Peer Support Circles

3 weeks ago I reflected on what I could do to support others navigate the turbulence, from the safety, security and stability of my home. I felt somewhat bereft that I don’t have a purpose to meet on the front line, which my professional training has prepared me for, but I knew I could value in a different way.

I thus decided to offer to host and facilitate a series of Peer Support Circles for women who I know who had reached out for a supportive chat but also it would be an opportunity to reach out to women who might being feeling vulnerable and isolated. I shared the idea tentatively across my networks via LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.

There was high interest from a diverse group of women who I know from different spheres in my life so I scheduled weekly zoom meetings for 5 groups of 6, which has actually ended up being 6 groups of 5 due to availability. So for an hour on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday night, plus an hour on a Sunday morning I log in and meet each circle. These check ins have become the highlights of my day and my week.

The safe spaces are informal and conversational. Each circle is an opportunity to reflect, to share, to support, to learn and to grow. As we talk and develop our relationships within the circles, common themes are appearing:

Time… Boundaries… Routines…. have led to discussions around how to create some order in the chaos.

Anxiety… Overwhelm…. Apprehension…. have encouraged us to share strategies for coping and for managing the disorientation and derailment.

Communication… Relationships… Conflict… have invited honesty around the conversations we need to have at home, at work and with friends and families.

Opportunities… Creativity…. Focus… have enabled us to revisit our purpose and redirect our time and energy on activities that both serve us but also serve others.

We reflect on the highs and lows of our weeks. We articulate the emotional journeys we are on. We share dilemmas as they arise to unpack and explore. We suggest strategies and support one another in navigating the mess and finding solutions. We help each other in sense making and in seeking clarity.

We have revealed vulnerabilities to each other, to strangers who have become friends in a short intense amount of time, that have enabled learning and growth. We hold each other accountable and we hold each other able.

‘Circle of Friends’, by Maeve Binchy, was a book I read as a teen and then watched the movie of – it explores friendships and relationships. I feel very privileged to have so many circles of friends around me. I draw strength from these relationships and am nurtured by the love we gift each other each time we meet.

As I reflect on what I am grateful for and on what is bringing me joy in the current climate, I thank my circles for signing up, for showing up and for standing up. I might have set the circles up, but I don’t have all of the answers to all of the questions, the power is shared across everyone in the circle to help each other to be resourceful and to find meaning as we journey together.

Women’s Peer Support Circles

Published by Ethical Leader

Leadership Development Consultant, Facilitator, Coach, Speaker and Writer. Experience of teaching schools, initial teacher education, mentoring & coaching, diversity and equality. Passionate about integrity, ethics and values.

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