prayer

3 Areas Of Our Healed Selves

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Throughout my career in medicine as a physician, physical therapist, and patient, I’ve recognized that total body wellness requires the healing of our physical, mental, and spiritual selves.

All three aspects are affected by trauma or disease, and unless they’re functioning optimally, with synchronicity, some part of our being is unbalanced, and the whole self suffers.

The natural or passive inclination is to let time heal the physical body and hope the other two components follow suit. But in fact, there are simple steps we can take to hasten the recovery of the whole body.

In previous blog posts, I discussed the effects of the grieving process following the June 10th tragic shooting of a dear friend, Christina Grimmie, following her performance with Cade and Before You Exit at the Plaza Live in Orlando. As a victim of one psychopath’s actions, Christina paid the ultimate price of death, and her family and fans have suffered physically, mentally, and spiritually.

Physical Self

The trauma of losing a loved one begins taking its physical toll immediately. Shock alone can have acute manifestations to the body, including loss of sleep and exhaustion. These in turn can lead to illness from immunosuppression, even becoming the stimulus inciting other disease processes.

Doctors have long known of how fatigue and stress can weaken our immune system making the body vulnerable to other assaults.

In the aftermath of trauma, it is important to rest the body, maintaining a normal sleep cycle or circadian rhythm. As we notice ourselves feeling more tired than usual, perhaps a nap or “turning in” an hour earlier than usual may be in order. Likewise, allowing ourselves the benefit of sleeping longer than usual may be what the body needs.

We should avoid adding things to our “to do” list, allowing that there’s always time later, and considering, “How important is it really?” In addition to rest, the physical body also needs proper exercise and nutrition. The benefits of exercise in decreasing stress are well-documented. Following any kind of trauma, our schedules can easily become irregularly chaotic.

Finding time for exercise is important, especially if we are accustomed to regular workout routines. But even a brief walk can have calming effects, reducing stress; it also releases the body’s natural endorphins, enhancing mood.

It’s not uncommon following trauma or the loss of a loved one that we lose our appetite. This can occur as a response to sadness or situational depression. Conversely, overeating or indulging in our favorite foods is a stress response, usually disguising or hiding uncomfortable feelings.

It’s beneficial during these times to adhere to a regular and balanced diet. Accordingly, it’s important to share the feelings with someone we trust rather than suppressing them.

The night before June 10, I had only slept about five hours, and I didn’t sleep again until late morning of June 11. I had to be reminded to eat, but still had little appetite for 4 to 5 days. Finally, after encouragement from others, some members of my family and I forced ourselves to walk around a lake.

It helped to trigger a slight amount of hunger while reducing some anxieties, allowing us to later sleep, albeit intermittently⎯a step toward normalcy.

Mental Self

One of the best ways of caring for the mind is to process feelings with others. Emotions of anger, sadness, fear, or desperation are natural and never right or wrong. But sharing them with a trusted friend or relative is much healthier than denying them or holding them in, stuffing them only to have them arise later or be misdirected onto others.

Regardless of how we process our feelings, it’s critical that we avoid blaming or shaming ourselves by assigning a moral value judgment to them. There is no correct emotional response to trauma or pain; we can’t control our feelings any more than we can control the weather.

It’s also natural to feel anger at all the hate that seems to be permeating our world these days. The way we respond is something we can control, including channeling the resultant fury into constructive measures that can affect a positive change. And the world is watching.

Spiritual Self

Our demonstration of faith in the midst of uncertainty can foster hope. And this is how we can begin to heal our spiritual selves.

Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial because when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.   James 1:12

Praying_HandsThere are numerous ways we can begin to heal our spiritual selves. Setting aside a few moments for prayer or meditation yields rewards that multiply exponentially. I prefer sharing my fears, concerns, or feelings of gratitude, talking with God, my creator, as I would a friend.

It’s also helpful to read from a devotional book, which can be inspiring and offer comfort. The spiritual part of our being is something that makes us unique children of God.

Spirituality is the aspect of self that identifies us, as human beings with God. It’s not to be confused with religion, which usually refers to an organized institution expressing one type of belief in a divine power.

While religion may be an organization or way through which some of us choose to express our beliefs, the individual way we nurture our relationship with Yahweh (His personal name) is key to healing the spiritual self.

The way we enhance that relationship is personal to each of us, but for me, it’s an affirmation of my beliefs and vitally intrinsic to my overall health, relieving pain.

Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”  C.S. Lewis

As I worship Him, my kinship with Him grows in strength; so does my faith, or confidence and trust that He is in charge⎯the Captain of my ship. As I rely on His word (the Truth), my spirit is comforted knowing that I can turn my will and life over to Him.

That goes a long way toward giving me peace and stability in an ever-changing, sometimes chaotic world. God is a constant, unchanging, and trustworthy presence that has always been, is, and will remain.

The three vital components of self are all affected by our pain and grief. Likewise, all three cry to be healed and need attending to as the entire self begins restoration. This has been a reminder, along with some suggestions or ways to optimize the healing process. Hopefully I’ve provided a starting point, but further resources are endless.

What has been your experience with these three areas of self when tragedy strikes? What is a way you have learned to keep your whole self healthy? Share your thoughts with a comment below.

  • Sharada bashyal

    Thank you Dr.Mark McDonough 😊😊 it help me a lot…

    • You’re so welcome Sharada! Thanks for your feedback.

    • You’re so welcome and I’m glad the posts are helpful. Also, the feedback is most appreciated.

  • A BYE mom

    Dr. McDonough,

    I am so grateful for your blogs. Both related & unrelated to Christina, the words are helping me, and most importantly, someone close to me, process difficult times with stronger faith.

