What is spiritual trauma? How does it impact us? And are there paths toward healing? In this series, Hillary McBride (PhD, RPsych, RCC) explores these questions, sharing her research, clinical experience, and embodied approach, and engaging with other mental health professionals and people with lived experience of spiritual trauma. This series offers an informed and gentle invitation toward learning and healing, designed specifically for people who have experienced various kinds of spiritual trauma, and can be used either individually or in community. For those who simply want to learn more about spiritual trauma, this podcast will help you consider how you can help build healthier communities and love your neighbour with greater compassion and wisdom. While this series addresses stories and trauma situated within the Church, it is intended for a broad audience and does not presume particular spiritual practices or beliefs.
Holy/Hurt: A Podcast Exploring Spiritual Trauma and Healing is sponsored by Sanctuary Mental Health Ministries.
Run time: 05:47
Release date: June 19, 2023
Written and recorded by: Hillary McBride
Executive producer: Leslie Roberts
Sound editing: Bradley Danyluk and Micaela Peragallo
Logo and art: Courtney Searcy
Featured voices: William Matthews, Roberto Che Espinoza, Alison Cook, K.J. Ramsey, Mark Charles, and J.S. Park
I want to start with a story. Shortly after my parents were married they moved to the west coast, both leaving behind big families who farmed in the prairies. They started life over out west. A central feature of their lives was a vibrant and warm church community of a central Vancouver thoroughfare. There were choirs with vintage choir robes, and youth groups. BBQs in the park, low budget musicals at Christmas, and a community that continued to grow as the families that belonged to it did too. A new building was built by a local developer with the pulpit at the very centre of the building, a signal to the church of what mattered most to them, the word of God. When I reflect back on my growing up years, this church is a central feature in my narrative. I never knew a time without it. Because my parents had left their families, this community was in a sense the most tangible expression of extended family that we had. At birthdays and Christmases, it was their cards and gifts that filled our home. Their poppy seed cake for dessert mid-week that anchored us in place until we saw each other again next week. One auntie’s hand smacking my hand away just as I found the stash of cookies in the church kitchen, while another aunty sneaking the very same kitchen cookies to me through the billowing skirt pockets when no one was looking. This really felt like my family. Then half of them were gone. It seemed almost overnight, but I can’t remember if that’s how It actually happened or just what it felt like. In many more adult-to-adult conversations I’ve had with my dad since then, I learned just how much they protected me from at the time. My not knowing was a feature of being allowed to be a child. But my confusion a reflection of the chaos around me, and the loss of a rich relational world that seemingly collapsed overnight. Some people I would never see again.
What came to mind for me was this image of trudging through mud. That’s what spiritual trauma means for me. It’s one of those things that is very hard to explain because it doesn’t feel tangible like a lot of emotional hurt or abuse. It doesn’t feel like you can necessarily grab a hold to it, but it feels just as real.
Well, I know that it’s pervasive. That’s the first thing that comes to my mind.
This feels like holy ground. There’s always a sense of fear and trembling for me in talking about it. And I don’t know why that is. I think it’s because of the space that I’ve honored with clients, spaces in my own life. This is, spiritual trauma cuts to the core of who we are. And it’s just, it’s deep. It’s not something to take lightly.
I’m going to go with what my body is doing. When I hear the words spiritual trauma, my heart instantly goes a little bit faster. And I crossed my arms which is like a bracing posture. I think my body says, this is something that is painful and damaging, and has a physical response to it.
Well I think there’s a lot. The church has been complicit and initiated a lot of oppression and violence, and that has caused trauma in a lot of people. This is going back 1400 years at least.
You can sell fear in a church, you can also sell the solution to that fear.
Welcome to Holy/Hurt: A Podcast Exploring Spiritual Trauma and Healing. My name is Dr. Hillary McBride and in this series we’ll explore what spiritual trauma is, how it impacts us, and what paths towards healing might look like. I’ll share research and clinical experience, and engage with other mental health professionals and those with lived experience of spiritual trauma. The series is meant to be an informed and gentle invitation toward learning and healing, designed specifically for those of you who have experience with various kinds of spiritual trauma. But if you simply want to learn more about spiritual trauma, this podcast will help you consider how you can help build healthier communities and love those around you with more compassion and wisdom. While the content addresses stories and trauma situated within the Church, it’s intended for a broad audience. No matter whether you have a personal experience with spiritual trauma or not, it touches all of us, so I hope this series offers a space for learning and healing. The podcast is sponsored by Sanctuary Mental Health Ministries. And you can stay tuned by subscribing. The first episode releases in July 2023.
This podcast does not provide medical, counselling, or crisis services. If you are experiencing a mental health crisis, please contact your local emergency services. The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the speakers and do not always represent the views of Sanctuary Mental Health Ministries.