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Women's circles

We are so fortunate in this day and age to have online women’s circles.  Virtual gathering places to meet people.

As I started out my path as a struggling childless woman, I didn’t know where to find other childless women. Instagram was in it’s infancy and it never even occurred to me to try to find a FB group.  Neither had I heard of an in-person gathering but now I’m guessing there likely are some out there.   And, I knew very few childless women close enough to talk openly about it.

I know that many childless women find solace in online groups. I think I would have too.  To have a community of people who understand how it feels would have been so comforting back when I was struggling.

But, there are some groups that bring more healing than others and I want you to know the difference so that you can find the ones that are actually going to move you forward on your healing journey.

Online childless groups always have good intentions.  I can’t imagine one that doesn’t.

The problem I see with most online childless groups is that they are not structured to help women heal.  What I see most often in these groups is a couple of things:

  • No one leading, which means the members are leading and posting the content
  • There’s no structure, which means the content is entirely created by women who are still struggling.

 That leads to two types of posts in the group:

  • The members post about triggers that are intended to vent out anger and frustration
  • A vulnerable and painful share intended to get support

Here’s what I see happening most often:

Response to the trigger posts – venting begets other women venting. It fuels anger, and at the end of the day, everyone is still angry.

In fact, 2 Facebook groups that I’ve been a part of have received warnings from FB that the group will be shut down if the language doesn’t turn around. I know of a half dozen women who’ve had a posts rejected by FB because of what they have deemed inappropriate language.   As much as I’m angry with the censorship happening on social media these days, some of the posts I’ve seen can get pretty hateful. 

But let’s go back to venting. Why do we even do this?  There’s a momentary hit of connection as someone relates to your story.  It makes us feel justified in our anger.  But, unfortunately it’s not true connection.  It’s what Brené Brown calls common enemy intimacy.   This is counterfeit connection that isn’t based on trust or love.  It’s based on hating the same people (or let’s say disliking).  In the case of childlessness, the common enemy is the people who ask the triggering questions and offer unwanted advice. 

 Response to the vulnerable share – and example of this type of post is someone who shares that she feels embarrassed that she’s grieving over her childlessness or she feels shame that her body didn’t do what it fundamentally is supposed to do. 

Comments in response to this type of post are along the lines of “oh you should never feel embarrassed”, which is invalidating the poster’s feelings. The commentor feels like she’s being supportive, but she’s actually not holding space for the person who needs it.  She’s unable to because she hasn’t healed from that same pain herself.  The woman who needed support ultimately goes away still feeling embarrassed and now annoyed that someone invalidated her feelings.

At the end of the day, no one has healed. 

Here’s what you CAN gain from connecting with other women if it’s a circle that promotes healing:

1. Other women give you permission to create boundaries. eg when you hear other women say they just say no to baby showers, that gives you permission to create that boundary as well. 

2. Other women allow you to speak your truth without judgment. It gives you a voice. It helps you to articulate what you’re feeling when you speak it aloud. And it can feel very stifling to be in a world where you don’t feel you can speak freely about your situation.  In a safe space, if managed properly, you can put a voice to what you’re feeling.

3. Women’s groups can shed light on what you are feeling. When a lightbulb goes on for one person, it triggers the light in another.  She heals through another.

4. Women who’ve already healed from something can be a sounding board. You might be struggling with something similar to what someone else has already learned from.  You can use them as a sounding board for your ideas as to how to approach it.

5. Giving support can be healing. When you sit with someone else in their pain, it allows you to feel your own.  And that promotes the release of that pain and emotion.

6. Women’s groups can bring hope. When there are others in the group, or the leader of the group is further along on their healing journey, you can see and feel that.  It brings hope when you’re in a place of desperation and hurt.

Now that you know how beneficial a women’s circle can be when it’s structured in the right way and lead by the right person, will you continue to struggle through childlessness on your own or will you seek one out so you can feel that sense of camaraderie and healing and peace? Comment below!

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References from this episode:

Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown 

Sheri Johnson