    I want to share this with you…

    I am a believer in the grander plan, His plan. A few years back my daughter & her friends became fans of Before You Exit. More importantly, became “fans” of your 3 wonderful sons: Connor, Riley & Toby. They also have gotten to know James & Anthony. Your lovely wife, Joan, is always so kind & gracious to the girls.

    Many concerts, many miles driven, meet & greets, house & bus parties as well as many hours spent waiting at venues & busses for a glimpse or a picture over the years. So many friendships have forged and been made stronger.

    As is typical in today’s culture, they began to learn as much as they could about the boys. I remember someone telling me you were a physician (thinking this was important to me as I am in the medical field as well), I was also told some of the story of your life. I instantly knew you were a unique & special man.

    The long & short of this post is to point out that – at least to me – the journey to the comfort I find in your words started years ago when I became a BYE mom. His plan has lead me & others here to your blog.

    It is abundantly clear that you & your wife havc raised 3 extraordinary young men who are walking a path that leads to goodness & kindness in the world. I am certain without your family, individually & collectively, many would miss learning how faith strngthens in good & tragic times.

    Thank you, again, for sharing your knowledge & faith but also your family with so many.

    The last thing I said to your boys at the Atlanta show on June 9 was: I will continue to pray for you. I do & I will.

    God is good, all the time.

  • BYE Mom:
    Thank you so much for your kind words and continued encouragement. We do the best we can to guide our kids and it’s obvious you’re a caring and lovingly involved mom. We always remind the boys that it’s their character that matters most and the rest will follow. I’ve no doubt you share the same values. We persevere in the good times and the trying times as well. Thank you again. God Bless.

    • Betsy

      Yes, we do try to do the best to guide them and instill the importance of character, kindness and faith and prayerfully watch as they unfold.

      All the best to you and your wonderful family.

  • Femke

    I’ve been through a couple tragedies and I’m still learning how to deal with it and stay healthy during the tough days.

    Being a fan of Christina, since what happened to her my depression and anxiety has gotten quite bad again and I’ve been sleeping a lot to avoid feeling like this, which is causing that I don’t eat as much. It’s so difficult to get out of bed every morning and I have to say Connor, Riley and Toby have been a huge help in this. Just listening to a few songs or reading back some things they’ve said is so inspiring and make it easier. (I’m sure you’re proud of them because they share so much positivity)

    I didn’t grow up going to church and we never really pray, but I always prayed before bed. Since Christina’s death I’ve gotten so much closer to God. I pray more and I talk more to Him and it has really given me a lot of comfort. I really want to keep this going because it makes me so comfortable. I’ve always loved Him more than anything, but I was always quiet about it because I didn’t really grow up with it all. But now I’m proud of my faith.

    I’m sure this was a lot, but I wanted to share it. Thank you for this post!

    • Femke:
      Thanks so much for your feedback and comments. You’re doing all the right things and I encourage you to keep praying and asking God for strength and guidance. One of my favorite references I’ve mentioned is a book by a dear friend, John R. Cross called “The Stranger On The Road to Emmaus.” It explains the Bible in a clear and simple way, helping readers to understand the greatest story ever told. It’s available from Amazon and it will change your life. My prayers are with you.

  • Kristina

    Dear Dr. McDonough, Thank you very much for your advice on how to support the healing process on all three areas! This blog post is very helpful for me to use some advice in my daily life. My biggest struggle when facing a shock, tragedy or challenge is my mental and spiritual self. Sometimes I find it difficult to just trust God when I would rather want to have His piece of advice immediately – but His timing is the best, and I agree with you; He is indeed always in charge, regardless of how stormy it gets (thank you for reminding me!).
    I find it amazing to see how God puts different pieces together in His timing, because I am confident that He has lead me to Before You Exit and to your blog. Both have been extremely inspiring, positive and encouraging to me. I am grateful that you share your faith in your messages, and I keep praying for you and your family.

    • Kristina: Yes, God does work through other people and you’re inspirational for me too. I find that the more open-minded I can remain, the more creative the replies to prayer are. Thank you for praying for the boys and me too. They’re doing a little better with each passing day. I just wish there were ways to erase the emotional scars but will trust God to heal those too.

  • shubham dhadel

    Dear Sir, First I would like to thanks for your previous articles because that artlicle helped everyone who is strugged with tragedy. Before your blog I always questoned myself and god that why this happened why a innocent girl met with tragic end. But after reading your blog I believed that god is always with us. Whenever I get upset I read your articles to understand. We will always miss Christina and we will always love her But your blog helps everyone who are still in grief. I started reading Bible and Bhagwad Gita to calm my heart and I pray to god everyday to find peace. Thank you Sir

    • Shubham: Thanks for the excellent feedback and I’m so glad you’re gaining insight from the posts.It’s been 2 months now since God called her home and we all miss her so much. But God continues to bring good to the world through the tragedy. We’ve got to trust that he’s in charge and sees the bigger picture. Keep the faith and I look forward to your feedback in the future.

      • shubham dhadel

        Thank you for your reply sir. I believe that god is always with god and his plan is better than us. Yeah right now we feel sad but we have a faith that christina is in a better place. Once again Thank you Sir

  • shubham dhadel

    Dear Sir, I want to share my feelings with you. I was not a big fan of Christina but when I knew that she’s killed by a homocide maniac I get devastated. I nearly lost my ability to think. I questioned myself and god that why the girl who loved everyone met with a tragic end. I didnt dare to watch her memorial video because it will completely breaks me and I understand how weak I’m. But then I read your first blog thanks to someone who shared this article, It really changed my thoughts and believe that god is always with us. I understand the new life without her is difficult but we live with belief of god and we know she’s in better place. We wish that one day we will meet her again. From then I listen her songs and feels she’s still with us. I started reading bible and bhagwad gita to calm my mind and pray to god everyday to find peace. Thank you again Sir.

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