We believe that there is no “one cure fixes all” for moral injury, but that the healing journey moves forward through a collective effort of sharing, listening and support from fellow veterans and caring civilians. A key method All The Way Home utilizes is what’s known as The Healing Circle.
What is the Healing Circle?
The healing circle is a gathering of veterans and “people of strong heart” (non-veterans), for the purpose of creating a safe, confidential and supportive environment within which combat veterans and those who have served in combat support positions (medics, nurses, drone “pilots,” etc.) can begin the processes of understanding and moving through the moral injuries acquired in service to our country.
“People of strong heart” are people who are aware of and appreciate the causes and effects of moral injury, and who care enough to devote time and energy to hearing the warrior’s stories and walking with them through the transformative processes of accepting, understanding, reconciling and adapting which are required to bring the warriors to a functional peace with, and knowledge of themselves as the wise and experienced people they have become.
Dr. John Schluep, founder of Warrior’s Journey Home, has used this method to bring veterans internal peace for years, and was gracious enough to train All The Way Home’s leaders in this process. These circles are sacred spaces where individuals can trust that they are in the presence of those who genuinely care about their well-being and journey toward soul repair. What is said or what happens in the circle stays in the circle.
Other methods that warriors have tried include Native American Sweat Lodges. Increasingly, veterans are attending sweat lodge rituals to help their PTS.
How does the Healing Circle Function?
The healing circle is both a concept and an experience. Drawing upon pre-industrial rituals from many cultures, the circle uses ritual, honor, respect, caring and community to create a both a place and a setting where morally injured veteran warriors can begin their transformation “back to community” through story-telling and support. Telling their stories is important in beginning and maintaining the journey from moral injury through transformation to the whole person who has accepted, learned from, reconciled and grown from his/her experiences in service of country.
People of strong heart who participate in the circle with the veterans acquire an understanding of those sacrifices and experiences, and without betraying confidentiality of the experiences and histories they have heard, carry to the extended community the messages necessary to help the veterans acquire acceptance and honor in their return to civilian life.
Why is the healing circle approach effective?
Accepting and healing the moral wound(s) caused by violating one’s personal ethics requires accepting and understanding the nature and effects of the wounds. One must touch the wound in order to know it well enough to deal with its effects on the heart, mind and inner spirit. The moral wound can be “touched” only through writing or speaking (telling) the experience, thus pulling it from the mind and heart and making it real to oneself and others.
The circle is a place where all are equal in the community of listening and healing. People in the circle hear without judging, condemning or offering solutions. Events and wounds are told, absorbed and honored. Truth and non-judgmental acceptance create the foundation for the transformation to healing.
The circle rituals create both a tone and setting of “sacred space” in a non sectarian, apolitical context. Within this sacred volume of truth, honor and acceptance, we unite together for the wounded warriors to walk with honor and support through the healing processes.
Healing Circle Schedule
We regularly host Healing Circles at Broadway Christian Church in “The Loft” space. Whether you are new to the process, or have been to circles before, all are welcome. The schedule is below:
- First and third Sundays of each month at 1400hrs (2pm)
- Third Thursdays of each month, 1600hrs (4pm)
*Statements from veterans who have attended healing circles in Ohio (with Warrior’s Journey Home) and Columbia (with All the Way Home) include:
“I wouldn’t be alive today if it weren’t for the circles I attended.”
“That powerful experience lightened my load, and gave me the hope I need to move forward.”
“Wow!! I can’t believe the power and safety of the circle. I told things I’ve never told, but have carried for decades. Thank you for changing my life!”
“These circles are the sanctuary where I’ve learned to accept what I did and move on with my life with dignity and courage.”