The Family and Friends Support Group by Diana Norton, Canadian Certified Counsellor

Educators, coaches, and therapists suggest that to evolve we must dare to be vulnerable outside of our comfort zone. The Families and Friends whose journey I was privileged to witness this past year have shown me the possibility of honest openness. They removed the stigma of right versus wrong, and supported one another through a notably vulnerable period of their lives. Their courage and commitment to support loved ones through the trials of an eating disorder was inspiring.

Each member, like every individual, came from different backgrounds with diverse circumstances, skills, strengths, and challenges. Every Family and Friend was supporting loved ones at different stages of recovery. All shared feelings of frustration, guilt, sadness, disappointment, and hope. Through their coming together in courageous honesty I saw these Families and Friends move beyond fear into an unknown future with faith in the possibility of inevitable change. United by a shared struggle, commitment to their loved ones, and with mutual respect they granted one another opportunity to unload the burden of fear. We didn’t, could not, always have answers but through feedback, reflection, and mostly honesty I hope the group experienced the same relief I did realizing that at the very least we are not alone. No two journeys had taken or were likely to take the same course but by pooling resources, anecdotes, and admitting limitations we were relieved of isolation and introduced to alternatives. The process was humanizing.

I am not yet a mother. I do not know what it is like to be responsible for a child, a family, but I am a human-being as vulnerable as the next. We can look to manuals, theory, and research for expected outcomes but they are inadequate for addressing the fragility of our lives. This remarkably sincere group has shown me that it isn’t about being right – it’s about being real. Together we can comfort one another, trouble shoot, and derive hope from shared experiences knowing we are not alone. Cheers to a beauty-full life going places of unknown possibility.

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