A little over 2 years ago, a mother of an adult child with serious mental illness asked, “Virgil, are there any other mothers like me with whom I could have a conversation?” As I pondered her question, I could sense her isolation. Having worked with a few thousand families, I knew that it is more often the mothers who carry the day-to-day care giving responsibility and, too often, they can feel lonely and helpless, wishing and hoping for the healing of their child.
In March 2021, I reached out to 20 mothers ‘like her’ and asked if they would be interested in being in a mothers’ conversation group. Ten mothers said “YES” with enthusiasm. This was also during COVID, which had worsened feelings of isolation and loneliness. I offered my Zoom Room online as a safe meeting ‘place’.
A question emerged in my mind, “How could a group of mothers with a mentally ill child develop a sense of healing community with one another?” Here is what evolved:
I spoke with each mother privately, asking for their assurance that they could abide by some simple rules. First, safety must be assured; all discussions and identities must be confidential. Secondly, discussions must be well-balanced, assuring that each mother can participate and that no mother dominates the conversation. Thirdly, this would be a self-organizing group; no one would be ‘in-charge’ and each of the 10 mothers would equally ‘own’ the process.
During the first meeting on April 5, 2021, all 10 mothers met for the first time in my Zoom Room. They joined from every corner of the US. After introductions, they decided that it would be valuable for each mother to tell her story. Every Monday for the next 10 sessions, each mother took a turn doing so. The conversations were powerful and emotional experiences, awakening the ‘Warrior’ instinct in each mom. This process naturally began to create deeply caring relationships between the mothers.
The hour for the meeting each week sometimes grew to two. They have now met more than 100 times with no end in sight. They have also twice met in person in Florida for good times together. They named themselves “Warrior Moms”. It appears to me that they may very well now be life-long friends.
All I do now for “Warrior Moms 1” is to spend a few minutes each week welcoming them to my Zoom Room. I turn the meeting over to them and leave. Occasionally, I have been called on to moderate, but not often. They have really become a self-organizing group. These moms are truly amazing! My minor role in helping them to get to know one another has been one of the most meaningful roles of my life.
About 10 weeks ago, we formed “Warrior Moms 2”. While I have provided some background support, it has been the enthusiastic and empathetic Maggie Smith of Stucker, Smith and Weatherly who has become their moderator. One mother is still to tell her story and all of the mothers involved seem to be naturally developing deep relationships with one another.
We have just begun to speak of forming “Warrior Moms 3”. I am not sure how far this will go. There are ‘only’ about 8.4 million mothers in the US who could benefit from a group like this. It is such a natural phenomenon, showing that we all really do want to be members of a community, especially a community where each member shares a profound experience, such as trying to help a child who is experiencing serious mental illness. Stunning achievements have emerged. Each mother feels less isolated, and each mother is more empowered… and is no longer feeling so helpless or hopeless. Each group has become a ‘healing community’.
Just last week, I bought the domain www.WarriorMomsCommunity.org. Some of the mothers involved speak of writing a book and/or writing for a blog. This domain may be a platform for this. One of my sons, who has expertise in networking and collective action, said that “This could become a large movement!” Hmmm… imagine a growing network of empowered mothers!
At this point, we are moving one step, one Warrior Moms group, at a time. We may need a separate non-profit organization for it, if it continues to grow. At this point, this has been a cost-free experience for the mothers.
A reader of this blog may wish to join a new group. If so, please email me at VirgilStucker@icloud.com Also, if anyone has questions or ideas, I would like to hear them. Please be patient; I am mostly retired and may not respond immediately. Perhaps some of the readers might also have an interest in making a donation to help grow this initiative?
Here are a few anonymous quotes from some of the mothers:
“This is an amazing gift to meet each week with a group of caring Mother’s who talk openly about the challenges of having a child with serious mental illness. There is a deep understanding, an absence of judgement, and a tremendous source of resources and insight that comes from direct experience. This group brings hope in circumstances that were once emotionally overwhelming. (Mom One)
“Prior to becoming a member of Warrior Moms, I spent several years ‘hiding’ from old, dear friends, avoiding conversations about my son’s progress in college and as a young adult, becoming more and more illusive. Finding moms who understand my experiences and ‘speak my language’ without judgement has been a life saver. I’ve re-found my self.” (Mom Two)
“In this group, I have found 9 friends who are literally there for me 24/7. When my loved one is doing well, they celebrate every success, no matter how large or small. When my loved one is struggling, these women lift me up, by brainstorming for resources, and by providing encouragement, love, and reminding me to never give up hope. Our Warrior Moms group is the community we need but cannot find locally, because of the stigma that still surrounds serious mental illness. We have gained strength, learned acceptance, and are on the path to advocacy and creating change. (Mom Three)
“Having a child with Autism, it was easy to find other mothers like me. But when my other son was diagnosed with a mental illness, it wasn’t as easy to speak about it, sadly enough. It seemed no one else talked about their mentally ill children either so I carried it inside me. I felt isolated and alone. The Warrior Moms was a Godsend to me. Finally, women who understood! Our bond is indescribable. It is powerful, committed, selfless and ever evolving. A shelter from the storm.” (Mom Four)
“This sisterhood means a lot now in my life. We have become way more than mothers with children with serious mental illness. We talk about other aspects of our lives, too. The moms in my group are truly my friends and an inspiration in my daily life” (Mom Five)
Virgil Stucker, Retired Founder
Stucker, Smith & Weatherly