Deborah Grassman developed the idea of “soul injury” during her long career as a Veterans Affairs hospice nurse practitioner. It’s the name she gave to the trauma her patients experienced on their deathbeds, arising from years of guilt and regrets. She helped them grieve their losses and forgive themselves for imagined transgressions—a process that led to healing.
Grassman cofounded the nonprofit organization Opus Peace to bring her success with veterans to the rest of the world. Opus Peace provides educational programs that address problems related to trauma, abuse, self-neglect, and serious illness.
Grassman will explore her unique approach in an Oct. 19-20 workshop for the University of Wisconsin-Madison: Soul Injury: A New Paradigm for Responding to Trauma. While the workshop is geared toward those who work with traumatized people—including doctors, nurses, educators, social workers, and counselors—a free lecture and panel discussion will engage the general public on Wednesday, Oct. 19, 7 p.m., at the UW Pyle Center.
‘A visible liberation’
In her lecture, Grassman will discuss her work with veterans and its applications for others.
“I would help my patients grieve their unmourned losses and forgive themselves for things they thought they should or should not have done,” Grassman says. “Often, there was a visible liberation. And too often the veterans would poignantly say, ‘Why couldn’t I have learned this years ago? Why did I have to be dying to know about this?’”
The panelists at the Oct. 19 event include health professionals, veterans, social workers, and others who will share their stories of working with traumatized people.
Kim Eithun works in the Wisconsin Office of Children’s Mental Health, integrating trauma-informed care into child service agencies.
Don Jones is a Vietnam veteran and executive director of an anti-poverty agency.
Neil O’Connor is a clinical social worker and readjustment coordinator with the Madison Vet Center, part of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Ridley Usherwood is the grief support coordinator for Home Health United and a marriage and family therapist. He directs the We Honor Veteran’s Program at Home Health United.
For more information about Soul Injury: A New Paradigm for Responding to Trauma or the public lecture, contact Barbara Nehls-Lowe, firstname.lastname@example.org, 608-890-4653.