back and I had just moved home to New Jersey.

[00:29:05] So this was like mid maybe 2007 or so. We talked a little bit one time when we were at a party about some of. The really intense trauma, especially a friend of his had who lost a lot of his guys. Like, I guess again, I'm, I'm not super up on the terms. They were in charge of like a group of guys, whatever that means that they were with all these guys under them guys, and probably women as well.

[00:29:28] And his one friend lost a lot of the guys that were under him. Like, And had to see them die right in front of him. And he was really struggling to just get back. And, you know, now all of a sudden you're like back in the United States and you have a family and you're supposed to function like you didn't experience all of these things.

[00:29:49] And so it feels to me like it's almost. Something where they can really benefit from these tools that you're talking about, even at 50 years old, hopefully that they're going to live another 30 or 40 years, but to kind of start doing some of this processing of healing that soul injury. So that it's not coming up just at the end of life, it's like, well, let's kind of heal some of it now.

[00:30:15] And so I feel like some of this stuff that you've talked about, you can benefit from it, even when you're healthy and you're not facing the 

[00:30:23] Deborah Grassman: end of life. A lot of what you're saying, however, is really more about PTSD. And there are, I mean, getting veterans into PTSD programs and they have prolific tools to, to deal with that.

[00:30:36] That's probably more with what you're saying. The route is really, I would say, if they clearly have PTSD. Now, the thing of it is, is that PTSD, what gets overlooked is the soul injury that often accompanies it, not always. But if the PTSD causes them to change how they feel about themselves, they feel defective.

[00:30:58] So I can't tell you how many veterans would tell me, I lost my soul in that war. Well, what is that? It's that disconnection that the soul injury interventions help with, as opposed to PTSD interventions. So if you think about it, PTSD impacts the brain. I can tell you all the, the literature is prolific about how trauma changes the brain.

[00:31:20] We now know that. So soul injury is more an injury of our being. It's about the relationship we have with our deepest self, that, that core being. And Releasing or really shedding. I like to say it more that it's about learning how to shed the impediments keeping you from your being that's the soul injury piece with our own identity so that we're not missing in action in our own lives.

[00:31:49] So that's really different than the PTSD. I'm not a PTSD expert per se, although I'm probably one of the very few PTSD experts at the end of life. But I don't proclaim to be a PTSD expert earlier on because there's plenty of experts and they know what they're doing and that research is evolving all the time and I can't possibly keep up with all that in the Soul Injury piece.

[00:32:13] I try to fill a gap. And the gap is the soul injury, but I leave PTSD to the PTSD experts. I leave moral injury to the moral injury experts. But if patients at the time would say, yeah, PTSD is better problem. And then they would tell me about their soul injury and it was different and it was not being.

[00:32:33] Specifically tuned into in their PTSD programs because it is different and it requires a different interventions. 

[00:32:41] Jill: It hurts my heart to think that there's so many people walking around that have gone through these experiences and that. Their best option is to self medicate. And unfortunately, there is that homelessness.

[00:32:56] My children and I walked by somebody one day in Philadelphia, and he had a sign that said, Army veteran, homeless, give whatever you can, something along those lines. And my children, always, they want to keep money in their pocket because they always want to give. But my son kind of said like, well, if he's a veteran, why is he on the streets?

[00:33:15] Why don't we take care of them? And I was like, that is a great question, and I don't have an answer for that. And I know that there's a lot of people that are like you that are working to try and help as many people as you can. But I feel like in our country, we really could do more. Hopefully one day we will, because that just, it breaks my heart.

[00:33:40] When we did, we gave them a little money, but that money is not. Again, that's not the core issue. The lack of his money is not the core issue there. There just was a lot of other things that unfortunately I can't help with, but I hope that my children taking the time to stop and at least smile and maybe let them feel a 

[00:34:00] Deborah Grassman: little bit loved in that moment.

[00:34:02] I don't know. That can help heal our world. I 

[00:34:05] Jill: agree. I really think that if we all could take the time to just make those small efforts, it actually can heal more than we realize it does. And it could do even more, but we are coming up on our time. So I know you did mention the website as well as your books can be found on the website, your trainings.

[00:34:26] Um, really interested to go look through all of those and see what you have in there. Is there any last things you want to leave us off with 

[00:34:35] Deborah Grassman: before we wrap it up? Well, I guess maybe something experiential. How about if we close our time, I'll lead us in anchoring each of our hearts. How about that? This is only going to take about Two minutes.

[00:34:47] So this is not a long drawn out process, but I would just ask you to either lower or close your eyes and to place one or both hands firmly over your heart, whatever feels comfortable to you. And as I said, firmly is the operative word. This isn't just a pledge of allegiance type. This is kind of tenderly touching your heart and now take a deep breath and inhale deeply.

[00:35:16] Hold it for a moment and now exhale slowly and just imagine your heart opening up just a little bit more than what it already is. Let yourself just breathe naturally now however your body wants to breathe and now just for the next five seconds pay attention to what you are feeling or what you're trying not to feel.

[00:35:40] Just getting real just for five seconds with whatever is in right there. Before we open our eyes, I want you just to be aware of this place inside you that has been strong, strong enough to hold any distress you might have, distress you're not even aware of, that there is a place inside that unconsciously holds whatever you have experienced.

[00:36:09] So take a moment to breathe that part of you. That hero within, breathing that place inside of you and bringing it with you. As you slowly open your eyes and prepare to go on about your day, that calm, quiet. 

[00:36:27] Jill: And now I'm like, all right, there definitely was some stuff in there that now like, 

[00:36:30] Deborah Grassman: Ooh, yeah, nice.

[00:36:32] That was lovely. Can't be afraid to feel it. That is very 

[00:36:36] Jill: true. We can't be afraid to feel all the feelings. 

[00:36:40] Deborah Grassman: Yeah. Yeah. The good, the bad. I always say that the good, the bad, the ugly, the beautiful, it's the full spectrum. Not just, Oh, I only want to feel the good part. I want to deny and pretend away that.

[00:36:51] Yeah. We 

[00:36:52] Jill: can't do that. Cause you're right. We store it in the body somewhere. If we just try to avoid it, it's in 

[00:36:59] Deborah Grassman: there anyway. Joseph Campbell, the great mythologist, always said, The cave you feared to enter holds the treasure that you seek. I like that a lot. Oh, yeah. Yeah. He's powerful. I always loved Milton Erickson too.

[00:37:13] He always says, Once the log jam is opened, The river flows again. That's what the anchoring heart does. Beautiful. It opens the log jams, allows the river to flow. Grace is ours to behold. Wonderful. 

[00:37:27] Jill: Thank you so much for taking your time to speak with me today. I will put in the show notes a link to your website so that it's easy for people to find.

[00:37:37] And I've just Really appreciate the work that you're doing, and I appreciate you taking your time today. 

[00:37:43] Deborah Grassman: Sort of. Thank you, Jill. Thank you for the work you're doing as well. Thank 

[00:37:47] Jill: you for listening to this episode of Seeing Death Clearly. Join me next week for a conversation with Iris von Nespen. A former emergency room physician turned life coach from Belgium.

[00:38:00] She discusses personal moments of awareness, breaking inherited patterns, and the challenges of judgment in both herself and the healthcare system. We talk about the conflicts doctors face and the need for more compassion in the medical field. Don't miss Iris insights. on self discovery, healthcare, and the impact of being present in our interconnected world.

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