Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Ring Theory: a grief tool for understanding your place in crisis, conflict or loss.

Kathe Kollwitz, In Memoriam Karl Liebnecht

The world is grieving in a huge way right now for so many different things… But let’s zero in on one big one today... Black lives and black bodies.

The black community is grieving, and they have every right to. How can you be a good support to these grievers? If you are an ally or support person, this is not about you in this moment and DO NOT turn to these grievers to make yourself feel better. Suck it up buttercup! (More resources for understanding privilege and systemic racism at the end of this post.)

After my own losses, many people wanted me or my siblings to comfort them. Just writing that just now sounds crazy! They wanted me to be strong, educate them, and be compassionate for them so they could grieve and move on. While my family and I were, well, GRIEVING. This only left us extra tired and lonely. Honestly, I was angry at people who put my mother’s grief for my father and brother behind their own.

One of the best tools any ally can understand about grief is Ring Theory. This concept was written about by psychologist Susan Silk and her friend Barry Goldman. This simple tool will help determine what part you play in the loss, conflict or crisis.

This is just the basic gest of Ring Theory:

1. Draw a circle. In this circle, write the name of the person or people at the center of the event.

2. Now draw a larger circle around the first one. In this ring, put the name of the person next closest to the event.

3. In each larger ring, put the next closest people involved in the event.

The rules are as follows:

1. Anyone in the center of the ring can say anything they want to anyone, anywhere. Kvetching, moaning, complaining, whining, cursing and fist in the air like Bender from The Breakfast Club.

2. This is KEY. Everyone else can use the above list also, but only to people in a larger ring!

3. If you are talking to a person in a ring smaller than yours or someone closer to the center of circle your role is to HELP, LISTEN, and COMFORT ONLY. Before you open your mouth, think is this going to provide comfort and support. If the answer is no. Let it go. People in the center need comfort and support not your advice or opinion. Things of comfort sound like: “Tell me what happened?” “Can I bring you dinner?” “How can I support you?” Then you really listen, and you commit to doing what you say you will do. You sit right in that moment with them and you hold that vessel of safety so they can take a breath, feel safe and supported. Most of the time people just want to be heard and acknowledged. By doing this their grief will begin to shift.

4.  Don’t change the subject to you and your feelings, advice or this is a bummer. Just don’t be that person. And if you do, then maybe you should admit you’re the wrong person to be here in this moment without more tools on board to help. Fair enough, own that. But if you are the only person there close your mouth, open your heart, and just LISTEN.

5.  If you are anywhere in the circle and you want to scream, cry, complain, whine, or feel the feels, totally cool. Just DO IT with someone in the bigger ring!

The whole point of this ring is to provide comfort to those inside the circle and ripple the dumping to the outside of the circle so everyone along the way is heard and can heal while finding collaborative solutions.

This is just a start for understanding privilege and systemic racism:

White Fragility – Robin Diangelo

Good Talk – Mira Jacob

So, you want to talk about race – Ijeoma Olou

Me and white supremacy – Layla F. Saad

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