Illness that is of a chronic nature has a huge impact on individuals separately, as well as within the context of family systems. Health care systems, being "systems", have an inability to care for patients on an individual basis. While this impersonal method of heath care is promoted as cost effective, it increases costs in the long run by not holistically treating the client. Impersonal health care adds to the disassociation patients and their families often experience; for the ill body, the new family/life dynamic, the medical profession, and the possibilities of wellness.
In 1990 I worked with Bear, a 38 year old womyn who had a late stage mastectomy. She was dealing with issues of an altered body, of death, her children being motherless, things left undone. During a 10 day group movement based expressive arts residential retreat, she took the opportunity to explore some of these issues. One of her expressions was in the form of a healing ritual. Most of the group stood on one side of a pond, singing the gospel hymn, "Wade on the water". On the other side, Bear was carried down to the waters edge, wrapped in a blanket, and left there, standing, still wrapped. She slowly undid the blanket and waded into the water, slowly swimming to the other side, where, like a chorus of angels we waited, still singing, and now sobbing.
Bear engaged in a method of healing that falls, far, from the "systems" method of health care. Her methodology embraced her needs, hopes and fears in a manner that can only be facilitated in an open, heartfelt atmosphere. The waves that she stired that day are still going, still rippling outwards, deeply and profoundly on all those around the pond.