We chose a book by wonderful author Joyce Rupp called "Open the Door." As we read and responded to the questions for each chapter, we walked together through our grief, our deepest thoughts and spiritual issues, family difficulties, anniversaries, and more. We got to know each other intimately...and some of us have now met in person. These relationships are a tremendous gift of solace to me.
The blog is still private. We tried to study another book after finishing "Open the Door," but everyone's life got busier and the book study disbanded. We keep in touch through our blogs, facebook and private email communications, but have allowed the group activity around a book to go away.
I found I missed the regular exchanges and camaraderie with such women; though I don't seek them out, bereaved mothers do tend to find each other. But it can't be just ANY bereaved mother: she has to have a deep (and preferably dark) sense of humor and irony; she needs some kind of spiritual sense, and she has to be determined to live a full life, while facing the fact that there is one part of her life that will never, ever be filled again.
A little over a year ago, I attended the Field's End Writer's Conference with my friend, Reba (Hannah's mom). That event inspired us to found a writing group, and invite other fledgling writers to join in for accountability and encouragement. Enter the Sh*tty First Draft Writing Group. It just happened that the members of this group are all bereaved mothers - most of the credit for this miracle goes to Reba, Hannah's mom; she knows all of us, and introduced us to one another. Credit for the name of the group goes to Anne Lamott, who encourages her students to write "shitty first drafts," and not to edit prematurely - just get it out, get it down - go for it.
We meet every two weeks at one home or other, share what we are working on, offer commentary and encouragement, laugh, cry, eat, drink and generally support each other creatively in a space which no one but a bereaved parent understands. No one but a mother who has had to say "goodbye" to her child knows the gnawing space left in the heart and gut; the difficulties of living each day, facing the future without that child's presence; the existential questions and challenges to faith, the search for meaning - and meaningful work, - the panic attacks, doubt and the harsh reality of a life changed, permanently, forever, stretching out before us - a life without that child's laughter, love, touch, smell, sensibility, contributions and need for our care. We also share our joys in day-to-day living, our families, progress, growth and inspiration.
In the presence of such understanding, I do not feel "alien;" without that fellowship, my loss looms even greater. I'm thankful for these beautiful, talented, generous women and each of their precious children.
|Robin, Stefanie, Reba and Teri|
"Leonard Cohen’s song, 'Anthem,' states in the refrain: 'There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.' It sounds a lot like Paul’s statement about carrying 'the treasure in earthen vessels' (2 Corinthians 4:7). These are both much more poetic ways of naming what we unfortunately called 'original sin' —a poor choice of words because the word sin implies fault and culpability, and that is precisely not the point! Original sin was trying to warn us that the flaw at the heart of all reality is nothing we did personally, but that there is simply 'a crack in everything' and so we should not be surprised when it shows itself in us or in everything else." - Richard RohrThank God for good company on a hard road. That's another example of "how the light gets in."