I had a recent visit from a friend of mine from high school. She came from Minnesota and spent several days with me in cool, exciting, and powerful Washington DC. I’ve only seen her a handful of times since high school so with all that Washington DC is as our backdrop we caught up on years of information. Like that she is now a widow and in that healing process.
She is a part of a widows group that my sister is also a part of. They call themselves the Sparkling Widow Queens. Doesn’t that sound like a fun group to be a part of?! Don’t they sound like women who will be there for you?! Doesn’t this group feel like the place you are searching for to find connection? Except to join that group you must be a widow.
You don’t want to be a widow.
I shared with her a similar group I used to be a part of. We were called MOOs which stands for Mothers of Offenders. The beauty of this group is not only would we walk with moms through the court system and then the other systems in place for those who are incarcerated, this was a place you could be honest about the shame that your own son has brought to you. Shame is already a destroyer. But when you have the added shame of something awful your son has done, you don’t know how to put words on that. You do speak a lot of verbal support for your son. People try to figure out what to say to you, and most often truly mean what they are attempting to say. But it doesn’t touch the anger you have towards your son. Or the shame that your family now bears. Too often that shame is very public. This group offers a connection unlike most others.
But you don’t want to be a MOO either.
For the past year plus our MOO group has been disbanded. Some of the sons are released, mine are still in, but we’ve all gotten back to our normal lives.
Until I got that phone call just the day after my friend went back to her life in Minnesota. Two new MOOs asked for help from us. My gut was filled with dread.
Because I don’t want to be a MOO right now. I don’t want to enter into another person’s pain. To help her is to also relive my pain. My life is fairly normal now.
So we had our MOO meeting. Us veterans mixed with the two new moms. We all shared our stories with our words and truth (not the abbreviated versions we tell the rest of the world). This was a painfully awful meeting. These stories are tragic. These stories are filled with drug use. These stories had no easy ending point. The pain has been for years and now the justice system is involved and the justice system is its own world of pain.
I found myself becoming angry while I was listening. I stayed curious about that anger and I think the root of that anger is the coming legalization of marijuana. Why doesn’t everyone realize that crime doesn’t happen outside of drugs? How many more moms are going to be suffering as government-approved drug use turns into abuse and then turns into crime? No one would want to legalize marijuana if you hear these stories.
That was a painful yet hopeful meeting. Because we could all look at each other and know that we all know what we are talking about. No glassy-eyed I don’t understand. No judgment. No I can’t bear to know this exists in my safe world. There was no comparison of who’s pain is worse—or real. (Oh your uncle has cancer, well my grandmother’s cat died comparison stuff.) And we could give each other words of encouragement. Some words because we’ve been there before. And some words that are just Holy Spirit wisdom because the truth invites the Holy Spirit to comfort.
This is a connection that is a rare find. But to get it you have to suffer. Remember that when you are trying to fit in at your church or your small group and still feel isolated, lonely, or worse, like you have to pretend you are something to find any connection. You would think the universal nature of struggle would make it easier for all of us to ask for help, but in a culture of scarcity and perfectionism, there can still be so much shame around reaching out.
Shame is our story stealer. In a MOO meeting we get to share our real stories which then helps us live the other days in the real world. I don’t need to talk about my experiences with prison every day. Nor is it safe for me to talk about my experiences with prison with certain people. Some people don’t care. Some people have enough in their lives to handle. And oversharing is really a numbing behavior. It is you trying to control the outcome so you overshare to either get a shot of dopamine from attention or use it as your excuse as to why no one understands you so this excuse can keep you in your shame and living in your small world.
Only certain people get to know this part of me because the connection with those people is enough.
This is why my visit with a girlfriend from high school was so fun and emotionally full. She is a Sparkling Widow Queen and I’m a MOO. We know pain. We are not afraid of it. And we know the gift that it is. We were able to give each other some of what we’ve learned.
Are you seeking connection? May you find a group that is not full of scarcity and perfectionism. May you also not desire to become a widow or a MOO. But if you are in the midst of life pain, find those people who will give you enough connection. There are those like you who will willingly enter into your pain because they have that pain too. None of you will be guilty of the bad behavior of oversharing because you have found a place of understanding that also make you sparkly—like a Sparkling Widow Queen. And that place makes the rest of your life more manageable.
(photo credit: Pixabay.com)