Voices of Experience: The Fire Circle of Healing

The following is a warm and personal gift from guest blogger Mary Friedel-Hunt, MA, LCSW:

Shortly after my husband and beloved soulmate Bill died in 2010, I scouted the Internet looking for a solid, well moderated grief support group. I live in a rural town where in-person grief support groups are hard to come by. I am also a psychotherapist, and it was important to me that the group reflect the professional quality and integrity I had practiced in my own clinic for almost 40 years. 

After checking out many sites, I came upon the on-line grief support group sponsored by Hospice of the Valley. 
For a while I sat back, logging on anonymously to see how well moderated the group was and whether or not it provided what I so desperately needed. It did not take long to see that this group was exactly what I needed. It was also comprised of several different sub-groups (i.e. loss of spouse/partner, loss of child, loss of parent, etc.). That was important to me, because I knew that unless someone has either worked with loss professionally or lost a spouse themselves, their understanding of my loss would be compromised. It was clear to me that the moderator of this group knew what she was talking about; had years of experience as a grief and bereavement professional; was a real and caring person of integrity; and had experienced her own losses as well. So I signed on. That was almost three years ago. 

During that time I have witnessed people on the site grow and transform and yes, heal--in large part because they found acceptance, non-judgment and understanding on the part of the members, including our moderator. I have seen people who never shared themselves to any large degree or ever allowed themselves to ask for help, learn how to do that and how to benefit from the support available to them there.

Recently one of our members called our group a “fire circle” where healing and compassion is always present. She sweetly referred to us as a tribe, and the designation stuck. Men and women alike gather whenever they wish, providing understanding at a time when, no matter how much they love us and want to help, those around us feel helpless to comprehend our pain. The group has provided a place of safety to share, vent, get feedback, feel loved and accepted without feeling any pressure to "move on."

We understand that each one's journey through grief takes as long as it takes. Our moderator’s years of experience drift down to our members, as each one's needs are met with gentle care and compassion. Here I have made dear friends I have never met in person, and I cherish the gift that has been given to each of us through these online forums.

So it was that one June night the following poem flowed from my soul, and I share it below as a gift to the members of our tribe:


They come to the circle and gather around the fire.
They come in the early morning hours, they come late into the night
And all day long.
It is, indeed...a procession of pain and sorrow
Each carrying pieces of their shattered lives
And the gut wrenching pain of loss and shock

They come with their stories and their histories.
Their tears flow Into their words, each and every word
Drenched with sorrow and agony,
Tortured- they reach out, many for the very first time.

They come wrapped in a pain none knew existed
And as they reach out to each other,
As they accept and listen and understand with a
Compassion deepened by the very pain they share,
Healing begins...ever so slowly...imperceptibly slow,
Ever so tenuous...so fragile, the membrane that forms
Over and through an amputated limb, a shredded heart
Is translucent and ever so thin.

It seems the journey is all up hill
Just getting out of bed each day drains what little energy
Each member of this tribe has left in a reservoir emptied
By noon each day....every day...day after day.
Running on fumes, each one trudges on believing what
Those who go before them are learning and what
Their gentle leader teaches out of her own pain and losses
and experience...and as each obstacle is
Met and each mountain, treacherous and risky, is scaled
Belief and hope deepen, even though no member
Can see their road or where it leads. They walk on
Blinded by loss, believing in each other and in life.

And each day and all night the fire burns brightly
Warming and comforting those who come
Lifting spirits, sharing a load no one should have to bear.
It is a circle of love, a circle of hope, and a circle of healing
...Grief healing!

How grateful these members, how trusting in the life force,
In hope rebuilt- pebble by pebble...even after tsunamis of grief
Appear to destroy the very structures so painstakingly built.

They think they are starting over, but lessons learned are
Never unlearned...and when the waves of grief subside
The bridges they built to a hopeful and meaningful life,
To healing and growth and transformation,
Are still there...healing is taking place...hope triumphs.

This journey never ends, even as members leave the circle
Each day they learn to carry their grief, to discover joy
Again if even for a moment.
And as they take each step, they do not walk alone
Their loved one walks with them and within them
The members of the circle walk with them and within them
And the fire keeps burning, reaching out to new members
Embracing those who left and return.

It is a circle of love, of compassion and of non judgment,
A circle of understanding, of knowing each member's pain,
Of listening to each one's story with its threads common to their own,
Of sadness, of joyful memories, of loss...such deep loss.

In this circle people hear and feel and weep and vent
They grow, they see, they learn and they begin to hope.

May the fire keep burning as arms welcome those in pain
How grateful are we, each and every one of us.


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