MMIWG ~ Chap 9: Wellnesss & Healing

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The Introduction to Section Three: Healing Families, Communities, and Nations outlines core principles that increase the effectiveness of supports for healing.  These include:

  • valuing wholeness – mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical needs
  • interdisciplinary and systemic approach to services
  • understanding the importance of cultural safety
  • ongoing mandatory training to engage Indigenous communities in culturally safe ways, and
  • long-term trusting relationships and continuity of care among service providers.

Chapter 9 ~ Wellness and Healing names four foundations of a supportive approach.  These are dignity, family participation, peer support, and cultural safety including traditional healing.  The National Inquiry vision of healing is to contribute to an empowering experience, to preserve dignity, to show love and kindness, and to inspire hope.

For many, the first step toward healing was to talk about the pain and trauma they experienced.  Healing through family was a prominent theme with “families of the heart” recognized as instrumental in providing healing and safe places.

In this deeply personal experience, many witnesses looked first to ceremony and tradition.  Examples are given of several programs across Canada that promote community wellness.  Other pathways included memorial marches, Facebook pages, red dresses, and giving back to the community to help others.

The importance of healing youth featured prominently in testimony, as did the importance of healing men as a way to combat violence.  Healing must include the individual, family, and community with a commitment to long-term positive outcomes.

For most witnesses, the issue of finding closure was key.  When a loved one is never found or not put to rest properly, that step can be missing.  Searching and proper burials caused financial hardships for many families.

Healing work involves helping teach people to care for themselves, to value themselves, and to keep themselves safe.  “Giving back” is also part of the Inquiry’s approach to healing.

  • Holistic wellness is the balance of spirit, emotion, mind and body.  It is also connection to language, land, beings of creation and ancestry, supported by a caring family and environment.  “The Spirit gives us vitality, mobility, purpose and the desire to achieve the highest quality of being alive in the world.”
  • A trauma-informed approach places priority on survivors’ safety, choice, and control in a culture of collaboration and trust and confidence.  A trauma-informed practice is aware of the impact of trauma on development and a wide range of coping mechanisms; there is emphasis on physical and emotional safety; there is opportunity for choice, open communication, and connection; resiliency is developed through empowerment and strength building.
  • Culturally safe spaces are respectful of identity (including gender diversity), beliefs and language.
  • Healing work incorporates both Indigenous and Western supports, with participation of family, and the inclusion of peers to enhance comfort and belonging.

The National Inquiry’s Aftercare program provided support to witnesses who shared their truth.  Individualized plans were developed with financial resources available.  The provision of self-determined services within a culturally safe and collaborative system is a basic truth upon which all healing work must be based.

Personal Note: Healing is such a profound subject that one page seems inadequate.  Wikipedia defines healing as the process of restoration of health from unbalance, disease or damage.  Without a violation or disruption to natural growth and development, there would be no need for healing.

Interestingly, a post just popped up that stated “When you can tell your story and it doesn’t make you cry, you know you have been healed.”  I take that to mean we are healed when we are no longer triggered into unhealthy responses by our past trauma, whether consciously remembered or not.  However, I also believe that healing is an ongoing process because we share the pain of and responsibility for the world’s brokenness. 

Part of my truth is that if I had been better parented, I would have been a better mother.  If I had better understood confidence, compassion, and communal connection as a child, I would have been more centered and mature as an adult and more able to guide my own daughter.  Similarly, Canada has failed many of its MMIWG.

My heart hurts as I read about historical oppression and remember how much my daughter struggled with her challenges of addiction and mental illness, often blamed and criminalized for her disabilities.  She was an indomitable spirit, always seeking connection and joy, while I despaired in my helplessness to contain her behavior.  Too many have been silenced.

Can I expect to be “healed” from the pain of her suffering?   Rather, I believe my healing comes from creating awareness, from bearing witness to other injustices, by advocating for other vulnerable people, and by continuing to strive to build a society that respects the dignity and equality of all its citizens.  That is a healing which needs to be shared by the larger community.