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  • Writer's pictureSurviving Breast Cancer

The Framework of a Healing Circle

By Ilene Kaminsky


Something is missing. Where’s the deep emotional fallout that makes us wobble as we try our best to balance on that one wheel without handlebars to steer ourselves post diagnosis?


There’s pain:

Embarrassment

Physical changes

Sexual changes

Loss of identity



Once we accept that we are doing the work, we can silence our internal critic that believes that feeling pain means we’re “doing something wrong.” Instead, we begin to understand that feeling our pain is important and productive.


When we understand the true nature of our work, we can summon compassion for ourselves as we move through our uncomfortable feelings on the path to healing, peace, and wholeness.


The Healing Circle Framework has changed my life. I’ve applied it to my most acutely painful emotions as well as milder ones. I’ve applied it to one on one conversation and used parts of the framework in broader discussions, like support groups.


Here’s a great example of applying part of the framework. I’m in a Monday night MBC support group that I attend about 90% of the time. There are weeks I’ve not got the stamina or the energy I need to keep up with all that happens in what usually runs about 1 hour and 45 minutes. The call, on zoom, felt frantic to me at times.


“You’re not trying hard enough.”


Then there are those darkest moments of sorrow, the moments when grief shakes even our sturdiest foundations. When we lose a loved one. When illness consumes us. When we experience a tragedy so emotionally excruciating that it redefines our very understanding of pain.


In these moments, when we can’t find a single silver lining for miles, we can summon the courage to sit with our sorrow. We can find solace in the truth that there is simply nothing else to do.


Experiencing our grief—if only for moments at a time—is work. This is the work of living on this Earth, of being human, and of surviving the universal rites of passage that mark our lives as we age.


Somehow, the vast majority of people around me have weathered similarly painful times. The mere fact of their existence, when I’m certain I will shatter into nothingness, is strength enough to soldier on.


Before I learned the benefit of sitting with my feelings, doing work of this nature didn’t appeal to me. Why wallow in sorrow when you could just do something about it? I wondered.


When I felt uncomfortable, I would find a way to occupy my time and distract my heart. I’d burrow my nose in a screen until I was only dimly aware of the world around me; call one friend after another, repeating the same painful story, swimming concentric circles around my pain without ever diving in; grab a pen and scribble a to-do list to feel the rush of purposefulness at the expense of true catharsis.


In retrospect, it’s easy to see that my “coping strategies” were no such thing.


When we distract ourselves from our pain with a flurry of motion, we fool ourselves into thinking we’re being productive. We fall victim to the addictive high of the quick fix.


Which begs the question: Given the undeniable difficulty of this brand of work, why do it at all? What is the reward for expending such mental and physical effort?


Different folks will offer different answers. As for me, I’ve always believed that our purpose on this earth is to live our richest, most beautiful lives. Anything less seems like a terrible waste of the gift of conscious experience.


I believe that in order to live such lives, we must live our essential truth. Living our essential truth means making the conscious effort to feel the spectrum of our pain, magnificent and minor. It means giving ourselves permission to feel emotions as they are, and rid our lives of the pressures to conform, perform, and self-delude.


When we act in accordance with our deepest feelings, our lives become simpler. Instead of constantly choosing how to act or what to say—spurring waterfalls of anxiety and self-doubt –there is always one choice: the choice that is true for us. The choice that we feel in our hearts.


The next time you are hurting, uncomfortable, or lonely, feel your pain. Feel as much of it as you can bear. Your pain is a necessary step on your journey towards healing. And remember:

You are doing your best.

You are healing at exactly the right pace.

You are doing work.

Your work has meaning.

It can serve a purpose.

It can serve you.


I wanted to offer sanctuary to those who felt that they had an inner journey but down a very lonely road. So many of us do our best to heal alone with metastatic breast cancer or with any cancer.


But our circle is very special. Not all circles hold together as well as ours. We began with a goal of three months or six “sessions.” I knew at first and for a while I’d be a host without a guardian but one would show up naturally out of the group and so one has.

Yet as strong as the rim of our circle, it can collapse at any time if there’s no one with the je ne sai quois to shepherd the highly emotional sharing that takes place in such a confidential but safe container to dump our feelings into without fear.


We all want to fix and help but this is not a forum as such. A support group and a healing circle depart ways here especially.



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Surviving Breast Cancer provides breast cancer support, events, and webinars at no cost to you! Whether you are looking to gain more knowledge on a particular topic or meet up with other breast cancer survivors, we have something for everyone. 

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