By Samantha Aitken

On Thursday, September 19, we held our second Self-Care Circle evening for heart parents in the Vancouver area. This was a one-night retreat led by our facilitator, Veronica Harris, a registered clinical counsellor.

Board member Joelly Segal hosted us in her warm, welcoming home, and the evening was well attended with a total of 20 heart moms.

The evening’s focus was “to nurture your own well-being. A night just for you, a time and space for you to find ease and comfort,” while connecting with other heart moms.

By far, the most powerful part of the evening was the beginning. We each took the time to share a bit about our own family’s personal heart journey.

For some moms, this was the first time they had ever shared their story and what they are going through with other people outside their immediate family.

For others, whose children are older, it was an opportunity to share how their child is doing now, as they are further down the heart journey path.

No one understands better than someone who has experienced similar challenges. There was empathy, love, and compassion in the room.

Veronica invited us to take a few minutes to “check in, to breathe, to relax, and to look a little deeper into what makes us us. When we can connect to our truths, to our values, to what is important in our lives, it can provide us with what makes life so meaningful to us. Doing this can also ease the everyday stress and reconnect us with what is truly important.”

Another exercise focused on connecting with who we are, looking at our circle of life. We considered many factors: health, spirituality, community, career, finances, family, friends, fun and recreation, and our physical environment.

We rated how much each of these aspects was a part of our lives and whether we wanted to change those weightings. Did we want more or less of each of these things in our lives? This was a helpful tool in creating self-care goals for ourselves and moving toward the parts of our lives that are more important to us.

We talked about stress and anxiety and how we know when we are experiencing those feelings and how we can manage them. Noticing how our body feels can give us clues into feeling our emotions. How can we label those emotions, and what thoughts are running through our head when we are feeling stressed and anxious? What is the story you are telling yourself? Veronica suggested writing out this story as a way to help see where there might be inconsistencies, assumptions, or any other means we might have taken to move away from our discomfort. She explained how important it is to recognize what is happening; to allow the experience to be there, just as it is; to investigate with curiosity and care; and to nurture ourselves with self-compassion.

We also talked about journalling and how it can be a powerful tool for connecting to our emotions. It can be flexible: a couple of sentences, a few words, a poem, doodles, or illustrations. It can often be a struggle to connect with others in our lives. Journalling can be helpful. We can get down on paper some of the complex thoughts and uncomfortable feelings or experiences that feel overwhelming. This can then help us validate the feelings and experiences and strengthen our awareness and can lead to stronger emotional resiliency. And we all need more of that!

Then we can communicate more easily with the other important people in our lives and gain insight into our own path.

The evening wasn’t long enough. We enjoyed wine, coffee, tea, and treats, but most importantly, we left feeling more supported and connected to others walking down similar paths.

CHN hopes to host more Self-Care Circle evenings in the near future in both Victoria and the Lower Mainland. A huge heartfelt thank you to Joelly Segal for opening her home to us and to all the moms that took the time away from their families to make this evening such a success!

“Self-Care Circle” is from our fall 2019 newsletter, Heart Matters. See our Newsletters page for more stories and to subscribe.