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Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Support Group -- "Bein HaZmanim"

"Bein HaZmanim" is the "in-between time." (Yeshiva terminology, referring to the 3 week break in learning from Tisha B'av to Rosh Hodesh Elul. Some yeshivot also take off for a few weeks around Pesach)

At our "final" meeting, we discovered that none of us wanted our support group to end.

Our wonderful facilitator was going abroad for a year.

We were on our own.

We decided to meet twice, within the next five weeks, "before the chagim." (holidays)

Perhaps, "after the chagim," Beit Natan would find us another facilitator.

Meanwhile, we were advised that one of us should be assigned to lead each meeting.

I volunteered to lead the first meeting.

We decided that I would prepare something in the spirit of Elul (the Jewish month, when we reflect on the past year and the changes we would like to make in the upcoming year).

Five of us came to our first, "independent," meeting (L, C, M, Y & me). C had Sheva B'rachot that night, and still chose to attend our meeting first, before heading by bus to Ashdod!

We spent the first few minutes "catching up."

Then I asked everyone to take a piece of paper, and draw segments divided by straight lines on one side, and segments divided by curvy lines, on the other.

On the side with straight lines, I asked everyone to write about things, not necessarily cancer related, that we regretted about the past year. Then, on the side with curvy lines, we wrote about things we hope to do differently next year.

Then, we shared how we felt when we were writing.

Not surprisingly, it was harder to examine our flaws. I know that I felt overwhelmed by all the things that I wish I could change.

When discussing the flip-side, participants felt satisfaction. The felt happy about the things they were doing well.

When I turned over the page, I also felt my mood switch. I felt the burden of my failures lift, and the opportunity to do better next year.

After summing up everyone's emotions, I shared some of my thoughts about the page:

The straight lines create sharp angles, representing the harshness with which we view our own faults. The smooth, wavy lines are meant to guide us in being gentler in our judgments of ourselves, in helping us be more flexible and open in the future, helping us to "go with the flow."

Though there were many tangents over the course of the meeting, I felt the meeting went well. We'll see what kind of feedback there is.

I have years of experience as a group facilitator, however leading our group was particularly challenging. I was not an outsider, coming in to lead the discussion; I was also part of the group. The dynamics were different, both in the way the group related to me and how I related to the group. Nevertheless, I think I was successful in creating an open, and dynamic meeting, and in preserving our "safe space."

The meeting was also challenging, because one of the women was going through a particularly difficult time. It was clear to me that she needed more support than a simple support group can provide. I tried to give her the space she needed to share, allow time for women to support her, and still keep the discussion focused and on track. It was hard, but I think I succeeded.

We ended our meeting, as we always do, standing in a circle, arms wrapped around each other. One by one, we each say, in one word, an emotion that represents how we are feeling, right now, in this moment.




Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.

With love and optimism,


Risa Tzohar said...

You are amazing!

Batya said...

Darling, I think you've found yourself a new profession.
Good luck. You have so much to contribute.

Leora said...

Beautiful. What a blessing that you can offer each support. So wonderful that you led the group.

RivkA with a capital A said...