~ Articles about Journey
of Hearts ~
JOURNEY OF HEARTS
™ Website Offers Resources to Cope with Loss
Kirsti A. Dyer, MD, MS
It was a simple concept to combine elements of
medicine, psychiatry, poetry, prose and images to provide resources and
support for those who have experienced a loss. It started as a simple idea:
create a website that would address the simple, common emotion of loss.
It utilized simple words expressed as poetry or articles to help visitors
realize that they were not alone in their feelings of loss and the grief
response. The responses have been Simply Amazing!
JOURNEY OF HEARTS:
A Healing Place in CyberSpace™
was created as a website for anyone who has ever experienced a loss and
a place for enhancing physical and emotional well-being. It was my response,
as a physician, to not having the time to spend with patients and help
them deal with their grief and loss issues. JOURNEY
OF HEARTS ™ was also created to be "A Healing
Place," a place of hope, encouragement and inspiration—something that I
could have used to keep up my spirits during my years of medical training.
Loss is an emotion that does not discriminate
as to a person’s sex, race, religion, age, color, or nationality. It is
a common universal emotion that unites people across borders, one that
most, if not all, people have experienced at one time or another. Loss
often is accompanied by grief, an emotion which must be processed or, to
quote Elaine Childs-Gowell, R.N., Ph.D,:
If I do not do my
grieving about the old hurts and insults, then when I am faced with a here
and now grief experience, I will end up having to dredge up all that old
energy along with the current experience.
One of the methods that I found useful in dealing
with difficult, emotional issues or losses that I encountered during medical
school and residency training was the use of poetry. It surfaced as a healthy
mechanism for coping with the stresses and the losses of Medical Training.
Poetry is a very effective way of expressing intense emotions, or "eviscerating
on paper," as I describe the process. Writing poems or stories is a cathartic
way to get things out of my system.
It has been said that "Poetry is the mirror to
the soul." I find it to be a perfect medium for conveying the common emotions
of grief and loss, to connect with a person on the deepest emotional level,
to provide words for emotions that people are unable to express, and help
them to realize that they are not alone in these intense grieving emotions.
I started to share my writings with friends and
colleagues, and then finally with patients. I discovered that many of the
poems written to deal with the death of a patient or friend would provide
much solace when shared with those who were left behind. I soon realized
that a poem written for one type of loss, could ‘speak’ to others who had
experienced different types of losses. The reader would add the interpretation
needed to have the poem relate to their situation. The simple, common sense
of loss was the common factor. The reasons for the loss varied: death,
relationship, suicide, loss of breast, loss of self-esteem, loss of physical
mobility what was the same were feelings and the subsequent grief response,
which in many cases would persist for years.
It was a simple leap of faith to take the poems
and publish them, along with other articles and resources, on a website
to share across the World Wide Web and the world at large. I saw the world-wide
grief response when Princess Diana and Mother Teresa died, and realized
there were many people that had not processed their grief for years. The
website has since received messages of "Thanks for being out there," from
many different countries, verifying that loss is indeed one of the universal
One of my poems in particular, "Darkness,"
has touched those trying to deal with the deepest depths of depression.
Several have written to express their thanks for putting their feelings
into words. By sharing this poem with others, they have been able to ‘explain’
how they are feeling. The poem, "The Guardian Angel" was placed
in the office of one of the AIDS Doctors in Santa Barbara and appeared
in a inspirational resource publication for those dealing with life-threatening
illness. It also helped an AIDS social worker make sense of a suicide,
and was read at a funeral to help the friends and family understand the
long struggle and the need to finally let go after many months of battling
infections. Another poem, "In Memory of You," was written after
I experienced a series of deaths of patients and friends and was used to
help the office staff and patients cope with the sudden death of their
young physician, where I worked as a temporary replacement.
We have had people "discover the Healing Place"
and share poems written from their heart, from a variety of losses, as
part of their own healing process, showing the therapeutic benefits. In
sharing these poems and the intense feelings on the website, the hope is
that visitors will realize they are not alone in their feelings of grief
and loss, that others have experienced similar emotions in the past, or
worse, and survived.
Our goal is to help provide support through a
variety of resources, poetry, inspirational quotes and readings, and thus
help the visitor through the grief process--from loss, through transformation,
to healing. After a life-altering loss, a person is forever changed and
transformed. We have utilized the butterfly as our symbol of transformation.
The site also utilizes images and color to help create a background mood
with soothing blues and purples, energizing or happy yellows when reading
the poems and articles.
Transitional Medicine is the phrase I have
coined for this area stuck between traditional medicine and traditional
psychiatry, an area long overlooked in the healthcare profession. Loss
and the subsequent grief response cause many cases of depression, as well
as many primary care and emergency department visits. This leading cause
of many unnecessary health care visits, decreased work productivity, and
missed work days, is one that few are addressing.
It was through the creation of the website, utilizing
poetry as a means of helping people, that I finally discovered that what
I had been using as an adjunctive to medical care with patients had a name:
The responses to the site have been much more
than I could have anticipated, and continue to amaze, to motivate, and
to confirm that we are filling a need on the Internet. A website such as
OF HEARTS ™ is a perfect resource for those
who are unable to get out of the home situationally or physically home-bound
and for those suffering from insomnia. It is especially helpful for those
with depression, to encourage them to assess their level of depression
and seek help if needed, or get support and reassurance through the resources
that are on the website. Combining the Internet’s ability to reach so many
in so many different countries, with the modality of Poetry Therapy, we
have been able to create a new type of healing modality, a modality that
has already helped many to process their loss.
National Association for Poetry Therapy (NAPT)
This article originally appeared in the March
1999 issue of "The Museletter," the quarterly publication from the National
Association for Poetry Therapy. The theme of the issue was "Simplicity."
For more information about this organization visit their website at: http://www.poetrytherapy.org.
is a perfect medium for conveying the common emotions of grief and loss.
It allows one to connect
with a grieving person on a deep emotional level
and help find words for
emotions that they may be otherwise unable to express.