Making space for trauma and healing

Tuesday, October 5, 2021
by Centre for Peace Advancement


Standing in a circle wearing our shock blankets

On September 23, 2021, Kindred Credit Union Centre for Peace Advancement participants and staff and faculty from Conrad Grebel University College gathered in the Grebel Gallery for an evening of reflection and community in honour of Peace Week 2021.

Since its opening in 2014, the Kindred Credit Union Centre for Peace Advancement has hosted Peace Week to celebrate the United Nations International Day of Peace. This year’s celebration of the pursuit of peace and justice in our community was themed around “recovering better for an equitable and sustainable world.” When considering recovery through the lens of the Grebel Gallery exhibit, Not Traumatic Enough for a Shock Blanket, Centre staff felt inspired to create space for community members to share the challenges and triumphs they experienced over the past 18 months of distance and disruption.

Learn more by reading: Peace Week 2021: Reflection, resilience, and recovery.

Not Traumatic Enough for a Shock Blanket was created by artist Yasmeen Nematt Alla to share the stories that are often left unsaid because they are deemed not traumatic enough to be told. Excerpts of these stories now hang on orange blankets in the Grebel Gallery where Nematt Alla met Centre participants and Grebel staff and faculty on the evening of September 23 for a tour.


Person sitting with a shock blanket

As she shared the meaning behind her exhibit with event participants, Nematt Alla asked each person to wrap themselves in one of the blankets. An event participant later reflected that the weight and warmth of the blanket embodied the embrace that Nematt Alla intended her work to be for those who have experienced trauma: “Reading the phrases on the blankets reminded me of some of my own experiences. Being able to touch the art and feel its embrace helped me to feel at peace in this space, as though I was being hugged by a friend.”

The acknowledgement of everyday trauma and adverse experiences as significant accompanied event participants as they made their way into a Circle process dialogue. Facilitated by Adjunct Instructor in Peace and Conflict Studies, Mary Lou Klassen, the Circle process invited participants to share what they have felt or experienced over the last 18-months and asked what they need from their community to recover in this new context.

Host your own dialogue using the Distance and Disruption Dialogue resource.

Despite spending months apart from one another, working virtually or in a hybrid context, the Circle process opened space for honest and intimate dialogue among colleagues and friends. Participants shared their challenges, finding out that their experiences were both uniquely their own and universally felt. They also shared their triumphs, giving one another permission to celebrate the joy and light they found despite the darkness. A participant at the event shared that they were “reinvigorated and strengthened” by this newfound intimacy with their peers and that this dialogue helped them feel empowered to continue connecting meaningfully with their colleagues.  

Lighting the candle to open the circle

helped them feel empowered to continue connecting meaningfully with their colleagues.  

The Centre continues to make space for trauma and healing through a new community-based project in collaboration with Nematt Alla. If Trauma Could Echo acknowledges and grieves the untold stories of trauma collected from students, staff, and faculty at Conrad Grebel University College and the University of Waterloo.

Participate in If Trauma Could Echo.

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