For most, the memory of the day your child was accused of a crime may never fade. It will likely stay with you forever. It is stored alongside the memories of first steps, first words, and first days of school. These times we felt broken don’t seem to belong with our happy memories, but I guess they have nowhere else to go.
The day a child is taken into custody, parents very naturally struggle with feeling responsible. It is hard to dismiss the feeling that it must have been a mistake in our parenting somewhere along the way that led us to this place. With a future that seems uncertain, we disillusion ourselves into believing that if we scour our memories, we may find the answers we are looking for there. A futile process that results only in further isolation for parents and families.
As a parent walking into the courthouse for the first time, the unforgiving beep of the metal detectors seems to echo our own faults and failures. We feel qualified to deal with the situation that our child is in. We have little experience or knowledge to draw from and finding someone who shares these experiences that might offer guidance seems nearly impossible. After all, fear of judgment and shame has a way of keeping us all silent.
This time for our family was painful and scary, but I would be remiss not to mention that during this same time, there were also HEROES. The experienced parent in the waiting area who reminded others to spit out their gum or take off their hat, saving them from the embarrassment of the judge mentioning it during court. The stranger who reassuringly touched your shoulder and shared a knowing look with you as you walked. There was the correction officer who was kind and patient during the breakdown you had when you realized your child would spend their birthday in detention. The attorney, who was the only one brave enough to say, “I’m sorry, but things will not go back to “normal” for your family. You will, though, start a new normal, and you will all be ok.” And there was the probation counselor who allowed you to be angry and broken and didn’t let that affect how he would begin to walk you and your family through healing.
Processing grief during that time came in stages. Sometimes denial and anger filled those stages — others with bargaining and depression. Some feelings held inside were so powerful we didn’t know how to process them at the time, and they were often buried alive. The healing process took time. Slowly, we found acceptance and a valuable life lesson. The lesson that can use even the ugliest, hardest parts of our lives for good — an idea which is known to some as beauty from ashes.
That’s why we are here today. If you are going through this experience, you don’t have to feel isolated. There is no shame here. We will not judge you. We are here, and even though we can’t make all the fears you are experiencing disappear, we promise to walk beside you and be present. We commit to listening to you with our hearts, to bear witness to your struggles, and to remind you that you are the strongest kind of parent because you are a parent who, even when tested, will still consistently show up for their child.