Melissa Seligman
Melissa Seligman is the co-founder of Her War, Her Voice, a support group for military spouses.

FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- "Why do you break dishes?"

It is a question I am often asked when talking about the work I do through Her War, Her Voice. My first instinct is usually, "Because that smash is fantastic."

But it goes much deeper than that. It started for me many years ago when I was dating the man who would become my husband. There were times when we were so frustrated in our college years and just wanted a way to release the anger and tension of deadlines and exams and, well, just life.

We would take our best pitching stance in front of a dumpster and say what was upsetting us. Out loud. Then, we would let loose and pitch it in. With each resounding smash, we got lighter and happier. We were free.

Sometimes in order to move forward out of extreme pain and hard times, it becomes important to remember who you are. At the heart of me, and at the heart of Her War, Her Voice, there is a woman who has a voice and an ability to help herself heal.

Through the years of war we have endured, I have learned how to survive and how to heal. I have learned that looks very different for each woman, and she deserves a chance to find that again.

In a society where we often pride ourselves in being put together and getting through and being very patriotic, sometimes you just need a release -- and for someone to just put the release in your hands.

In remembering who I was I found a wonderful way to help other women find themselves again.

It isn't always dishes. Sometimes it is poetry. Sometimes it is boxing gloves. Sometimes it comes in the form of just sitting and breathing and laughing.

But it all begins with a release.

It all begins with letting go and just finding a chance to be without worries or fears of judgment.

I ask military spouses to break dishes, and many often worry or think they shouldn't. They shouldn't be angry. They shouldn't be upset. They shouldn't just be tired. Or, they shouldn't feel guilty for being OK while others are in pain.

We are should-ing all over ourselves.

With each dish they smash against the wall, with each issue they choose to let go of and release, they give themselves a chance to feel grounded again -- like that woman they have been chasing in the mirror for a while now.

The best part about doing Her War, Her Voice is that it has a place for everyone. I am OK now. And I have found a way through. In doing so, I have promised to leave no military spouse behind. I just have to find the right dish. And I choose to be the change I want to see in this military community.

I challenge every person who has found a pathway through these years at war to dig in and be a part of our entire community healing as we push forward. You don't have to be struggling to help someone who is. You don't have to be angry to hear another person. And you certainly don't have to be broken to choose to fill in the cracks.

For me, breaking those dishes is about letting go of what holds us back and choosing to push forward and being all we were meant to be. It means smashing boundaries. It means taking control of what felt out of control. And it means giving permission to choose something else.

So, when someone asks me, "Why do you break the dishes?"

Perhaps the answer is actually in the question, "Why not?"


"You might wonder what I do with all those broken dishes," said Elizabeth Maher, outreach program manager with Fort Jackson's Army Community Services. "After all, Her War Her Voice has been breaking dishes at military installations all over the country for years. You may be thinking what a mess, but I see a great opportunity -- an opportunity to create a work of art that represents growth born from adversity but symbolizes power and choice."

Maher said she has a vision of a community work of art created from all these broken issues -- a mosaic fashioned from struggle, anger, and frustration, into love, equality, and acceptance.

"For my vision to become reality, I need your help," Maher said. "Please join me at the monthly Her War, Her Voice meetings."

Her War, Her Voice support group meetings are designed to be a safe place for military spouses dealing with issues revolving around military separations and the emotional and logistical issues that occur. The group includes all military branches, is not affiliated with rank, unit/brigade, and judgment is not allowed.

"Her War, Her Voice is dedicated to listening when a military spouse needs a shoulder, empowering each other, building bonds, and paying it forward," Maher said.

Her War, Her Voice is sponsored by Army Community Services and hosts a variety of topics.


-- Sept. 30, 10:30 a.m., Family Readiness Center: Breaking Issues -- also known as breaking dishes and creating a visionary work or art.

-- Oct. 28, 10:30 a.m., Lake Carolina Lake House: Self-defense with Rolando, fifth-degree black belt in Taekwondo and Hapkido

-- Nov. 25, 6:15 p.m., Lake Carolina: Gratitude Journaling with Cassie Premo Steele. Premo Steele holds a Ph.D. in comparative literature and women's studies. Her work has been dedicated to the writing, research and practice about the ways writing and creativity can help heal from traumatic histories and live lives with greater meaning and joy.

Page last updated Fri September 27th, 2013 at 08:40