March 6, 2012

Healing Rituals

My father was violent, he was mean. He abused my mother on a regular basis, and it wasn't until just two years ago that she finally escaped. When she left, she fled to a Woman's Shelter. We stayed there for almost two months with several other woman and families.

And despite the fact that me, my two younger siblings and my mother shared a small 12x12 bedroom, and all the other complications of familial community living, and the pain that all of us were dealing with there, it was also one of the best, most positive experiences of my life.

I've moved 21 times, and in a few months it will be 22. And out of all of those places, that shelter is my favorite. And it's not for any reasons like I liked the paint colors or the tv was nice, it's because of the memories, the feelings, the people.

For people like me who have gone through a traumatic situation, whether it was only a few moments or several years, healing is essential. Not only is it essential, but it's hard, difficult, arduous. It's a long, up-hill climb. Sometimes it feels like you will never fully recover.

That shelter healed me, in so many ways. And I felt it would be important to talk about how it healed me. So that you, or someone you love, can heal too.

1. My "home base" was full of people who didn't judge me, or each other. No matter how hard the real world got, I could fall back to Home Base and recover.
2. I had proof of peoples love for me. When I got sick, someone bought me popsicles. When I was scared, someone talked to me. I was hugged, kissed, touched and generally loved. There were what I call Spontaneous Expressions of Love in which I was surprised with gifts, trips to the movies, and cooking lessons.
3. "Be still and know that I am God." Every morning, all the woman and I would get up early before the small children, go out and sit on the back porch and drink coffee in the silence. We would watch the sun rise, listen to the birds, smell the wind blowing through the pine trees as we cuddled up in our fluffy blankets and just breathed. Like meditation, but not quite. It was just existing in only that moment, in the silence, being completely still.
4. We took care of each other, and we took that job of caretaker seriously. No one flaked out on cooking dinner. The toilet was always clean. We could depend on our needs being met. There was no fear of being abandoned, even such a small way.
5. We ate dinner together. Every single night, no matter what. We never missed a night.
6. We supported eachother. In some cases, it was through formal support groups. But in others, it was more casual, but much more meaningful. It was talking about our dreams and our hopes. Giving each other advice, and holding each other while we cried.
7. We focused on filling our lives with happiness. We followed our dreams, stopped caring what other people thought, and were let free. We were all given freedom for the first time, and we took advantage of it.
8. We had coffee. Everyday started with the most simple ritual, but it was something we all clung too and took comfort in because it made us feel better. And it was important to start every day off with something that made us feel good.
9. We ate good food. We ate to feel good, instead of look good. Which means while we never pigged out on junk food, we weren't obsessing over low-fat milk. We ate real, whole foods like berries. We ate warm comfort foods like homemade mexican soups and stews that I don't even know the name of, mac and cheese from scratch and fresh-baked bread.

While some of this you may not find applicable to your life, I hope at least some of it will be.

How do you heal?

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