Where Can I Turn For Peace? The Lessons I Learned When My Son Went to Prison
Updated: Feb 16, 2020
“Where can I turn for Peace? Where is my solace…when with a wounded heart, anger or malice, I draw myself apart, searching my soul?”
I sit in sacrament meeting as the congregation sings and tears stream down my face. Those who may have noticed, would wonder what has created this reaction in their typically happy Relief Society president.
I’m sitting in another sacrament meeting while a member bears testimony of the joy they have experienced in seeing their son return to the gospel and has been sealed to his family in the temple. This again brings me to tears, as I struggle with guilt for not rejoicing in their happiness, while mine seems so dismal and unattainable. Where is my peace and solace?
Once again, I find myself in sacrament meeting angry and frustrated as the couple in front of me snuggles and smiles at one another, and I’m struggling to sit next to my husband as we draw farther away from each other trying to process the hurt and disappointment reeling inside of us.
This journey of heartache, tears, anger, lessons of empathy and unconditional love all started with the phone call, “Mom, I’ve been arrested”. What happened? Why? Where are you? Are you okay and hundreds of other thoughts, questions and emotions were flying through my head. I think I’m going to be sick was one I had to take action on immediately.
As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints many have the misconception that there is that perfect “Mormon” family, so put together, happily fulfilling their callings, attending meetings and activities, hosting the missionaries, and so on, that we feel like failures, or less of a person, if we can’t be all that is (perceivably) expected of us.
Our son’s actions and bad choices led him down a path to jail, a half-way house, probation restrictions and finally prison. What did I do wrong? How could this happen to my “perfect” family? How can I fulfil my calling as Relief Society President and help others when I’m the one who needs help? All the iconic what ifs? Why me’s? Where are you God? And why are you letting this happen to my family started to take over my every thought. I felt that I was inadequate as a mother, wife, employee and servant of my Heavenly Father which just added to the guilt and sorrow that I was overwhelmed with. After several months of feeling this way, and pretending everything was alright on the outside, it was time to move on. I knew that all of these thoughts and feelings were exactly what Satan wanted me to feel and this was his chance to get his digs into a strong, faithful daughter of God. Well, it was time for me to take over and draw on my testimony, faith and knowledge to help me move forward.
I would never want anyone to go through what I did as a mother nor would I have chosen to have experienced it myself, but I am grateful for the lessons I learned through this experience and pray that it may help give the peace and solace that someone may be seeking. Here are just a few of the good things that came out of a bad situation:
1) The choices our son made did not change the fact that he is an amazing young man with great potential. It was my husband’s and my job, as his parents, to help him realize that one bad decision does not have to define who you are. As much as he wanted to push away, we NEVER gave him an excuse to think that he was not deeply and unconditionally loved.
2) I learned to look at others in a way I never had before. I don’t have to judge. There are so many others out there doing it for me. All I have to do is love and see others not only as children of mortal parents, but also as sons and daughters of God who might be hurting as much as I.
3) We can have sympathy for others and what they are going through, but there is a greater level of depth to empathy; it makes your words of comfort have a completely different effect. I don’t believe I would have been able to witness the heartache of others, and have words of comfort to help heal them, without my experiences.
4) There is a process of mourning and healing. Allowing ourselves to have feelings of anger, rejection, and hurt does not show a lack of faith, but gives us the opportunity to become closer to Christ through fervent prayer and pleading. We must use the atonement of Jesus Christ to ask for forgiveness and help us to move forward.
5) I learned that I was not so bad of a mother after all as I watched my other children show their brother love and support and allow him to be who he is without judgement or shame.
6) I have reached a depth of love, friendship, and oneness with my husband that I would not trade for anything as we worked through our heartache and differences and fumbled through learning how to support each other as we tried to figure out how to deal with our emotions and struggles.
7) Just because I think life should turn out a certain way doesn’t mean it will, and what I believe is happiness is not what others have to believe or feel. As much as I want my son to be an active member in church, and find true happiness in living the gospel truths and standards, I have to let him live his life and find his own happiness. I also have to let myself find joy in who he is and not what I want him to be.