We have a gallery of family photos alongside our stairs. We put them up when our daughter was born so that she could say goodnight to all our family members each day. Although we’re spread out geographically we can still be close.

I work for an agency that serves people with developmental disabilities and my role is in training and education, mostly for the staff but also for the people we serve. Many of our conversations revolve around relationships and person centred thinking.

In one exercise I ask each person to draw a series of concentric circles. 

In the centre circle you write your own name. This is your private circle. 

Adjacent to that is your intimate circle and you fill this with the names of your nearest and dearest: those you can’t bear to think about life without. 

Working your way outward, the next circle is your social circle. Here you list the names of your close friends, extended family, and so on. 

Beyond that is your circle of participation. These are acquaintances from any places where you participate: school, work, church, sports teams, social clubs, etc. 

The last circle is the circle of exchange. The names in here may actually be titles rather than names: doctors, dentist, mechanic, hairdresser, librarian, etc. These are people you pay to be in your life. Your exchanges are professional. 

Beyond the circles are strangers. 

. . . 

This week has been a hard week for many of the people in my innermost circles. 

My grandfather had a stroke and a heart attack and is loosening his grip on life a little more each day. 

My mother is watching her father die in hospital. 

My grandmother is heart broken as she slowly loses her partner of 67 years. 

My father is alone at home while his wife is thousands of miles away, unable to do much to help her. 

My brother and sister in law lost their very cherished baby at 16 weeks of pregnancy. 

My nephew is unsure of how to process all the emotions associated with the disappearance of this potential sibling. 

A very dear friend had a CT scan yesterday showing that what looked like cysts in an ultrasound are more likely to be cancer. 

All these people that I love are suffering as their lives shatter around them. I feel the reverberations of these explosions and I want to help them grasp at the falling pieces, want to pull things close, put something back together. Anything I can do feels insignificant, but better than nothing I guess. 

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