In the past two blog posts, we’ve looked at how caring for the body and the mind can influence emotional healing. This post will look at the spirit. In this case, spirit is how you personally choose to define it, because we know that there is a diversity of opinion out there. This post will reflect more on the function of spirit rather than a specific definition of it.
If you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, you know that uncertainty is at the heart of the emotional challenges that comes with it. If you’ve been reading my posts for a while, you won’t be surprised to read that underneath the cloak of uncertainty are the 4 universal fears:
- the fear of dying
- the fear of being alone
- the fear of losing freedom
- the fear that you will lose your sense of purpose/meaning
When you need to respond to uncertainty, it is helpful to tease out exactly what is going on, even though that is likely to be uncomfortable. Taking time to see what is driving the uncertainty is an act of self care. It’s also a way to slow down the process, to enable yourself to move from reacting to responding.
Spirit is an important part of responding to uncertainty, because you’re not always going to have a tangible solution. Spirit is the source of strength, resiliency, and possibility that has you moving forward through uncertainty, despite your ability to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
However, just like you body and mind, your spirit has been impacted by cancer. Cancer rocks your fundamental sense of safety and security, which is visible via the damage it does to your spirit. Some of the ways in which that can show up are:
- feeling betrayed that no matter how hard you tried you still got cancer anyways
- feeling the inherent unfairness of being diagnosed with a life threatening illness
- feeling the loss of innocence that life is predictable
- feeling the loss of self confidence
- feeling survival guilt for struggling emotionally when at least you’re alive
- struggling with the beliefs of how life should be, and so forth
So while spirit is often an excellent antidote to uncertainty, it needs your time and attention to heal from the ways that it has been impacted by cancer.
Spirit needs your time and attention to replenish the flames that keep the fire of spirit burning strongly inside of you.
You may have heard the term post traumatic growth. This describes the way in which facing adversity and suffering helps you to transform because of what you’ve been through. For example:
- Cancer often stimulates spiritual growth. It helps you clarify your core values and what’s important, often creating changes that are more in line with your core values.
- Cancer shows you how brave and strong you can be, often beyond what you’ve anticipated.
- Cancer can shed light on old wounds, creating an opportunity for them to be healed
All of this is possible as long as you also make space for honoring and validating the darker, less “positive”, emotional impacts that cancer brings. It doesn’t have to be an either/or situation, in fact, when you make room for it all you often feel liberated.
That’s the core mission behind the work I do via Creative Transformations. Here are some upcoming opportunities to experience it for yourself:
- Survivorship: Finding your way forward– This is a FREE, online, support group offered in partnership with the Beth Wright Cancer Resource Center. The fall session is open for registration, open to cancer survivors (in active treatment or finished) living in northern and downeast Maine. The new start date is October 1, 2019.
- Survivorship and Beyond– This is a FREE, in person, workshop series offered in partnership with New England Cancer Specialists. You don’t need to be a NECS client to attend. The fall line up includes: easing pain and discomfort, coping with the monster of uncertainty, and supporting a healthy relationship with food, body and mind. The next session is September 11, 2019.
- Warrior Revolution Retreat– This is an incredible weekend filled with pampering, education, experiential learning, and connecting in Southern Maine, the weekend of October 26th, 2019. Open to cancer survivors, in active treatment or finished, and their loved ones.
- I will be rolling out a online cancer wellness group program towards the end of 2019. Stay informed by making sure that you’re on my mailing list.
How do you care for your spirit? Let’s talk about it in the comments below!
-Stephanie McLeod-Estevez, LCPC, is an art therapist and breast cancer survivor, and a former oncology counselor at the Dempsey Center. She began Creative Transformations to help others who are healing emotionally from cancer. Through Creative Transformations, she works with people in person and online to offer the self assessment tool, cancer coaching, an Art as Therapy program,virtual workshops, and this weekly blog. Sign up today so you never miss a blog and find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.