Who was in your circle?
Who was it who taught you resilience, who taught you how to express and regulate emotions, and what it meant to be a healthy adult?
Who was it who taught you how to live out of a heart of peace?
Some of us can easily identify who was part of our “circle of protection.” For others, we wish someone would have been part of this circle in our life. But whatever our story, the good news is that trauma does not get the final word.
Dede Hanson-Hazzard is a local expert working in Salem, Oregon at the Simonka Place for Women and Children, providing residential care and services to women and their children experiencing homelessness. Her background as a counselor and behavioral therapist stems from a deep belief that God never intended for us to suffer abuse, trauma, and brokenness. Because of this, it is never too late to walk the road of healing.
In 2018, DeDe attended Loom’s Celebrating Children Workshop in Salem and was captured by the image of the “Circles of Protection,” developed by Loom’s founder Janna Moats. The image of the circle displays what every community should aim for, as layers of broader and broader authority take on their responsibility to care for the most vulnerable – children and their families – in their midst.
Using this image, as well as what she learned about brain science and the impact of trauma, DeDe developed a new curriculum for the women of Simonka’s house. Her goal? For every woman to have learned enough healing skills to end the cycle of trauma and homelessness in their generation.
“It has resulted in eye-opening experiences [for them],” says DeDe. “Women weeping, realizing that they didn’t have a circle of protection. Who in that circle taught them what they needed? Then they started understanding restoration – restoring themselves to God’s intentions. One step at a time.”
The program, which follows a cycle of six weeks, includes sessions on trauma and healing skills, as well as separate “moms and kids in movement” sessions that engage entire families and incorporate a short class on a developmental stage alongside dance and creative movement. Each week between 15 and 23 women participate, working on skills from self-regulation, diet, habits, and parenting to discussing how to build their own circle of protection around themselves. The goal is to bring women to a point where they can say, “[That trauma] wasn’t my fault and it wasn’t my choice. But now I have control in my life.”
In her incredible way of capturing the depth behind scientific jargon, the central image of DeDe’s program is “the heart of war vs. the heart of peace.” The heart of war is in survival mode – unable to regulate emotions, build healthy rhythms, or move from survival to thriving. A heart of peace brings choice and freedom, because it contains the skills needed to forgive, heal from trauma, and take the next step towards a healthy and thriving life.
“When I introduce the idea of the heart of war,” DeDe says, “Women say, “Oh crap, I have done that my whole freaking life!” It really resonates with them. But then they realize, “I have power over that now.” And that is SO POWERFUL. That’s where the shift happens.”
DeDe keeps the sessions concrete and offers opportunities for women to go deeper in one-on-one counseling appointments. Each week they focus on some of fifteen skills to move out of a heart of war and move towards a heart of peace. Her goal is to build life skills as new habits and patterns, literally helping women rewire the brain of trauma into a brain of resilience.
For example, one powerful exercise revolves around the discussion questions: When were times in your life when you were resilient? Who and what were are part of building your resiliency? How can you learn from that experience to build more resilience in your and your children’s lives moving forward? She often tells women, “You just need to learn to do the next right thing to move along the path of healing.”
And the program is working. By her estimates, about 60% of the women who leave Simonka house successfully find housing and remain off the streets. But for the women who have gone through her program, the numbers are even higher. “They are gaining confidence and gaining independence,” she says. “Which is better for the entire community.”
Loom’s Celebrating Children Workshop was created to do exactly this – equip parents, caregivers, and leaders to bring communities to a place of healing and build effective circles of protection around children and their families. We are thrilled to see the CCW take on new life through this program and are always amazed at the many creative ways it has been contextualized and re-created over the years.
”Dede is exactly the kind of participant we love working with – she has taken the CCW and made it work in her context,” says Heather Wood, a CCW trainer and coach. “This is why we run the CCW – to see others multiply it to bring healing to communities and strengthen children and their caregivers. This is what DeDe is doing and when we see this happen it is our greatest joy. THIS is our paycheck!”
When asked how the experiences of the past year have been for her, DeDe simply smiles, “I feel in my sweet spot.”
“Healing is going to happen. I get to see that every day, I’m so grateful.”