The first time I entered a healing circle, I had my hackles up and cynicism was at one hundred percent. I did not intend on venting to a bunch of strangers or finding comfort in a group sharing situation.
Years before, in college, I tried group therapy, but in a traditional setting to rid myself of demons. I didn’t experience even a tiny bit of healing, but I did learn a little about life perspectives.Through group therapy, I got the opportunity to see that there is always someone suffering, often times tragically, and this suffering can be insurmountable. I learned to have grace and remember that I do not know others’ pain.
Honestly, attending a healing circle with strangers over the computer sounded even more difficult. By putting all that trepidation aside (and remembering that I love the healing circle leader), I found a valuable resource in a healing circle.
Unfortunately, I have difficulty following prescribed rules.
I simply don’t like to be told what to do. I have come to accept this personality flaw of mine, but it makes activities like following the rules of a healing circle very hard. In a healing circle, you don’t solve the problems, and you don’t ask judgmental questions. Instead, you only acknowledge what you hear by reflecting back what words the others say to you.
Each circle starts with a little life check-in, an introduction, and then the following words: I am here, I am present, I am open, I am ready. And YES, of course, I usually change the words, find something to add, and drive our leader, Rebecca, insane (though she is kind enough never to say a word). The amazing thing is that this opening really works. It prepares you to focus on listening and sincerely understand.
Carolina was a fellow mom who showed up to the healing circle.
Like me, she had a gaggle of kids and some issues that she needed to vent. Also like me, and most women in general, she apologized before sharing, saying that she knew her problems were her own and didn’t pertain to anyone else, but that she was here to share them anyway. She was emotional and exhausted.
Her story began with their camping vacation, dancing, a drunk teen, a long night of illness, and his wasted friends. It had all the makings of a mother’s worst nightmare: kids making terrible decisions that could endanger their lives. Listening to her speak, I felt her fear. I was angry at this kid I didn’t know. What was he thinking staying out all night to party? How frantic that mom must have been waiting for him to come home. Then, once there, he was sick all night, and she was in a place unable to get him medical care if needed. I grieved with her. I also had the horrifying realization that my kids aren’t old enough yet for me to face this situation, but it is only a matter of time.
“Carolina,” I asked, stepping outside the rules of the healing circle, “What did you do the next morning? Were you out of your mind with anger? Did you yell at him? Ground him? Tell me what happened!”
I was working through my own anger at him.
I wanted to know how she dealt with her severe disappointment, so I could prepare myself for the future. I also, in that dramatic moment, was forgetting the most important piece in parenting: connecting with your child.
Unlike me, Carolina remembered to stay grounded and connected.
She didn’t yell. She didn’t freak out on her teenage son while he suffered from a serious hangover. She sat with him, talked to him, and listened to his entire story. And it worked. He told her all about his night. He didn’t know he was so drunk, and he was embarrassed and horrified. He never wanted to do it again.
Listening, I realized he was talking and sharing his experience in a way he would NEVER have done if she had begun the conversation by grounding him or screaming at him – all the things I wanted to do because of my intense fear. In this space of listening to him, she had the opportunity to tell him how frightened she was, and by sharing her emotions, her feelings of anger and fear began to dissipate.
I listened, stunned. This woman handled parenting with such grace. I put it in my toolbox -for much later, of course.
The universe laughs at my naivety.
That next night was Friday night. My daughter made plans to meet up with a couple of her friends for the evening. And in walked parenting drama. She wasn’t picked up by the mother who was supposed to be carpooling her home. (I won’t even discuss THAT part of this story.) My daughter freaked because she knew I would be upset. Instead of calling me, she began to walk home, on a seriously cold winter night, in the dark and with a huge backpack and workout bag. The walk home was three miles that she had never traversed before, without street lights. By herself. (This, when I type it, doesn’t seem all that scary, but you have to know my timid girl.)
The mom, whose name shall not be spoken, wasn’t answering her phone.
None of her friends knew where my daughter was.
After waiting at home for almost an hour (okay 45 minutes), I was out of my mind. Jumping in the car, I drove to where she was suppose to be. No sign of anyone. I drove to the nearest park, the Starbucks, and all the places I thought the mom might take them. No sign. It was now two hours later. I started calling fellow moms. Maybe they knew something, or at least could help me look. My adrenaline was on super turbo high, and I was in my lizard brain.
Finally, after driving around like a crazy woman, my husband called. She was home.
I jumped out of the car in our driveway, and she flew into my arms crying and shaking. I was still filled with unhinged fear. I wanted to yell and ask where the hell she had been, but Carolina popped into my head instantly. Instead, I walked my daughter inside and sat down on the couch with her, and I held her while she cried. She had been completely afraid, too. It was dark and cold, and she was afraid I was going to be mad at her. That broke my heart. I wanted her safe, not worried about getting in trouble.
I realized then that I needed to repair our connection.
She was afraid to be honest with me because she thought I would be angry. It was a devastating moment for me. I failed as a parent because I failed in keeping the connection open between us. She didn’t know that her safety was what really mattered. I held her, and we rocked a bit together, both of us coming down from the adrenaline high. She was crying and my heart was breaking.
I didn’t use any words.
I just listened to her tell me her story. She said that she walked in the dark cold night to be home in time for curfew. She didn’t want to borrow a phone from anyone to call me because she was embarrassed that she didn’t have one like everyone else did. She didn’t know why the mom didn’t pick her up.
Carolina’s story made all the difference in how I handled the situation.
It was a parenting perspective I desperately needed. Because of Carolina and the healing circle, I could see exactly what I needed to do. It made the entire situation palpable. I knew to listen to my daughter instead of barking at her with lectures. I remembered that keeping a connection makes all the difference. We strengthened our relationship in that stressful moment instead of breaking it apart. The healing circle made the difference. It healed our relationship and brought us closer. I am here, I am present, I am open, I am ready.