Posted by Marjorie U. Sokoll
“There is nothing so wise as a circle.”
~Rania Maria Rilke
When Sue Stellick, Director of Day Programs, Services for People with Disabilities, shared with me the sad news of a young staff member who had died, she asked whether I might provide a healing circle for people who knew him. Healing circles offer a source of support in sharing rituals for healing. For the past 15 years I have been privileged to facilitate a monthly healing circle for JF&CS staff members. Sue was familiar with the healing circle and thought the participants in the residential disabilities program would benefit from one at this time.
I was moved by Sue’s compassion and concern for people in the program and her wish to provide solace and comfort. Our staff healing circle follows an open format that creates space for reflection and contemplation, and fosters an opportunity for self-care. I was honored to bring this healing ritual on the road to these participants living in our residential homes in Brighton and Norwood.
In one of these unique healing circles, one of the participants offered a beautiful song in memory of the young man. We listened in awe, his voice exquisite. We spoke of the participants’ sadness over the loss of their staff member and shared fond memories. They also shared memories of other painful losses in their lives; sadly most were very familiar with terminal illness and its impact on their loved ones. The participants were also interested in the ritual objects I brought, and as our time together was ending, I invited several who were familiar with the Tibetan singing bowl to strike the bowl. A beautiful healing sound was created as we closed the circle of support.
Dr. Kenneth Doka, a renowned author in the field of bereavement and an expert in disenfranchised grief, states that among the many groups who feel disenfranchised are those with intellectual disabilities. He writes, “In each of these situations a person has experienced the loss of a meaningful and significant attachment. And in each situation this loss may not be recognized or validated by others. The grief subsequently experienced is then disenfranchised: The loss cannot be openly acknowledged, socially validated, or publicly mourned.”
I was profoundly moved to have had the opportunity to lead a healing circle for our program participants in order to “acknowledge, socially validate, and publicly mourn” this significant person in their life.
Source: Disenfranchised Grief: New Directions, Challenges, and Strategies for Practice. Kenneth J. Doka, Editor
Marjorie U. Sokoll, MEd, Director of Jewish Life and Healing, is the founder and director of JF&CS Jewish Healing Connections, which helps ensure that people feel a sense of connection when facing the challenges of illness, loss, or isolation by offering spiritual and communal supports to provide hope, comfort, and wholeness guided by Jewish tradition. “It is not good for people to be alone.” (Genesis 2:18). Marjie also provides spiritual support for the JF&CS Parkinson’s Family Support Program, is a founding partner at the Kalsman Institute for Judaism and Health, and holds a certificate of thanatology from the National Center for Death Education.